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Dandruff (cont.)

What Are the Symptoms of Dandruff?

Dermatologists commonly refer to dandruff as seborrhea or seborrheic dermatitis. The signs and symptoms include:

  • White flakes on shoulders of dark clothing
  • Itchy scalp
  • Scaly facial skin
  • Recurrent ear "eczema"
  • Facial rash over eyebrows, nose, and ears
  • Oily scalp and facial skin with dry flakes
  • Eyebrow rash
  • Beard rash
  • Chest rash with dry flakes and red spots

One of the most common and often the first symptom of dandruff can be white flakes seen on dark clothes. Scalp itching may be another common first symptom. In some, the initial noticeable symptom is simply dry facial skin without any other rashes. Patients may see their physician complaining of dry skin that fails to respond to daily lotions and creams. Often they have used every lotion possible from the drugstore or more expensive department stores. Frequently this is caused by undiagnosed scalp dandruff that is causing problems "downstream" on the face.

Dandruff can be located in areas of the body with hair follicles. It is most typically found on the scalp, ears, face, and middle of the chest. Seborrhea is not seen on the palms and soles where there are no hair follicles.

When Should I Call the Doctor About Dandruff?

If dandruff is worsening (spreading, causing hair loss, increasing redness, painful, or infected) despite proper skin care and hair hygiene, call a dermatologist for an office appointment.

Dandruff is not a medical emergency and should not be handled in a hospital emergency department; call a pediatrician, family physician, internist, or dermatologist for a consultation.

If an individual is so uncomfortable with his/her dandruff that his/her social, sleep, work, or other daily activities are disrupted, he/she needs a more effective treatment and should see a health care practitioner.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/24/2016

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Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Seborrheic Dermatitis »

Seborrheic dermatitis is a papulosquamous disorder patterned on the sebum-rich areas of the scalp, face, and trunk.

Read More on Medscape Reference »


Medical Dictionary