Dandruff: Causes and Treatments

If you see snow on your black shirt, it could be dandruff. Dandruff is a common problem where dry skin flakes off the scalp. It’s not harmful or contagious, but it can be a little embarrassing. For most people, over the counter anti-dandruff shampoos can help. If they don’t work for you, you should see a dermatologist to find out if something more is going on. Conditions like psoriasis, eczema, and infections can cause flaking that looks like dandruff.

Irritated or oily skin

Most people assume that only people with a dry scalp suffer from dandruff. While dry skin can be a culprit, it is not the only one.

An oily scalp results from increased production of sebum, the natural oil on your scalp. This can lead to dandruff-producing conditions like seborrheic dermatitis, which is the name of eczema on the scalp.

If you suffer from seborrheic dermatitis, you can contact your dermatologist for various forms of treatment. Your doctor may have you test out over-the-counter treatments like dandruff shampoos and nonprescription remedies first.

If these treatments do not help, your doctor can supply topical medications that control inflammation. There is also an anti-fungal medication in a pill form if no other options seem to work.


Some people believe that dandruff becomes worse the more often you shampoo, but that is not the case. In fact, not shampooing enough can make your dandruff worse. It causes more oil and dead skin to sit on top of your scalp, worsening dandruff. A medicated shampoo can help.

Over-the-counter shampoos are at most drug stores and grocery stores. Shampoos that contain ketoconazole, selenium sulfide or zinc are the best at treating dandruff. You can also use a dandruff conditioner if your hair is more brittle than normal.

Yeast-like fungus (Malassezia)

The major culprit of dandruff is a fungus called Malassezia. This fungus exists on most adults’ scalps. It feeds on the oils on your scalp, breaking it down and leaving oleic acid in its place. Many people are sensitive to oleic acid. The body then reacts to this acid by increasing the speed at which skin cells renew. It is an attempt to rid the scalp of the irritant and can cause flakes. The flakes are dead skin cells that visibly accumulate on the scalp or even shoulders.

This is why a dandruff shampoo and conditioner can be so useful in treating dandruff. Regular shampoos struggle to clean out all the buildup that causes dandruff. Medical shampoos have the proper ingredients to do that.

Hair Care Products

Much like any other part of your body, the scalp is susceptible to irritation and allergic reactions. If your scalp has a sensitivity to a hair care product, contact dermatitis can develop on the scalp. Contact dermatitis is the skin’s reaction to direct contact with an irritant, and it will likely result in dandruff. If you notice your scalp becomes irritated or sore after using certain products, it could be due to a sensitivity to the product.

It is crucial to stop using the product immediately. If you are not sure which product it is, you can use the process of elimination to determine which one it is.

Although there is not a cure for dandruff, there are many treatments, no matter what your causes of dandruff are. Those treatments are available in most drug stores. Finding a treatment that works best for you and your scalp may include a lot of trial and error, but the result will be worth it. If all else fails, contact Waverly DermSpa today to speak to Dr. Maryann Mikhail about prescription options that can help with dandruff.