Dandruff is a common, non-contagious skin condition of the scalp that is characterized by dry or greasy scales of skin that flake off the scalp.
Dandruff is frequently the result of mild seborrheic dermatitis, a condition that causes skin to become red, itchy and covered with white or yellow scales. Seborrheic dermatitis is most likely to occur where the skin has the most oil glands: on the scalp, eyebrows, nose, chest and groin. In infants, the condition is known as cradle cap, as it usually affects just the head.
Dandruff can occur at any age, but it’s most common in newborns (cradle cap) and young adults. When it begins in adolescence, it often lasts many years.
The main symptom of dandruff is patches of grey or white flakes of dead skin in the hair or that often fall on the back of the neck or shoulders.
When associated with seborrheic dermatitis, the scalp may also be:
Mild seborrheic dermatitis can also affect the skin of the nose, ears, upper chest, eyebrows and beard area.
The most common cause of dandruff is seborrheic dermatitis. The exact cause of seborrheic dermatitis is unknown, but it is related to excess oil production. It may also be related to the yeast malassezia, which lives on human skin.
Other causes of dandruff include:
Generally, dandruff can be controlled with frequent shampooing and by using medicated shampoos. If over-the-counter medicated shampoos aren’t effective, your physician may select a prescription-strength shampoo.
These shampoos may contain:
Seborrheic dermatitis that’s not on the scalp can be treated with corticosteroid and antifungal creams and ointments.