Dandruff: Overview

Alternative names: Seborrheic Dermatitis.

Dandruff is an itchy, annoying and persistent skin disorder of the scalp.

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There are many theories about what actually causes dandruff and a variety of treatments to control it.

Incidence; Causes and Development

Dandruff appears to be on the rise in the United States.  Dandruff can happen at any age (called cradle cap in newborns and infants) but is most commonly found in people above the age of 12.

Suggested internal causes include hormonal imbalance, excessive perspiration, excessive consumption of sugar, fat, or starch, emotional stress, lack of rest, heredity pre-disposition, poor hygiene, allergy (dairy products, chocolate, nuts and shellfish), and poor nutrition.

Possible external causes include infrequent shampooing of the hair or inadequate rinsing, cold weather and dry indoor heating, improper use of hair-coloring products, hairsprays and gels or excessive use of electric hair curlers, and infection with a fungus called Pityrosporum ovaleP. ovale lives on our bodies and scalp all the time, usually without causing a problem.  Unfortunately, for some people, it can increase in numbers, leading to dandruff.

Signs and Symptoms

Dandruff can be seasonal.  It is most severe during the winter and mildest during the summer.  Scaling can occur anywhere on the scalp, in the hair, on the eyebrows, the beard and can spread to the neck and shoulders.  Dandruff is often known as "dry scalp", but people with oily scalps tend to suffer the most.  An oily scalp also supports the growth of P. ovale.

Treatment and Prevention

The most common dandruff treatments are shampoos containing coal-tar, pyrithione zinc, salicylic acid, selenium sulfide, and sulfur.  A key point to remember is to select the mildest shampoo possible.  Although detergent-based shampoos will clean the hair and scalp well, they often cause drying which will make the flaking worse.

Signs, symptoms & indicators of Dandruff:

Symptoms - Hair

(Recent) oily hair

Seborrheic dermatitis is a disease condition that can cause oily scalp and hair.

Conditions that suggest Dandruff:

Symptoms - Skin - Conditions

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Risk factors for Dandruff:




Hypothyroidism can manifest as dry, flaky skin.



EFA (Essential Fatty Acid) Requirement

A diet low in essential fatty acids can result in skin problems, such as dandruff.

Vitamin B6 Requirement

A vitamin B6 deficiency can cause dandruff.

Organ Health

Recommendations for Dandruff:


Processed Foods Avoidance

Refined carbohydrates in white flour or sugar can cause dandruff and should be avoided because they deplete the body of B-vitamins.


Apple cider vinegar used as a hair rinse after a shampoo has a reputation for balancing scalp pH levels, removing soap residue and controlling dandruff.


Conventional Drug Use

Nizoral is the only shampoo containing a patented active ingredient known as ketoconazole.  This ingredient is proven to be effective against P. ovale and acts directly to inhibit growth of the fungus.  This product is the number one choice of doctors and pharmacists, when recommending an anti-dandruff shampoo.  The effects of Nizoral can last several days, making daily use unnecessary.


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