What is dandruff

The first thing that probably comes to mind when you hear the word “dandruff” is shampoo. The association of dandruff to shampoo is quite understandable, since dandruff is found on the hair or head, but we all know that there is more to this condition than just not washing your hair regularly.

Perhaps you have an officemate who shampoos regularly but still has a dandruff problem? Or perhaps you’ve experienced preparing to go out on a hot summer day, but when you look in the mirror, there are white flakes on your shoulders?

To better understand the nature of this condition, let us take some time to find out what it really is and where it’s coming from.

The human body often sheds dead skin cells due to the production of newer skin cells. Our skin is composed of several layers; the layer that we actually see is called the epidermis.

This layer is composed of keratinocytes—the same stuff that composes your hair and nails. These keratinocytes begin their growth at the bottom of the epidermis layer and gradually move to the top and die. Your daily activities plus the environment weathers them up and eventually, they break away from the skin and fall off.

There are cases that the shedding process is unusually fast, and this usually happens in the scalp—and that is where we see the dandruff. This dandruff is the dead skin cells that have been shed from a person’s scalp.

If you see some flakes on your hair or shoulders, you may probably feel that you aren’t maintaining proper hygiene, but there is really no need to consider bathing five times a day for that. There are other factors that contribute to dandruff, and not just your hygiene. Here is a list of some of the causes you may want to go over if you’ve got dandruff problems:

Dry skin. This is one of the most common causes, and it is usually accompanied by itching or redness upon the scalp. The hot summer heat could be a possible cause for this condition, resulting in those white flakes that fall off your scalp. People with this certain condition also tend to have dandruff more often.

Skin or hair products. Your skin may react negatively towards the chemicals used in some hair or skin products, causing itchiness or perhaps dry scalp. (In that case you should change your shampoo for a Sulfate-Free one)

Oily scalp. Your skin naturally produces this certain oil, but there are people who produce an excess amount of this skin oil. Combined with malessizia, a fungus that is normally found in one’s scalp, it causes irritation of the skin and can result to dandruff. (Find out which is the Best Anti-Fungal Shampoo)

Skin conditions. Do you have eczema, acne, or psoriasis? Or perhaps your immune system is considerably weak? People with these conditions may have dandruff more often than other people do.

Illnesses. HIV, Parkinson’s disease, and recovering from heart attacks can contribute to the dandruff.

Stress. Being pressured by a strict boss, having too much to work on, or perhaps you’re just not having a good day—these causes of stress could contribute to the amount flakes you find on your hair.

Not washing regularly. While I’ve mentioned that hygiene isn’t always the cause of dandruff, that doesn’t mean you should neglect washing your hair regularly. Wash it regularly to get the dirt off your scalp (some shampoos have better cleaning power than others – check out some of the reviews). This also lessens the chances of getting dandruff.

Seborrhoeic dermatitis. (Read: How to treat Seborrheic DermatitisPeople with this are very prone to dandruff, as it is an inflammatory skin disorder. It affects not only the scalp, but the skin on other parts of your body as well, such as your face or your chest. Compared to the other conditions, seborrhoeic dermatitis causes larger and greasier types of flakes. You should consult your doctor to help treat this case. (read more about Seborrhoeic dermatitis here)

Individuals with naturally oily scalp may have to deal with dandruff for the rest of their lives, but that does not mean that you have to put up with the embarrassing white flakes at all times. There are ways to help reduce or treat dandruff, depending upon the conditions you’re experiencing. Here are some tips that can help you get started:

Comb your hair more often. Aside from giving you a cleaner look, combing or brushing can help in the shedding of the dead skin cells.

Maintain a healthy diet. Eat proper meals and keep your health in good condition; after all, if the body is healthy, the skin should be, too.

Don’t stay under the sun too long. Exposure to the heat of the sun can cause your skin to dry up faster, and thus causing dandruff. Use an umbrella or stay out of the sun when you can if you’re experiencing dandruff.

Wash regularly. Avoid the oil build up on your scalp by washing regularly. It also helps wash off the dirt that your hair obtains from your daily activities.

Use of certain products. Try using shampoos with medicated products. Common anti-dandruff shampoos have ingredients like salicylic acid, zinc pyrithione, selenium sulfide, ketoconazole, or coal tar.  You can also try using lotions or creams that help reduce skin inflammation.

Avoid use of other products. You might want to stay away from sticky or greasy products, like styling gels, hair spray or mousse for a while.

Be confident. Since it is said that stress or low self-esteem can help contribute to the dandruff, try to keep yourself stress-free or happy despite the pressure induced by work or other activities.

Consult your doctor. If all else fails, consult your doctor or a skin care specialist that has the know-how on reducing dandruff. After all, who knows, it might be caused by a more serious problem such as a skin disease, or any other kind of illness you might want to know about.


Dandruff is a common chronic disease phenomenon which appears on the scalp and sometimes eyebrows, eyelashes and beard. More men than women suffer from dandruff, because male sex hormones are the ones that influence the formation of dandruff. Dandruff occurs worldwide and in all races. It is most common between ages of 18 – 40.

Many diseases and conditions of the scalp sometimes resemble dandruff. Psoriasis must be considered especially when classic anti dandruff treatment does not help and psoriasis is present in the family.

About 25 years ago, dermatologists began to suspect that one of the main reasons for the formation of dandruff is Pityrosporum ovale, which is located on every single scalp.

Dandruff can be a result of various factors

  • The fungus Pityrosporum ovale which is otherwise invisible to the naked eye and under normal circumstances harmless can replicate excessively and the result are white, scaly flakes.
  • Sex hormones can highly affect the functioning of the sebaceous glands. Dandruff usually occurs because of high hormone activity.
  • The reproduction of the fungus can also be triggered by stress, time of year, adverse weather conditions, diet and inappropriate skin & hair care.

Dandruff has to be treated, although this can sometimes be very difficult. The first measure is the choice of high-quality anti dandruff shampoo, which should be used no more than twice a week. Allow the shampoo to act on the scalp three to five minutes. Anti-dandruff shampoos contain substances that act against the fungus Pityrosporum ovale. The shampoo should not destroy the acidic fatty layer that protects the skin of the scalp.

In conclusion, the shedding of dead skin cells is necessary for the body to be in good condition, so we cannot stop that. Treating dandruff is really about keeping a healthy and clean lifestyle. Eat the right food, wash yourself regularly, comb your hair, use of skin care products, avoid greasy products, and remember to stay happy!

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