Symptoms and Signs of Dandruff

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 9/15/2022

Doctor's Notes on Dandruff

Dandruff is a condition that occurs due to peeling, or exfoliation, of the skin of the scalp. This process is completely normal, and dandruff becomes a problem due to cosmetic concerns. Excessive peeling of the skin may contribute to dandruff. The most common cause of excessive scalp peeling is seborrheic dermatitis (seborrhea), an inflammatory condition of the skin thought to be related to a specific fungus type (Malassezia furfur) that lives on the skin.

Signs and symptoms of seborrhea include itching along with reddened skin plaques covered by scales. The red, scaly plaques can also occur on the eyebrows, forehead, in the ear canal, and on the skin between the nose and lips. Slowing of hair growth may be an associated symptom, but seborrhea of the scalp does not cause hair loss.

What Is the Treatment for Dandruff?

Mild dandruff may not require treatment. Moderate to severe cases of dandruff can be managed by medicated shampoos. There are a number of different medications that can be added to shampoos to control dandruff, and there are over-the-counter shampoos available as well as stronger prescription shampoos if the over-the-counter products are not effective. Self-care measures that may help include avoiding hair care products, getting some sun exposure, and paying attention to stress management.


Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.