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Dandruff is a common scalp condition in which small pieces of dry skin flake off of the scalp. If you have dark hair or you’re wearing dark colors, you may notice the flakes in your hair or on your shoulders. Dandruff may also make your scalp itch.
Many people believe that dandruff is caused by poor hygiene, but this is not true. Although infrequent shampooing can make dandruff more obvious, researchers are still studying the causes, which appear to be complex.
The most effective way to treat and control dandruff is to use dandruff shampoo and scalp treatments. Follow these tips from dermatologists to get the best results:
- Follow the instructions on the dandruff shampoo bottle: There are many different dandruff shampoos, and each contains different active ingredients for controlling symptoms. To get the best results, always follow the instructions on the bottle. For example, some dandruff shampoos require that you lather the shampoo into the hair and scalp and leave the shampoo in for about five minutes before rinsing. Others should not be left on the scalp.
- If you are Caucasian or Asian, shampoo daily and use dandruff shampoo twice a week: If using one dandruff shampoo does not bring relief, try alternating between dandruff shampoos with different active ingredients.
- If you are African-American, only shampoo once a week using a dandruff shampoo: See a board-certified dermatologist for the best product recommendation for your hair type.
- Be careful when using a dandruff shampoo that contains coal tar: Tar shampoo can discolor blonde, grey or white hair, so if you have light-colored hair, you may want to choose a different dandruff shampoo. Tar shampoo also has the potential to make your scalp more sensitive to sunlight. If you use this type of dandruff shampoo, it’s important to protect your scalp from the sun by wearing a hat when outdoors and seeking shade whenever possible.
For most people, dandruff does not require medical attention. However, sometimes the flaking and itching that appears like dandruff is actually a medical condition, such as seborrheic dermatitis, psoriasis, fungal infections of the scalp, or eczema.
If you continue to have symptoms after using a dandruff shampoo, consult a board-certified dermatologist. A dermatologist can properly diagnose your condition and recommend a treatment plan that best meets your needs.