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How To Get Rid of Dandruff? (Seborrheic Dermatitis)

How To Get Rid of Dandruff?

What exactly is dandruff? And how do you get rid of those annoying, embarrassing flakes?

People want to know exactly what it is and how to treat it. A lot of us know what it is because a lot of us live with it.But, actually a lot of us think we know what it is and we might not actually have it.

As a Dermatologist I try to reassure my patients who come in complaining of Dandruff that this is something that's very normal, it's extremely common. It's not life threatening, and it's something that can be controlled. That can be treated with the right tips.

So let's talk a little bit about Dandruff. Let's talk about what it is, who gets it, why we get it and how to treat it.

What is Dandruff?

The medical term for Dandruff is Seborrheic Dermatitis and this when you get a kind of greasy, scaly, flaky, itchiness of the skin. Dandruff occurs in areas where there is hair. Because on a hair follicle there is an oil gland attached. What this Sebaceous Glands do is they secrete oil to lubricate the skin, and they kind of escape from under the skin through our hair follicles. 

That's why we see it very commonly on the scalp, but we see in a lot of hair bearing areas. We'll see it in the eyebrows, and kind of around these... these are called the nasolabial folds. And what we'll see is a little bit of redness, some scaly kind of greasy, flaky scale and it can be itchy.

We also see it in men if they have a lot of hair around the chest. They can have some of this Seborrheic Dermatitis there as well. And that is all Dandruff!

Who gets Dandruff?

Dandruff can occur in all ethnicities, in all ages, but I'd say we probably see an increase in Dandruff in people who are going through puberty. They have more hormones going through their system, they have more oil production and this is usually what is associated with Dandruff. 

Many of you guys might know that babies can get Seborrheic Dermatitis, they get Dandruff. It's in the form of Cradle Cap, where you get this thick scale on your scalp. Cradle Cap is a really common condition in babies, it is not life threatening and it usually clears up without seeing a doctor, but there are prescription medications if you have a tough case.

What Causes Dandruff? 

Dandruff is a very chronic condition. It is something that comes and goes. It is not something that we can treat. There's no magic pill, or magic cream that I can give you that can make it go away and have it never come back. We know what Dandruff looks like, but we don't know exactly what causes it.

There's a lot of theories that we have. We think that maybe it has to do with a fungus that lives in our skin. This fungus is called Malassezia. And we think that people that are more sensitive to it can get more flakiness, more of this greasy, flaky, kind of scale.

Genetics plays a role and it has a lot to do with whether we have parents who have really oily skin or have really dry skin. Whether they are really hairy or not very hairy at all, all these sorts of things come into play. So, certainly genetics can play a role in how much Dandruff you might get.

Even your environment can affect your level of Dandruff. If you live in a really humid environment, if you live in a really dry environment, these things can actually factor into how bad your Dandruff is.

How to Treat Dandruff?

Because we think that Dandruff is caused by a yeast or a fungus, there are many over the counter medicated shampoos that really specifically target this. 

So that's why they have ingredients like Ketoconazole, Ciclopirox, Zinc Pyrithione, Selenium Sulfide, Coal Tar, Salicylic Acid... Most of these are anti-fungal or anti-yeast medications and some of them are really targeted to kind of exfoliate or decrease the flakes on our skin. 

But we also use steroids. Topical steroids will help to decrease the inflammation, decrease the desire to scratch the area.  That's going to help you as well. One of the big mistakes that people make is they think that a Dandruff shampoo is not working for them but they might not be using it properly. 

You really have to remember: your hair is not what you're treating when you're treating Dandruff. You're treating your scalp. So you want to massage that Dandruff shampoo into your scalp. 

You don't really have to care about getting it onto your hair. You can use your regular shampoo to wash your hair so it smells nice, but use that anti-Dandruff shampoo to massage your scalp. Let it sit for 5 minutes, let it soak in to that area, and help to destroy that yeast or that fungus, or whatever might be there that's causing this. And if you what you have is truly Dandruff, you actually want to wash your hair more often. Washing your hair more often is not drying out your skin to create more of these flakes. 

Washing your hair more often is removing some of these oils that are secreted by these oil glands, which is creating this greasy, flaky, scale that is Dandruff. 

In actually, in general, the more often you wash your hair, probably the less Dandruff you're going to have. And I'm not talking about washing your hair 5 times a day or anything. 

Once a day, once every other day... I wash my hair every other day and I pay attention to that. 

If I notice that I tend to be getting a little bit more flaking or a little bit more Dandruff, I'll wash it a little more often. 

Is What I Have Really Dandruff?

Dandruff is probably an overused term. You really want to know whether you have Dandruff or something else. I think sometimes people think that they have Dandruff but they might have another condition, another skin condition that creates dry skin and flaking on the scalp. 

There are certain medical conditions that can cause a dry, flaky scalp, very similar to Dandruff. One of the main ones is Psoriasis. That's a condition where you get these kind of red patches on your skin mainly, a lot of times in your elbows, on your knees, but one of the very common areas that you get this is actually on your scalp. 

And you can get these thick patches of skin with big flakes that come off and that's not Dandruff, that's Psoriasis. You probably need to see a Dermatologist to get a firm diagnosis, but that is something that people may mistake for Dandruff. 

A condition called Tinea Capitis can cause a same kind of look. Usually that's associated with a bald patch of hair. And these kinds of things are treated differently, so it's important to identify or if you feel like you're using some over the counter anti-Dandruff shampoo or any kind of topical treatment and it's not working, to please see a Dermatologist.

So that's it! Pretty easy. Seborrheic Dermatitis, that's Dandruff.

There are treatment options available for Dandruff that are right there out in the supermarket or in the pharmacy.

You just need to know how to treat it in the right way.

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