Pill Identifier App
Harvard Health Publications

Dandruff

What Is It?

Dandruff is a condition in which dead skin cells are shed from the scalp in large enough amounts to be noticeable. When these dead cells stick together, often because of surface debris and oil in the hair, they are noticeable as flakes in the scalp and on clothing.

Dandruff is a mild form of seborrheic dermatitis of unknown cause. It is more of a nuisance and a cosmetic problem than a medical one.

Symptoms

Symptoms include flakes of dead skin, itching and scaling on the scalp.

Diagnosis

In most cases, dandruff can be self-diagnosed without the aid of a physician.

Expected Duration

Dandruff is a chronic (long-lasting) condition that comes and goes. It may disappear or be less severe in the warmer months.

Prevention

Although there is no way to prevent dandruff, regular use of an anti-dandruff shampoo can control the problem. Avoid exposing your scalp to excessive heat, such as through frequent use of a hair dryer.

Treatment

There are many effective shampoos on the market to control dandruff. Look for active ingredients such as salicylic acid, tar and selenium. Most shampoos work best if they are left on for several minutes after lathering and then rinsed out thoroughly. Reapply if directed. When over-the-counter products are not strong enough, a prescription medication can be requested from a health care professional.

When To Call A Professional

If dandruff symptoms persist or worsen — with severe flaking, itching, scaling or redness — see a doctor for more intensive therapy.

Prognosis

Dandruff is usually a chronic condition, so it will tend to come back. Use an antidandruff shampoo once or a twice a week to help control it.

Learn more about Dandruff

External resources

American Academy of Dermatology 930 E. Woodfield Rd. Schaumburg, IL 60173-4927 Phone: (847) 330-0230 Toll-Free: (888) 462-3376 Fax: (847) 330-0050 http://www.aad.org/


Disclaimer: This content should not be considered complete and should not be used in place of a call or visit to a health professional. Use of this content is subject to specific Terms of Use & Medical Disclaimers.

Hide
(web3)