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Dandruff is a very common skin condition that nearly all people experience at one point in their lives regardless of age or ethnicity. It affects the not just the scalp, but also the ears, eyebrows, sides of the nose, beard, and less commonly the central (often hair-bearing) part of the chest. Dandruff can affect any hair-bearing area or an area with even very small hair follicles. Other names for dandruff are seborrheic dermatitis and seborrhea.
Dandruff is seen in all ages from babies to the elderly. In infancy, scalp dandruff is commonly known as "cradle cap." In the teen years it has been called "druff" for short. Some people are simply more prone to dandruff, and others experience periodic clearing cycles and periodic flare-ups of the condition.
Dandruff typically looks like dry, fine flaky skin on the scalp, sometimes with areas of pink or red inflamed skin. Many individuals have no scalp symptoms but simply complain of white flakes on their shoulders, particularly noticeable on dark clothing. More advanced cases may cause intense itching, burning, and unstoppable scratching.
Some people are more prone to dandruff, and dandruff tends to be a chronic or recurrent disorder with periodic ups and downs. Although it is not curable, it is generally quite easily controlled with proper skin and hair hygiene. In babies, cradle cap usually clears after a few months. It may recur later in life as typical dandruff. For some, dandruff may worsen with time. Although it may occur for a short period, dandruff tends to recur throughout a person' s life.
Severe dandruff may be a very difficult and frustrating condition. An ongoing combination treatment of multiple shampoos, washes, and creams and lotions may be required to treat resistant cases. Overall, dandruff treatments are very safe and effective. The best shampoo choices include zinc pyrithione, selenium sulfide, and tar-based shampoos. Prescription dandruff shampoos such as ketoconazole offer no benefit over over-the-counter brands.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/29/2014
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