Buckinghamshire Musculoskeletal Integrated Care Service
Buckinghamshire Musculoskeletal Integrated Care Service (MuSIC)

Causes and treatments for dandruff

January 8 2020

Is your dandruff making you feel self-conscious? Fear not, dandruff can affect any of us and there are multiple ways of getting rid or reducing it.

What is dandruff?

Dandruff is the little white or grey flakes of skin that can appear on your scalp or in your hair. This is mainly caused by a fungus which most of us naturally have living on our skin, that feeds off skin and hair, and for some, can cause irritation. But don’t worry, the condition is not contagious so there is no need to avoid social situations.

Skin conditions that may cause dandruff:

Seborrheic dermatitis

Seborrheic dermatitis is a skin condition that affects areas of the skin that tend to be greasier, for instance your face, scalp and chest. Symptoms of this condition include scaly, itchy and red patches of skin. 

Tinea Capitis (also known as ringworm)

Ringworm is a common fungal infection (not caused by actual worms) that can be treated with a pharmacy bought medicine. Symptoms of ringworm include a red or silver rash on your scalp and can sometimes cause patchy hair loss.

Eczema

Eczema is the most common skin condition in children, but can also develop in adults. Though this is usually a long term condition, it can improve and even clear as children get older. The symptoms of eczema include dry, red, flaky and very itchy skin on areas of the body.

Contact dermatitis

Contact dermatitis is a type of eczema that is set off by a particular substance that irritates the skin. This usually improves or clears up completely if the substance causing the problem is identified and avoided. Symptoms of contact dermatitis include red, inflamed skin that blisters or cracks. Common reactions are from products such as hair dye, sprays, gels or mousses. 

Psoriasis

Psoriasis is a skin condition that affects around two percent of people in the UK. People can experience psoriasis at different severities, from minor irritation to affecting their quality of life. The symptoms include red, flaky, crusty and sore patches of skin covered with silvery scales.

Cradle cap

Cradle cap is a harmless condition that is most common in babies. Cradle cap does not bother your baby and can clear up by itself. The symptoms include greasy, yellowish crusts on your baby’s scalp, eyebrows and nappy area. 

Treating dandruff:

  • Try using dandruff shampoo when you wash your hair and seek products that include one of these ingredients: zinc, pyrithione, salicylic acid, selenium sulphide, ketoconazole or coal tar.
  • Stress can aggrevate dandruff, so make sure you make time to distress. Get more sleep, do more physical activities, talk to someone about how you feel and try relaxation methods such as meditation. 
  • Avoid using too much hair product as this can build up on your head and scalp, making your scalp oilier. 
  • Spend some time outdoors soaking in the sunshine. UV rays can help dampen down the dandruff. 
  • Many are mistaken that dandruff occurs because of poor hygiene, when in fact, dandruff problems can be from washing your hair too much or not rinsing out your shampoo thoroughly enough. 
  • Try brushing your hair from the scalp down to help break down the build-up of oil on your skin. The natural oils from your scalp help to strengthen your hair too.

When to see a GP:

  • If you have been using anti-dandruff shampoo for a month and are not seeing any improvements.
  • Your dandruff is getting a lot worse and is making your scalp extremely itchy.
  • Your scalp has become red or swollen.