Part of the normal skin cycle is for old skin cells to be lost from the scalp. If these clump together then the result is dandruff. Greasier flakes, often yellow in colour, may also appear around the eyebrows, face, ears, and the upper body. This is called seborrhoeic eczema and is a more severe form of dandruff, often it's very itchy too. Red patches covered with thick, scaly, silvery-looking areas, commonly known as plaques, are characteristic of psoriasis
Why does it happen?
For the most part dandruff is now believed to be caused by a fungal infection with the fungus called Pityrosporum Ovale, which lives naturally on the scalp. It feeds off the excess sebum that the glands in the skin produce, which explains why teenagers and those with oily skin tend to suffer more often. Dandruff is also believed to run in families.
Seborrhoeic eczema tends to be more severe because the glands and the skin become inflamed as well.
In psoriasis new skin cells are made too quickly. This means that they pile up on the scalp causing the red, itchy patches to form.
Can I stop it?
A number of lifestyle factors are believed to contribute to dandruff. Diets that are too salty, sugary, and spicy can make it worse so it's worth reducing these for a while. Too much alcohol may also increase the dandruff. For some people when they are stressed or go into a different climate their dandruff gets worse.
- It's worth trying to identify which factors may be responsible and avoiding them to see if things improve.
- Skin needs a good supply of vitamin E, selenium, and zinc to keep it healthy.
- Don't scratch the scalp when shampooing, massage it.
- Rinse the hair out really well, twice is ideal.
If you're using hair products such as gels then try without them or use something different for a while since some hair products can irritate the skin or bind the skin cells together.
Should I see doctor?
If these measures are not brushing away the problem then see the doctor to confirm the diagnosis. It might mean that a different treatment is needed for a while. This is particularly so if the problem is psoriasis.
Trying out the lifestyle changes and using an anti-dandruff shampoo is the first course of action.
An anti-fungal shampoo often helps when used a few times a week. It can be up to 6 weeks before any improvement is noticed so be patient.
This material is intended for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for the medical advice of your doctor or any other health care professional. Always consult with your physician if you are in any way concerned about your health.
© 2003 SLPM Self-care Ltd.