Dandruff is the result of excessive shedding of dead skin flakes from the scalp. There may be minor itching, but no redness or scabbing occurs. There may be minimal inflammation that is not visible. It usually gets worse during the fall and winter and improves in the summer. Dandruff is extremely common, (50%) but can be an embarrassing condition for many, due to visible shedding on clothing and habitual scratching. Since dandruff is a natural process, it cannot be eliminated but can be controlled or managed. You may notice that your dandruff gets worse when you’re stressed or anxious.

Dandruff symptoms are easy to spot. You can simply look at your hair or look for evidence of flaking on your shoulders. If you wear dark clothing, the flakes will often be very visible.

Previously, it was thought that dandruff was primarily caused by dry skin, oily skin, shampooing too often or not often enough, a poor diet, stress, or the overuse of styling products.

Although some of these factors can worsen or contribute to excess flaking, research has identified the real offender: a fat-eating, yeast-like fungus called malassezia.This micro-organism lives on the scalp and skin of most healthy individuals without causing problems, but sometimes it grows out of control (owing to scalp conditions), feeding on the sebum (oils) secreted by your hair follicles and causing irritation that leads to increased cell turnover.

Properly caring for your hair is essential to managing and treating dandruff.

Daily cleansing with a gentle shampoo will help remove excess dead skin cells and hair product buildup. When washing your hair, gently massage the shampoo onto your scalp. Make sure to evenly distribute the shampoo and cover all areas of your hair. After washing, thoroughly rinse all of the shampoo out before you dry your hair. Sometimes certain shampoos may contribute to dandruff. Simply switching shampoo brands may help. If that doesn’t work, look for a shampoo that is specially formulated for dandruff.

Dandruff can often be prevented by making changes to the way you care for your hair and your overall health. Cut back on over-styling and putting excess products in your hair such as gels and mousses. These often contain alcohol, which can dry out and irritate the scalp.Try not to over-brush or pull too hard on your hair. This can also cause irritation.

Getting your dandruff under control is relatively simple. Use an antidandruff shampoo that contains coal tar, salicylic acid, pyrithione zinc, selenium sulfide or ketoconazole. Each of these ingredients has a unique way to reduce dandruff. The tar-based shampoos slow cell production, while salicylic acid-based shampoos promote the shedding of dead cells before they accumulate.Since the primary cause of dandruff is a yeast, a medical ingredient like pyrithione zinc can effectively kill this yeast. Clinical studies indicate that the use of a shampoo and conditioner with this key ingredient provides an improved anti-dandruff effect.

If OTC shampoos are not effective, a doctor may suggest a prescription strength anti fungal shampoo or a steroid lotion.