Simply put, dandruff is the appearance of those typical white flakes of dead skin from the scalp visible in our hair. While all of us shed some amount of dead skin from the scalp but some of us experience larger amounts of flaking, making this visible and this is what dandruff is.
Dandruff is not only visually displeasing, causing self esteem or social problems, it may also be accompanied by other troublesome symptoms such as redness, itching and irritation of the scalp. So treatment may be required for physiological as well as psychological reasons.
What causes dandruff?
Some individuals are more susceptible to dandruff and there is seen to be a genetic element with this disorder (you are more likely to have dandruff if either of your parents did).
Certain yeast infestations of the skin and overproduction of sebum (oil produced by the skin) are what cause those typical white flakes and clumps of dead skin.
Sometimes the dandruff is a symptom of a skin condition called seborrhoeic dermatitis which also has other symptoms such as redness, itching and flaking in other areas such as the eyebrows, other facial hair and folds of the nose.
Certain seasons can exacerbate dandruff because the condition is seen to be sensitive to temperature changes. In fact even hot water can increase symptoms of dandruff such as increasing the itching and the flaking.
Do dandruff treatments really work?
Most of us who have chronic dandruff find that shampoos and other anti-dandruff products can help get rid of the flaking and the scalp itching to an extent. However in many cases, there seems to be no permanent solution and the symptoms return as soon as we stop using the shampoo or product.
Whether dandruff can really be got rid of permanently or not, depends upon the type of dandruff as well as the underlying skin condition that causes it. This explains the fact that dandruff shampoos and other OTC products that we use seem to have limited, if any, efficacy.
However the common solutions for dandruff are:
- Zinc pyrithione (ZPT) is the ingredient in most antidandruff shampoos that will control symptoms while the product is used.
- Selenium Sulfide is another solution for dandruff and is also known to have anti-seborrheic effects and which reduces cell turn over to control flaking.
- Steroids (topical corticosteroids) can also help control dandruff particularly inflammatory types of dandruff.
- Antifungal medications such as Imidazole topical antifungals, ketoconazole, etc. can also control dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis.