Dandruff (Seborrhea)

  • Medical Author:
    Gary W. Cole, MD, FAAD

    Dr. Cole is board certified in dermatology. He obtained his BA degree in bacteriology, his MA degree in microbiology, and his MD at the University of California, Los Angeles. He trained in dermatology at the University of Oregon, where he completed his residency.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Dandruff Causes

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.

Quick GuideFight Dandruff: How to Treat, Control, and Prevent Flakes

Fight Dandruff: How to Treat, Control, and Prevent Flakes

Dandruff facts

  • Dandruff is produced when the skin of the scalp exfoliates excessively.
  • The white dusty flakes of material in the hair and on the shoulders are fragments of the superficial stratum corneum.
  • Lack of shampooing can enhance dandruff by allowing flakes to accumulate on the hair.
  • There are a number of scalp diseases than can produce dandruff.

What is dandruff?

Those unpleasant white flakes on the collar of your dark shirt or blouse are dandruff. Dandruff is a sign that the skin of the scalp is peeling off (exfoliating). It is perfectly normal for the skin to exfoliate. The problem arises when the amount of dandruff becomes an eyesore. There are basically two reasons for this. Too much production or not effective removal. In the too much production category are inflammatory diseases of the scalp. In the ineffective removal category is inadequate scalp hygienic efforts.

What specialties of doctors treat dandruff?

Primary-care providers and nurse practitioners are be able to diagnose and treat most cases of dandruff. Dermatologists are experts in skin diseases.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/2/2016

Subscribe to MedicineNet's Skin Care & Conditions Newsletter

By clicking Submit, I agree to the MedicineNet's Terms & Conditions & Privacy Policy and understand that I may opt out of MedicineNet's subscriptions at any time.

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors