If you find yourself constantly brushing off white flakes of skin from your shirt collars and shoulders, then you may have a common skin condition known as dandruff. Dandruff is the shedding of excessive amounts of skin from the scalp, a condition that can be itchy, bothersome, and embarrassing.
Most cases of dandruff are a mild form of a skin condition called seborrheic dermatitis, an inflammation of the scalp and sometimes the skin of the eyebrows, eyelids, nose, ears, and chest. It occurs in areas that have the greatest number of sebaceous (oil) glands and is likely caused by a combination of an overproduction of skin oil and irritation from yeast. Psoriasis, a fungal infection or simple dry skin may also trigger dandruff. Hormonal or seasonal changes often make the itching and flaking worse.
The good news is that dandruff can almost always be controlled. Most mild cases of dandruff can be managed by shampooing regularly with a gentle, over-the-counter shampoo to reduce oiliness and skin build-up. Your dermatologist can help you determine the best shampoo for your specific needs. Other tips for controlling dandruff include:
- Limit hair products. Hair sprays, gels, and mousses can create excess build-up on your hair and scalp, increasing its oiliness.
- Treat your scalp gently. Harsh shampoos, daily blow-drying, and forceful brushing can damage your scalp and make worse.
- Avoid scratching. Although tempting, scratching can cause further irritation.
If you don’t see an improvement after several weeks of over-the-counter treatment, or if the condition worsens, visit your dermatologist. Severe cases may need a prescription-strength or antifungal dandruff shampoo or cream to improve the skin condition.
Don’t throw away your dark clothes yet! With a little persistence and extra care, it’s possible to get it under control.