What is Dandruff?

Have you ever worn a dark colored shirt and noticed white flakes all over your shoulders?

You may have dandruff, and you’re not alone. This is a common problem experienced by a lot of people. Dandruff is part of a condition known as seborrheic dermatitis. We’re here to help!

This condition results from a type of yeast living on the skin. Seborrheic dermatitis is thought to be associated with excessive accumulation of sebum (e.g., oil produced by the body) on the skin. So, dandruff is not actually a problem of the hair, but of the skin on the scalp.


Image from Prevention

Men are more often affected than women. Anyone can be affected by seborrheic dermatitis, but some patients are more prone to being affected than are others, including patients with alcoholism, certain neurological conditions (e.g., Parkinson’s syndrome), and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

Seborrheic dermatitis can cause dandruff of the scalp as well as a red scaly rash on the face. Here, we’ll be focusing on dandruff.

Patients typically notice fine white or yellow greasy scales or flaking that settles on clothing or shakes out of the hair. If the scales become thicker, they may become matted at the base of the hair on the scalp. Patients can also experience itching on the scalp due to seborrheic dermatitis.


Treatment Options

The most conventional form of treatment for mild seborrheic dermatitis is use of an antifungal shampoo. You can start with over the counter products, such as Selsun Blue or Head and Shoulders shampoo.

You should use your shampoo every day.

  • Create a thick lather with the shampoo.
  • Leave the shampoo on for 5-10 minutes since you’re treating your skin, not just your hair.
  • Rinse the shampoo out.

You may have to mix up your bathing routine by applying your shampoo when you first start to bath and rinse at the end of bathing. Following instructions on the bottle is crucial in order to see results.

There are also other over the counter options available for particularly stubborn dandruff:

  • You can use Neutrogena T/Sal shampoo when thicker scales do not respond to over the counter dandruff shampoo alone. T/Sal shampoo contains salicylic acid, which helps to dissolve excess scales.
  • You can alternate days between using T/Sal and your other over the counter shampoo.
  • Additionally, you can use P&S liquid (also over the counter) every day when washing your hair as an additional alternative to improve dandruff.

If over the counter products do not help your dandruff, visit your dermatologist for other treatment options, such as the use of prescription strength shampoo and/or topical steroids to help with itch.

Your dermatologist can also help you out with any rashes related to seborrheic dermatitis. There are also other potential causes of scaling on the scalp that your dermatologist may consider.

So, if you have flakes on your shirt with an itchy scalp, try these over the counter options. If you still can’t shake the flakes, give us a visit!

Find Dr. Mahvish Aftab Khan at the following locations

06 Lord Trade Center, 1st Floor, F-11 Markaz, Islamabad
Monday to Saturday
4 PM to 7 PM

Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS)
G-8, Islamabad
Mon to Saturday
Timings: 8:30 AM to 2:00 PM



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