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Dealing with Dandruff

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For those who don’t suffer from dandruff, the condition can seem like no big deal. But those who do suffer can have cases that range from the occasional and annoying to the chronic and humiliating.

The itchy scalp and telltale flakes that are the hallmarks of dandruff can have several causes or influences, according to the Mayo Clinic. You can develop dandruff if your scalp is simply too dry. Dandruff can also be caused by skin that’s too oily, for example if you don’t shampoo often enough to rid your scalp of excess oil and dead skin cells. You can also have dandruff if you have a case of psoriasis or eczema that affects your scalp.

Some people develop a condition called contact dermatitis—irritation resulting from exposure to hair care products. And for some, dandruff is caused by a common fungus (malassezia) gone out of control.

The majority of women and men with dandruff can control it for the most part by shampooing often with a gentle product. Some need to use a medicated shampoo to keep the flakes under control.

Other dandruff sufferers aren’t so lucky. Seborrheic dermatitis is another common cause of dandruff—a condition arising where oil glands are dense: on the scalp as well as areas of the face, ears, chest and sometimes the groin and armpits. Skin in the affected areas is often red and irritated, and flakes shed, particularly by the scalp, can be large and greasy or powdery. The exact mechanisms behind seborrheic dermatitis are not thoroughly understood, though the American Academy of Family Physicians reports that the malassezia fungus can be a factor, as well as oil (sebum) production, general health and cleanliness and environmental triggers.

Experienced physicians can usually spot the reason for a stubborn case of dandruff without extensive testing, and many doctors will take a hierarchical approach to the treatment plan, just as they do for other non life-threatening conditions. This means less aggressive measures will be tried first, and if they aren’t effective the physician will recommend stronger treatments until a solution is found.

Add a Comment4 Comments

You're so welcome! You know I'm a health writer--not an actual physician, right? Having said that, it makes sense to me that after your bout of fever you should work on your own health. The dandruff and acne you're battling now should not pose problems for your family, as far as I know.

So, I hope you will eat lots of healthy food, rest up, drink water, get a little exercise and plenty of sleep. Do visit your doctor if you think you need to take more aggressive steps than that. And be well!

October 19, 2010 - 9:02am

SNQ: Thanks for visiting EmpowHer and for your questions about dandruff.

Although there's lots about dandruff that's not well understood, there's general agreement that it's not contagious even if the malassezia fungus is involved. That's because the fungus is very common, and most people's immune systems are able to keep it under control.

But it sounds as if you may have special reason to think your dandruff might spread to family members. If they are generally healthy, you probably don't need to worry. But if you're not certain about that, or if you need help managing your own condition, consider visiting a dermatologist.

Here's another suggestion. On the EmpowHer home page, about halfway down in the middle, you'll see a box titled "Help Yourself." This is a new feature of the site that lets you ask a question and get answers back in 24 hours. You may hear from others with dandruff and immune system issues.

Good luck!

October 18, 2010 - 10:30am
(reply to Cathy Enns)

a bundle of thanx 4 ur reply... u r 100% right actually these days my immunity is very week after surviving through a deadly viral fever, hair-dandruff n facial acne & pimples cud b one of the many symptoms of that as well... but rest of my family is pretty ok so me shd try 2 improve my personal immunity 1st .... wht do u say?

October 18, 2010 - 9:45pm

well... i do appreciate ur efforts as the article is truly informative, but still i wanna ask the basic precautions in this regard...i mean if someone is suffering frm the dandruff(due 2 his/her weak immunity) how can s/he keep the rest of the family safe...? wht abt the hair accessories (hair clips &combs etc)? shd s/he keep the accessories strictly in her/his personal use or can easily share them with others (without the risk of transmitting the dandruff 2 others)....?
anxiously wainting 4 the reply......?????????????

October 14, 2010 - 9:49pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.


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