Written by April Reinhardt (last updated September 5, 2008)
Caused by the excessive shedding of dead skin cells from the scalp, dandruff can cause self esteem and social problems. As the skin continuously replaces itself, cells push outward, die, and flake away. The skin of the scalp is the same as the skin on the rest of the body, and its skin cells mature and shed about every thirty days. In people with dandruff, skin cells mature and shed every two to seven days, creating large amounts of flaking on the scalp. While mild dandruff can be a nuisance, severe dandruff can be a symptom of a more serious skin problem such as fungal infections, psoriasis, and seborrhoeic dermatitis.
Shampooing more frequently with a mild shampoo to decrease cell buildup and oil will treat mild cases of dandruff. More stubborn cases of dandruff require medicated shampoos to rid the scalp of greasy scales and buildup. Speak with your doctor if you suspect that you may have seborrhoeic dermatitis. If you merely have a bad case of dandruff, you can try an over-the-counter product, such as:
If one brand of shampoo initially loses its effectiveness, you may need to switch brands and try another. Your doctor can also prescribe a medicated shampoo, such as ketoconazole, to help control heavy dandruff. The most effective antifungal, ketoconazole should only be used in cases of severe scaling and flaking.
If you suffer with dandruff, most manufacturers recommend that you use a medicated shampoo daily, allowing the product to lather and sit on the scalp for at least five minutes. Since shampoo and soap residue can exacerbate skin conditions, make sure to rinse thoroughly. Allow your hair to hair dry since using heated blow dryers can cause dry scalp problems. Always brush your hair firmly to carry oils from your scalp to the ends of your hair, but never dig the scalp when combing.
Avoid harsh chemicals and hair dyes if you have severe dandruff, since they tend to dry out the scalp. Improve your nutrition and eat a balanced diet containing fruits, vegetables, protein, and carbohydrates. Take vitamins and supplements formulated specifically for healthy hair and scalp.
If your scalp develops redness, scabbing, or swelling, with patches of oozing fluid, stop using all dandruff products and see your doctor as soon as possible. Such signs can be symptoms of psoriasis or ringworm.
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