Dandruff - Western SummaryWestern Medicine Summary

Western Medicine

Western Summary

Dandruff, also called scalp seborrheic dermatitis, mainly affects hair-bearing areas such as the scalp.


Dandruff is a chronic flaking of the scalp where the skin can be red and itchy. In infants, it is known as "cradle cap" and typically resolves by age one. Adult dandruff begins in the teenage years and is found more often in males. 


The exact cause of dandruff is unknown; it may, however, be due to overgrowth of a type of yeast called Malassezia, which normally lives on the skin. People with psychiatric diseases (such as depression and schizophrenia), neurologic diseases (such as Parkinson’s disease and dementia), and a weakened immune system (such as patients who have had an organ or bone marrow transplant and those with HIV) are more likely to develop dandruff.


Dandruff can be treated by one of the following topical medications: 

  • Topical antifungal shampoo
  • Zinc pyrithione or selenium sulfide shampoos
  • Topical steroids to decrease inflammation
  • Topical calcineurin inhibitors, such as pimecrolimus cream or tacrolimus ointment, for decreasing inflammation
  • Tar-containing shampoo or cream to help soften scaly skin