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How Can You Get Rid of Dandruff?

Learn what causes dandruff and how you can control your flakes.

By
Sanaz Majd, MD,

Growing up, I remember a super mean nickname that some of the nasty kids in my class had for a classmate of mine with horrible dandruff--“Snowflakes,” they called her.  She was always fidgeting with her clothing, attempting to clear away the dandruff flakes falling on her shoulders.  I remember seeing her sad face when one of the school bullies decided to get his kicks by making fun of her one particular day.  At the time I gave him a little piece of my mind, and then turned to her and said, “You don’t worry.  In a few years you won’t even remember these people’s names.”  Last time I heard, she went to law school, and is now defending others.  And I doubt she’s Facebook friends with her former tormenters.

Kids can be so cruel.  But it’s important to realize that dandruff is actually not so uncommon.  Although it can truly be a blow to the self-esteem, it’s a benign condition. Most people suffer from dandruff to some extent – but just some more than others.

What is Dandruff?

Seborrheic Dermatitis is the annoyingly long medical term used to refer to dandruff.  Dandruff is a condition in which the cells of the skin and scalp overproduce, causing sloughing, flaking, and more oil gland production.  The skin also houses a mild amount of fungus – yes, unfortunately, this is quite normal and a part of all of our normal healthybodies.  However, occasionally, this fungus can overgrow.  This can occur not only on the scalp, but also anywhere there is a greater amount of oil glands – like on the eyebrows, around the crease of the nose, around the ears, and on the upper chest or upper back. 

In some, dandruff can be itchy if severe.  And the flaking can be cosmetically distressing, especially when wearing dark or black clothing, where the sloughing of the skin seems to be more apparent.

Who Gets Dandruff?

Unfortunately, dandruff is often genetic.  How fast your skin sloughs off and how oily your glands are typically have nothing to do with what you are doing and everything to do with your parents’ genetic makeup. 

One good example of seborrheic dermatitis is the common “cradle cap” condition that babies often experience, which typically resolves within 8 to 12 months of age on its own.

Dandruff can worsen in times of stress, or when our immune systems are down.  It can also be more prevalent as a result of certain health conditions involving the nervous system, like Parkinson’s Disease. 

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