Dermatology A to Z


Oh, those flakes.
Dandruff doesn’t have to be dreadful.

Thanks to decades of television commercials, we’re all aware of the perils of dandruff, especially those associated with blue blazers and black dresses. Oh, woe is the poor soul who displays small, loose flakes of dead skin. Chastised by friends! Scorned by strangers! Girlfriends recoil in horror at the awful sight!Well, the TV spots do tend to get a little dramatic. Granted, it is disappointing when those flakes are coming from your own head. But it’s not the end of the world.Dandruff is not dangerous, not contagious and does not cause hair loss. It is a natural process and it cannot be eliminated or cured. Dandruff can only be managed and controlled.What causes dandruff? The medical community cannot agree on a single cause. In fact, it may be caused by several different factors; suspects include:

Sensitivity to, or overgrowth of, a fungus on the scalp

Overactive oil glands on the scalp

Clogged oil glands on the scalp

Poor diet

Poor hygiene

Genetic disposition

Hormonal imbalances


Infrequent shampooing of the hair or inadequate rinsing

Improper use of hair-coloring products

Cold weather

Dry environment, or even tight-fitting hats

What’s a mother to do?

Believe it or not, dandruff can disappear suddenly without treatment. On the other hand, it may take multiple weeks of treatment to improve.

Sometimes dandruff will disappear by simply shampooing regularly with a mild, non-medicated shampoo. The scalp should be massaged gently to loosen flakes, then the hair and scalp should be rinsed thoroughly.

Anti-dandruff shampoos containing coal tar, pyrithione zinc, salicyclic acid or selenium sulfide are available without a prescription. Pharmacies, grocery and discount stores commonly carry them. One of our favorites is Nizoral shampoo. If over-the-counter medicated shampoos don’t work, we can prescribe stronger anti-dandruff treatments following an examination.

One thing you should be aware of: if the flaking skin is isolated in one area or in multiple areas, then the condition may be a skin problem other than dandruff. In that case, give us a call to see if an office visit may be appropriate.