Dandruff? What is it?

Dandruff is embarrassing to have! But what exactly is it?

Dandruff (also known as seborrheic dermatitis) is a condition that can cause your skin to become scaly and flake off. When it affects your scalp, it can be an embarrassing condition where white flakes are visible in your hair and on your clothing. Most often, dandruff is treated with a dandruff shampoo. There are many types, which all use several key ingredients.


All dandruff shampoos are created to be applied to your scalp, then left on for a certain period of time so the medicine can take effect and do its job! You should thoroughly apply the shampoo to your hair, making sure the shampoo reaches your scalp. When this happens, the medicine contained within the shampoo is able to penetrate your scalp to the hair follicles. The way in which the medication  works depends on the active ingredients contained within the shampoo.

  • A zinc pyrithione shampoo (name brands include Head & Shoulders) works to reduce the presence of the fungus pityrosporum on your scalp. While this fungus occurs naturally on all human skin, people with dandruff have more than usual.The shampoo reduces the dandruff by reducing the fungus. Another antifungal ingredient is ketoconazole (brand name Nizoral).
  • Coal tar is another active ingredient (brand names include Neutrogena T/Gel). Coal tar slows the process of skin-cell death, and this prevents the skin cells from flaking off as quickly.
  • Selenium sulfide (brand name Selsun Blue) is a shampoo ingredient with similar results. Unfortunately it can have the side effect of discoloring your hair.
  • Shampoos with salicylic acid (brand name Ionil T) have exfoliating properties to scrub your scalp, getting rid of the flakes. However, this action also can cause dryness.

Effects and Use

After leaving the shampoo on for five minutes, you should thoroughly wash the shampoo off. Many dandruff shampoos tend to dry out your hair, so it’s smart to condition your hair immediately afterward.

Dandruff shampoos can be used on a daily basis when you are first treating signs of dandruff, but you should scale back in their use, once your dandruff is under control. This will help to prevent long-term hair dryness. Dandruff shampoos should reduce most or all symptoms of dandruff, when properly applied. However, if you don’t see results within several weeks, you should consult your doctor, in case a stronger shampoo should be used.

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