Dandruff is an overproduction and build-up of dead skin cells. It occurs as snowy dust-like flakes. Dandruff can also be defined as the shedding of dead skin cells from the scalp at an excessive rate. This is the result of normal growing process of the skin cells of the scalp. Our scalp and the rest of the body are covered with skin cells. As the skin renews itself, the top layer of old cells die and scales off. Normally the entire renewal process takes 2–3 weeks. In some cases, there is an increased production of cells, causing the dead ones to pack together and build up as dandruff on the scalp.
Dandruff may occur in any age group and at any time. In cases of chronic dandruff, the condition may affect the skin around the nose, eyes, ears and chest area.
What are the causes?
Dandruff is a minor problem but it can be very embarrassing. Dandruff is seasonal. It is more severe during the winter and mildest during summer. The causes of dandruff include:
Infection caused by an organism Pityrosporum ovale.
Excessive use of shampoos, hairsprays, hair curlers and gels.
Improper use of hair colouring products.
Infrequent shampooing or cleaning of the hair.
Stress, anxiety and tension.
What is the treatment?
Since dandruff is a natural process it cannot be eliminated, it can only be controlled. The simplest treatment is frequent and effective shampooing of the hair and the scalp. Mild dandruff can be treated by regularly shampooing the scalp with a mild, non-medicated shampoo. If this does not help, a medicated dandruff shampoo can be used. Shampoos containing cytostatic agent, such as selenium sulphide or zinc pyrithione can be used. These agents reduce the growth and multiplication of horny cells (top layer of skin on the scalp). Shampoos containing selenium sulphide should not be used if there is a cut or abrasion on the scalp. Other ingredients in the shampoos that treat dandruff are coal tar preparations, salicylic acid, sulfur and a combination of salicylic acid and sulphur. Nizoral AD, is a shampoo that specifically targets P.ovale and treats flaking and itching.