Dandruff is a condition that causes the skin on the top of the head (scalp) to shed dry flakes. Dandruff is typically not a serious condition, but it can be irritating. The main symptom of dandruff is white, oily flakes of dead skin in the hair and on the shoulder. The scalp may also itch. The condition tends to be worse during fall and winter when indoor heating tends to dry out the skin. Babies can get a special type of dandruff, called cradle cap, that can last until 3 years of age.
There are several causes of dandruff, including dry skin, oily skin, not shampooing enough, having a yeast-like fungus called malassezia on the scalp, or sensitivity to hair-care products. Risk factors include age (dandruff is common in young and middle aged people), gender (dandruff is more common in males), and having oily hair. Dandruff can usually be treated easily at home using a shampoo made to treat dandruff. Not all dandruff shampoos are the same, so it is best to test out different types and see which one works best. The different types of dandruff shampoos include zinc pyrithione, tar-based, salicylic acid, selenium sulfide, and ketoconazole shampoo. If you have dandruff, talk with your doctor to discuss which treatment option is best for you.