Dandruff is a scalp condition that involves the shedding of dead skin cells.
It is usually harmless and very common – it’s estimated that it affects almost 50% of the post-pubescent population. Despite being so widespread, dandruff is not contagious.
Dry skin is one of the most common reasons we develop the condition, but there are several other possible dandruff causes, including:
- Various skin conditions such as seborrhoeic dermatitis, eczema and psoriasis
- Build-up from not washing hair frequently enough
- Contact dermatitis from hair products
- Sensitivity to a fungus which occurs naturally on the skin called malassezia
Dandruff may be worse in winter (particularly in dry areas like the Highveld) or during times of stress or illness.
What are its symptoms?
Dandruff symptoms include:
- Flaky scalp: Dandruff flakes my be seen in the hair or on the shoulders
- Itchy or scaly scalp
- There may be red or greasy patches present on the scalp
While it may not always be accompanied by physical discomfort such as itching, dandruff can be unsightly, causing embarrassment and low self-esteem for sufferers. Aside from clearing the physical symptoms, seeking treatment may therefore be of psychological benefit too.
How is it diagnosed?
A doctor should be able to diagnose dandruff simply by performing an examination of the hair and scalp. They may ask you about any hair products you’ve been using or other lifestyle factors that could be contributing to the condition. Be sure to mention any other skin irritations you may be experiencing to your healthcare provider as there may be a link.
What are your treatment options?
Key to successful dandruff treatment is finding the right specially-formulated anti-dandruff shampoo to control the problem, so consult your Clicks pharmacist about your options. Different shampoos may use different active ingredients to combat the problem, including:
- Coal tar, which is used to slow the rate at which skin cells die off
- Zinc pyrithione, an antifungal and antibacterial agent
- Salicylic acid, which scrubs flakes from the scalp
- Selenium sulfide, another ingredient to slow skin cell death
- Ketoconazole, an antifungal agent
Remember to always use anti-dandruff treatments exactly as directed on the packaging. Really stubborn cases may require prescription shampoos or other topical treatments as recommended by a dermatologist.
Can it be prevented?
Dandruff prevention can be as simple as brushing and washing your hair regularly to avoid sebum (oil) build-up. Avoid using styling products that may contribute to dryness of the scalp or exposing the scalp to the drying heat of a blow dryer too frequently.
Stress can also exacerbate a dandruff problem, so take steps to manage your stress levels. You can also promote healthy hair and skin by including plenty of B vitamins, zinc, omega-3 fatty acids and selenium in your diet.
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