Demystifying Dandruff: Types, Symptoms, and Management

Do you find yourself scratching your head quite often? If so, you may be one of the many individuals suffering from dandruff—a common condition that affects a significant number of people.

While it can be embarrassing and uncomfortable, the good news is that dandruff is treatable and manageable. It can be treated effectively, providing relief and restoring scalp health. Let us look into what is dandruff, its types, symptoms, factors affecting dandruff, treatment of dandruff and lifestyle and home remedies.

The chances are high that you are suffering from dandruff – a scalp condition that is extremely common among individuals. But worry not, for dandruff is a condition that can be treated.

Dandruff (Pityriasis capitits) is a harmless, chronic condition that usually occurs when the scalp becomes dry or greasy and produces white flakes of dead skin that appear in the hair or on the shoulders. Although it is harmless, dandruff can be embarrassing for those who have it. Dandruff usually starts between the ages of 10 and 20 and affects up to 40% of people over the age of 30.

Dandruff and its Types:

Not every person who is suffering from dandruff experiences the same set of symptoms. Dandruff comes in different types, and you need to closely watch your symptoms and consult a doctor who will help you with the right treatment and medication if required. There are 4 most common types of dandruff faced by individuals today.

1) Dry scalp dandruff:

Dry scalp skin dandruff is the type of dandruff caused in the winter season. People with curly hair are the ones that suffer the most from this type of dandruff. It is caused when the individual washes their hair with hot water during winter, causing their scalp to dry up and become flaky.

dry scalp dandruff
Image Source: Malta

You might even experience a severe itching sensation on the scalp. Avoid bathing in hot water and use good moisturizing shampoos, along with regularly giving the scalp a good oil massage. This will help the individual get over this type of dandruff. This is one of the most common types of dandruff faced by people.

2) Oily scalp dandruff:

Oily scalp skin dandruff is caused due to accumulation of the ‘sebum’ oil on the scalp. Usually, the stress in individuals leads to excessive secretion of the sebum oil, thereby making the scalp extremely oily and even greasy in many cases.

This kind of sebum oil accumulation can cause dead skin cells on the scalp to form clumps and appear oily and yellow in color. This type of dandruff usually goes away when stress and anxiety levels in the individuals go down. If you face symptoms of oily scalp skin dandruff, you need to consult your doctor for medication.

3) Disease-related dandruff:

Disease-related dandruff is nothing but the type of dandruff caused by hair, scalp, and other health conditions. Some of these conditions include Seborrheic Dermatitis, Atopic Dermatitis, Psoriasis, Eczema, and more.

These conditions usually cause scaling on the scalp, which leads to dandruff. The only way to get rid of disease-related dandruff is to get the underlying causal disease treated. Watch out for symptoms and consult your doctor for the right treatment.

4) Dandruff caused by a fungal infection:

Malassezia, a type of fungus, is the main cause of this type of dandruff. This fungus is a natural component housed in the scalp.

Malassezia feeds on excessive oil that is present on the scalp and secretes oleic acid. This oleic acid causes the dead skin cells to clump together and cause white flakes, that is, dandruff. You need to consult your dermatologist or trichologist and also use a good anti-fungal shampoo to tackle dandruff caused by a fungal infection.

Symptoms of dandruff:

There are several different ways of identifying hair dandruff. Some of the most common ways of detecting dandruff is to look for the symptoms.

1) Flakes:

Visible flakes are the most common sign of dandruff. They are the excessive scalp skin cells that have been shed because of your allergy to oleic acid. The dead skin cells build-up into clumps to form visible white and reddish dandruff flakes.

2) Itchiness:

Whenever you see someone scratching their head it could mean only 2 things. They are either in deep thought or simply suffering from dandruff. In most cases the latter is truer. All the build-up causes irritation and an itchy scalp.

3) Dryness:

Just like the skin of any other part of the body, your scalp skin can feel dry too. Dandruff breaks the essential moisture holding barrier causing the skin to dry out too quickly and for the natural oils of the scalp to leak and dry up.

4) Redness:

The sheer irritation on the skin and possibly the regular scratching of the skin can cause redness and irritation. This is also a sign that confirms dandruff.

Factors that can affecting dandruff:

The incidence and severity of dandruff seems to be affected by:

1) Other illnesses – for example, people with neurologic disease (especially Parkinson’s disease, stroke and paralysis) or HIV may have severe seborrhoeic dermatitis
2) Emotional or physical stress
3) Genetic factors
4) Seasonal –usually worse in winter.

Treatment of dandruff:

The itching and flaking of dandruff can almost always be controlled. For mild dandruff, first try regular cleansing with a gentle shampoo to reduce oil and skin cell buildup. If that doesn’t help, try a medicated anti-dandruff shampoo.Dandruff shampoos are classified according to the medication they contain. Some are available in stronger formulations by prescription. The most common anti-dandruff shampoos contain one or more of:

  1.  Zinc Pyrithione – These contain the antibacterial and antifungal agent.
  2.  Selenium Sulphide – These contain an antifungal agent. Use these products as directed and rinse well after shampooing, as they can discolor the hair and scalp.
  3.  Salicylic Acid– These products help eliminate scaling.
  4.  Ketoconazole – This shampoo is intended to kill dandruff-causing fungi that live on your scalp.
  5.  Tar – Shampoos containing tar have been used for years, usually for more severe scalp conditions. If you have light-colored hair, this type of shampoo may cause discoloration. It can also make the scalp more sensitive to sunlight.In the past, the scent of the tar-based shampoos made them less acceptable. However, newer preparations are well tolerated and simple to use
  6. Piroctoneolamine– This is the most recent addition to the medicated shampoos. It is known as a ‘second generation’ anti-dandruff agent. It is less toxic than Zinc pyrithione and is therefore safer for family use.

How often to use medicated shampoos? | How to get rid of dandruff?

How often you need to use medicated shampoos will depend on how severe your dandruff is and what treatment you are using. Always read the directions on the shampoo pack before using it. Some products are mild enough to be used every day, while others should only be used once a week.

Some people can tolerate using a medicated shampoo two to three times a week, with regular shampooing on other days if needed. In general, it takes five to 10 washes to clear up dandruff. People with drier hair would benefit from less frequent shampooing and using a moisturizing conditioner prevent excessive drying from frequent washing. Once your dandruff is under control, try using the medicated shampoo less frequently for maintenance and prevention.

Even after using medicated shampoo regularly, if they are not successful in providing some improvement after 2 weeks, or if the condition worsens, you should consider seeing a dermatologist. You may need a prescription-strength shampoo or a steroid lotion.

Lifestyle and home remedies:

You can take steps to reduce your risk of developing dandruff or to control it:

• Learn to manage stress. Stress affects your overall health, making you susceptible to a number of conditions and diseases. It can even help trigger dandruff or worsen existing symptoms.
• Eat a healthy diet. A diet that provides enough zinc, B vitamins and certain types of fats may help prevent dandruff.
• Develop a hair and scalp care routine that suits you. If you tend to have an oily scalp, daily shampooing may help prevent dandruff. Gently massage your scalp to loosen flakes. Rinse thoroughly. If your hair tends to be dry and your scalp is sensitive, shampoo less frequently and condition your scalp between washings.
• Get a little sun. Sunlight may be good for controlling dandruff. But because exposure to ultraviolet light damages your skin and increases your risk of skin cancer, don’t sunbathe. Instead, just spend a little time outdoors. And be sure to wear sunscreen on your face and body.
• Limit hair-styling products. Hair-styling products can build up on your hair and scalp, making them oilier.


In conclusion, dandruff is a common scalp condition that affects a significant number of people. By understanding the different types of dandruff, recognizing the symptoms, and implementing appropriate treatment measures, individuals can effectively address their dandruff concerns and restore scalp health. Additionally, adopting preventive measures and maintaining a healthy hair and scalp care routine can contribute to long-term relief and reduce the likelihood of dandruff recurrence. Remember, if symptoms persist or worsen despite self-care efforts, consulting a dermatologist is recommended for further evaluation and personalized treatment options. We are always there to help in case you need our expertise.

Liked this article read another article on hair fall and SMP treatment to regrow hair.

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