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Information on Dandruff

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Dandruff related image Benoit Daoust/PhotoSpin

As you have flipped through the channels on TV, you have probably come across a dandruff shampoo commercial or two. The person suffering from dandruff has to go through extreme measures to get rid of the flakes — such as a vacuum or leaf blower — then cue the advertisement for the shampoo.

But what is dandruff?

Also called seborrheic dermatitis, dandruff is a common skin condition. About 11.6 percent of the general population has it, according to Thomas Berk, M.D. and Noah Scheinfeld, M.D. Among infants in their first three months, the prevalence of seborrheic dermatitis, or “cradle cap,” is 70 percent.

The symptoms are believed to result from too much skin oil being produced and irritation from malassezia, a type of yeast. This results in the white skin flakes.

While many people have dandruff on the scalp, seborrheic dermatitis can occur on other parts of the body. For example, people may have symptoms behind their ears, middle of their chest, eyebrows, lips, outer ear, eyelids and creases of the nose.

The Cleveland Clinic notes that seborrheic dermatitis on other areas of the body can result in patches of skin that appear scaly, red or greasy.

So who gets dandruff?

MedlinePlus noted that seborrheic dermatitis seems to run in families, and the American Academy of Family Physicians added that it is common among adults between ages 30 and 60 and infants three months and younger.

Certain external factors can increase a person’s risk. Examples include fatigue, using lotions with alcohol in them, stress and weather extremes.

Obesity, oily skin, acne and infrequent shampooing can also increase a person’s risk of developing dandruff. Some conditions may cause seborrheic dermatitis, such as stroke, HIV, Parkinson’s disease, head injury and epilepsy, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

How is dandruff treated?

In adults and adolescents, the Cleveland Clinic noted that seborrheic dermatitis may clear up without any interventions. If it does not, over-the-counter and prescription treatment are used.

How often a medicated shampoo is used depends on the active ingredient. The American Academy of Family Physicians explained that dandruff shampoos that contain zinc pyrithione, selenium sulfide and salicylic acid can be used two times a week, while dandruff shampoos with coal tar can be used three times a week.

The organization suggested using a dandruff shampoo daily until the dandruff is under control, then reducing the use of that shampoo to two to three times a week. When using a dandruff shampoo, keep the shampoo on the scalp for at least five minutes so that the medication can work on the scalp.


Berk, Thomas and Scheinfeld, Noah. “Seborrheic Dermatitis.” Pharmacy and Therapeutics. June 2010. Web. 26 September 2011

MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. Seborrheic Dermatitis. Web. 26 September 2011

American Academy of Family Physicians. Seborrheic Dermatitis: What It is and How to Treat It. Web. 26 September 2011

Cleveland Clinic. Seborrheic Dermatitis (Dandruff). Web. 26 September 2011

Reviewed September 26, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

Add a Comment1 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

i use T/Gel from Neutrogena. It worked instantly. I usually get it when the weather changes and i do have oily skin.

October 13, 2011 - 9:43am
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