5 Important Questions About Dandruff

Answering questions about flaky scalp and how to treat dandruff

Credits: Matthew Hamilton at

Dandruff, known in medical terms as Seborrheic Dermatitis,[1] is a very common condition among people of all ages. Here are some answers to the most common questions from patients.


Q1: Does dandruff mean I have dry scalp?

A: No. Actually, it's the opposite. Dandruff builds up as a result of excessive oil production by the scalp. Since people think it's a "dry" condition, they wash their hair less, which actually makes the condition even worse, as more oil accumulates and flakes off over time onto the clothing, causing people a sense of embarrassment.


Q2: Who gets dandruff?

A: People with oily skin tend to be more prone to dandruff, probably because they have more active oil glands. Two special groups are young babies who get "cradle cap," which is a build up of oil on the scalp seen for months after birth. Another group is people with certain neurologic conditions, like Parkinson’s disease, who can also develop a case of seborrheic dermatitis.


Q3: How do I get rid of dandruff?

A: The first step in reducing dandruff is washing your hair 2-3 times a week, to prevent the oil build up. There are many dandruff shampoos on the market. You can pick 3 shampoos with different main ingredients (for example Selenium, Zinc Pyrithione, or Salicylic Acid) and alternate them each time you wash your hair. For more serious cases, prescription shampoos are available. If the scalp is very itchy and irritated, a topical cortisone preparation can be used until it gets better. A dermatologist can prescribe the right preparations for your dandruff.


Q4: Does dandruff only affect the scalp?

A: Great question! The answer is NO! Seborrheic dermatitis can also affect the central face (around the nose) and eyebrows, looking like a red, flaky rash. A dermatologist can prescribe the appropriate remedies for the face. At times, the chest can also be affected, especially in men, and can be treated with the same topical agents as the face and/or scalp.


Q5: Can my dandruff be cured?

A: Dandruff is not a disease but rather a condition. Some people will always be prone to develop it. However, with some help from a dermatologist, you can learn how to manage the condition. It can always look and feel as if you don't have it. A little self-care at home will go a long way toward looking and feeling good, with no white flakes on that black dress or suit!


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  1. Borda LJ, Wikramanayake TC. Seborrheic Dermatitis and Dandruff: A Comprehensive Review. J Clin Investig Dermatol.2015;3(2)PMID: 27148560 Link to research.