Symptom Checker: Symptoms & Signs Index
Medical Author: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
The loss of skin cells from the scalp is a normal part
of the life cycle of skin cells. However, excessive flaking of the scalp, or
dandruff, is a common cosmetic problem experienced by millions of people.
Dandruff is not contagious and is normally not a serious problem. Some cases of
excessive dandruff accompanied by intense itching and patches of flaky skin on the
face or elsewhere are actually a form of eczema referred to as seborrheic
Dandruff is believed to be related to a fungus known as malassezia (formerly termed
pityrosporum) that lives on the scalp of most people.
In some cases, overgrowth of the fungus results in the flakiness of the skin
characteristic of dandruff. The reasons for the overgrowth of fungus are unclear
but may be related to increased oil production, hormonal changes, stress,
neurologic disorders such as Parkinson's disease, recovery from chronic
conditions such as stroke or heart attack, suppression of the immune system, and infrequent shampooing. There is also some evidence that dandruff
may run in families. Scalp flakiness may also be caused by psoriasis or other skin ailments or infections.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/24/2012
Fauci, Anthony S., et al. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine. 17th ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Professional, 2008.
Pictures, Images, Illustrations & Quizzes
Causes of Flaky Scalp
Dandruff (seborrhea) is a skin disorder that results from neither too much moisture nor too much oil. Dandruff can be treated...learn more »
In This Article
Dandruff (Seborrhea) Article
- Dandruff facts
- What is dandruff (seborrhea)?
- What treatments are available for dandruff?
- What doesn't help dandruff?
- What over-the-counter products can help dandruff?
- If over-the-counter products don't work, what can the doctor prescribe for dandruff?
Psoriasis is a long-term skin condition that may cause large plaques of red, raised skin, flakes of dry skin, and skin scales....learn more »
In This Article
Sunburn (Sun Poisoning) Article
- Sunburn and sun poisoning facts
- What is sunburn?
- Can sunburn cause permanent damage?
- What is UV light and where are UV rays most intense?
- Why does the skin tan after exposure to UV rays?
- What are the symptoms of sunburn?
- What are the
symptoms of severe sunburn (sun poisoning)?
- Sunburn pictures
- What first-aid measures should be taken with sunburn?
- What is the treatment for sunburn?
- Are there any home remedies to treat sunburn?
- Is a follow-up visit with a physician necessary?
- Who is most susceptible to sunburn?
- Can diseases cause a heightened sensitivity to UV rays?
- Can medications increase sensitivity to sunburn?
- What kinds of skin cancer can UV rays cause?
- How can sunburn and skin cancer be
- How do sunscreens work?
- What is SPF?
- What is the best way to apply sunscreen?
- Do sunscreens expire?
- Can antioxidants protect against sunburn?
Other Causes of Flaky Scalp
Examples of Medications for Flaky Scalp
- coal tar shampoo - topical, Denorex, Pentrax, Zetar
- fluocinolone acetonide - shampoo, FS Shampoo
- ketoconazole, Nizoral, Extina, Xolegel, Kuric
- salicylic acid/sulfur shampoo - topical, Sebex, Sebulex
Symptoms & Signs A-Z List