Like many men, do you find dandruff to be a huge problem? Although it isn’t contagious and is rarely serious, dandruff can be embarrassing and difficult to treat. The good news is that it can usually be controlled.
What is dandruff?
You have dandruff when your scalp sheds dead skin cells in larger clumps than normal. These clumps look like small flakes that are dry and white or grey. You shed the skin of your entire body every 24 days but this shedding of dead skin normally goes unnoticed because it happens gradually and in small pieces. However, sometimes the skin begins to produce too many new cells (usually in specific areas such as the scalp, beard, chest, eyebrows, ears and back), and these excess dead cells build up and fall in the larger, visible flakes that we call dandruff.
Scientists still don’t know what the exact cause of dandruff is, but because more men have it than women, male hormones may come into play. The problem usually develops in the late teens and can be both dry and greasy so don’t assume that since you have oily hair you won’t develop dandruff one day. The dryness of a scalp also has little to do with it.
One theory is that oily dandruff is caused by overactive oil glands that force a premature shedding of the skin while dry dandruff is caused by blocked oil glands. Some attribute dandruff to lack of rest, too much stress, bad nutrition, using too much gel and hairspray, and shampooing too often and not rinsing enough. Another theory maintains that certain bacteria and fungi cause dandruff and some say you can inherit the condition.
When to see a doctor
If your skin is reddish with greasy scaling on your face, eyelashes, eyebrows and around your nose, see a dermatologist. You may have a severe case of dandruff called seborrheic dermatitis, which is caused by an overabundance of yeast on your skin. A flare up of this condition is often triggered by seasonal changes, diseases, stress, excessively dry air, using shampoos that dry out your skin, sweat, allergies, or yeast infections.
Mild cases of dandruff may need nothing more than daily shampooing with a gentle cleanser, while cases that are more stubborn often respond to medicated shampoos. The best dandruff shampoos contain zinc pyrithione and/or selenium sulfide because these agents slow down the scaling process. If itching and dandruff persist, your doctor may prescribe cortisone creams or a shampoo containing ketoconazole but, as there is no cure for dandruff, the problem can resurface once treatment stops.