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Dandruff

Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen MartinReviewed on 19.10.2023 | 2 minutes read
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Dandruff is caused by dead skin cells falling off your scalp, which can be seen as white-grey flakes on your scalp, in your hair, and sometimes on your clothes. It can cause symptoms of an itchy scalp. It is very common and not linked to hair cleanliness, although more flakes may build up with the less you wash your hair. Dandruff is a type of seborrheic dermatitis that also causes a red, greasy, flakey rash over the nose and cheeks.

In the majority of cases, dandruff can be treated at home. Extreme weather conditions, such as when hot, cold, or dry, may cause dandruff, and stress can worsen the condition in some people. Dandruff is not contagious.

Doctor’s advice

Next steps

If you are suffering from dandruff, we would recommend using an anti-dandruff shampoo regularly for one month. Your local pharmacist can advise you on which one to choose and how to use it.

Healthwords pharmacists' top tips

As a dry scalp is the start of dandruff, moisturizing the scalp is the basis of treatment. There are many dandruff shampoos that can help to improve the hydration of the scalp, while gently cleansing and exfoliating the dead flaky skin. They should be used regularly to prevent dandruff.

Some people use oils to help hydrate the scalp alongside a shampoo treatment. Rubbing in olive oil or coconut oil will help to hydrate the scalp, and you'll also nourish hair roots to improve overall hair health. Try to apply daily if your scalp is particularly dry, or at least two to three times per week.

Dandruff usually presents as dry white flaky patches or debris on the scalp and hair, and possibly a dry powder on the shoulders of clothes. It doesn't usually cause redness. If your scalp has red or very irritated scaling, particularly around the back of the head or nape of the neck, you may have a different condition, such as a fungal infection or psoriasis, so you should see your doctor to confirm the diagnosis, and suggest the right treatment.

When should I see my doctor?

You should book a routine visit with your doctor if you have used the anti-dandruff shampoo recommended by the pharmacist for one month and have seen no improvement or if your scalp is red or sore.

The doctor will ask you about your medical history and examine your scalp in order to look for signs of other skin conditions or skin irritation that might be causing the dandruff symptoms, such as eczema.

Am I fit for work?:

You are fit for work if you have dandruff.

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This article has been written by UK-based doctors and pharmacists, so some advice may not apply to US users and some suggested treatments may not be available. For more information, please see our T&Cs.
Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed on 19.10.2023
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