Dandruff is a form of dermatitis in which the shedding of dead skin cells from the scalp flake and fall off at faster than normal rate. Although a small amount of flaking and shedding of epidermis skin cells is normal and common, approximately 1/3 of the population experiences this condition in chronic or excessive amounts due to certain triggers and/or conditions. It is important to note that dry scalp and dandruff are not the same condition.


Dandruff is a chronic but harmless condition by which dead skin cells are shed from the scalp at a faster rate and in larger quantities than normal hair. These flakes get trapped with oil, clump together and become noticable. The exact causes of dandruff are not completely known but the latest research suggests that it may in fact be caused by a yeast like fungus which has 2 names:

Malassezia furfur (formerly known as pityrosporum ovale) is a normal and natural fungus that is found on every human. However, in those with chronic dandruff, malassezia grows out of control and feeds on the oil or sebum secreted by the hair follicles.

This interaction between malassezia and sebum causes irritation in the scalp and leads to increased cell turnover. In people with oily hair, this turnover can be exacerbated.

All skin cells die and are subsquently replaced by new skin cells in a never-ending cycle. In normal people this cycle takes about about 1 month and is usually not noticable. "But on scalps were malassezia thrives, the whole process can take as little as 11 days. The result is that is a lage number of dead skin cells."

Factors for Dandruff

For decades, before researchers identified the yeast-like fungus malassezia as the main culprit, it was thought that a number of other factors were the main cause of dandruff. It is now known that these factors or problems only tend to exacerbate dandruff or contribute to it's development. A list of these factors include:

    * Increased oil (sebum) production (oily hair)
    * Hormonal fluctuations
    * Stress
    * Illness
    * Infrequent shampooing
    * Food allergies
    * Vitamin B deficiency
    * Yeast infection
    * Hair curlers and blow dryers
    * Cold weather (winter)
    * Use of hair sprays, gels and hair coloring chemicals,


*  Anti-dandruff shampoos containing the antimicrobials selenium sulphide (eg Selsun ) or zinc pyrithione are helpful for mild dandruff.     * Shampoos with coal tar (some brand names: DHS Tar, Neutrogena T/Gel, Polytar) may be used 3 times a week.
* Corticosteroid cream or lotion.
* Mix 8 tbsp. peanut oil with the juice of half a lemon. Rub the mixture into your hair, leave on for 10 minutes and then wash as usual.
* Antifungal shampoo containing ketoconazole (eg Nizoral dandruff shampoo ) provides a mild, yet effective treatment for dandruff.
* If the shampoo alone doesn't help, your doctor might want you to use a prescription steroid lotion once or twice daily, in addition to the shampoo.
* Tar shampoos such as Tarsum will help to control dandruff.

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