What Is Scalp Dandruff?

Anna T.

Scalp dandruff is actually just dead flakes of skin that have come loose from the scalp. On most people, it looks like tiny white specks in the hair, and it generally is much more obvious in dark hair. Sometimes scalp dandruff is so severe that it settles onto the shoulders, which might be particularly embarrassing when dark clothes are worn and the flakes show up well. Most people experience flakes at some point in their lives, but for many people, it is a chronic, severe problem. There are a variety of medicated shampoos, some available only by prescription and others available over the counter, that are designed to treat dandruff, and there are several different home remedies.

Having scalp dandruff is neither painful nor dangerous.
Having scalp dandruff is neither painful nor dangerous.

Dead skin cells on the scalp die and flake off over and over, and this is what ultimately causes scalp dandruff. There are some people who have skin cells that go through the renewal process faster than normal, resulting in noticeable flakes. Having scalp dandruff isn't dangerous or painful. Most people want to get rid of it only because the flakes embarrass them. There are some people, however, who develop flakes because of a fungus or skin condition, and these problems could cause itchiness. The itching can be uncomfortable, and the scratching that results from it could lead to even more flakes.

Scalp dandruff can be severe enough to settle on shoulders.
Scalp dandruff can be severe enough to settle on shoulders.

People who are having problems with scalp dandruff should try to get rid of it at home before seeking a doctor's help. An over-the-counter dandruff shampoo probably is the best method of treatment for a dandruff sufferer to attempt first. Most of these shampoos need to be used daily until the flakes either lessen or disappear completely, and at that point, usage can be decreased or stopped until the flakes start becoming problematic again. Doctors generally advise using dandruff shampoo only as needed, because some of the ingredients are rather harsh and are not intended for daily, long-term use.

Scalp dandruff can cause itching, and the scratching that results from it could lead to even more flakes.
Scalp dandruff can cause itching, and the scratching that results from it could lead to even more flakes.

If medicated shampoos do not clear up scalp dandruff, a doctor's visit might be necessary. Doctors usually can pinpoint the exact cause of scalp flaking, and if it is related to fungus or a skin condition, those problems should be treated first. In most cases, getting rid of existing scalp conditions should also get rid of flakes. People who would prefer not to visit a doctor for these problems might consider tea tree oil as a home remedy. Just a few drops of concentrated tea tree oil diluted in water or a bottle of shampoo could seriously help improve problems with flaking.

Doctors can usually pinpoint the exact cause of scalp flaking.
Doctors can usually pinpoint the exact cause of scalp flaking.
Visible white flakes of dry dead skin on the scalp are a sign of dandruff.
Visible white flakes of dry dead skin on the scalp are a sign of dandruff.

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