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Title: Dandruff  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Shampoo, Selsun Blue, Minoxidil, Dermatitis, Hairstyle
Collection: Hairdressing, Human Head and Neck, Seborrheic Dermatitis
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


A microscopic image of human dandruff
Classification and external resources
Specialty Dermatology
ICD-9-CM 690.18
DiseasesDB 11911
MeSH D063807

Dandruff is the shedding of dead skin cells from the scalp.[1] As skin cells die, a small amount of flaking is normal; about 487,000 cells/cm2 get released normally after detergent treatment.[2] Some people, however, experience an unusually large amount of flaking either chronically or as a result of certain triggers, up to 800,000 cells/cm2, which can also be accompanied by redness and irritation.

Dandruff is a common scalp disorder affecting almost half of the population at the post-pubertal age and of any gender and ethnicity. It often causes itching. It has been well established that keratinocytes play a key role in the expression and generation of immunological reactions during dandruff formation. The severity of dandruff may fluctuate with season as it often worsens in winter.[2] Most cases of dandruff can be easily treated with specialized shampoos. There is, however, no true cure.[3]

Those affected by dandruff find that it can cause social or self-esteem problems, indicating treatment for both psychological and physiological reasons.[4]


  • Signs and symptoms 1
  • Causes 2
    • Seborrhoeic dermatitis 2.1
  • Mechanism 3
  • Treatment 4
    • Antifungals 4.1
    • Coal tar 4.2
    • Egg oil 4.3
  • Epidemiology 5
  • Etymology 6
  • See also 7
  • References 8

Signs and symptoms

Severe dryness of scalp resulting in Dandruff.
Typical case of dandruff.

The signs and symptoms of dandruff are an itchy scalp and flakiness.[5] Red and greasy patches of skin and feeling tingly on the skin are also symptoms.[6]


Dandruff can have several causes, including dry skin, seborrhoeic dermatitis, not cleaning/scrubbing often enough, shampooing too often, psoriasis, eczema, sensitivity to hair care products, or a yeast-like fungus.[7] Dry skin is the most common cause of flaking dandruff.[7]

As the epidermal layer continually replaces itself, cells are pushed outward where they eventually die and flake off. For most individuals, these flakes of skin are too small to be visible. However, certain conditions cause cell turnover to be unusually rapid, especially in the scalp. It is hypothesized that for people with dandruff, skin cells may mature and be shed in 2–7 days, as opposed to around a month in people without dandruff. The result is that dead skin cells are shed in large, oily clumps, which appear as white or grayish patches on the scalp, skin and clothes.

According to one study, dandruff has been shown to possibly be the result of three factors:[8]

  1. Skin oil commonly referred to as sebum or sebaceous secretions[9]
  2. The metabolic by-products of skin micro-organisms (most specifically Malassezia yeasts)[10][11][12][13][14]
  3. Individual susceptibility and allergy sensitivity.

Older literature cites the fungus Malassezia furfur (previously known as Pityrosporum ovale) as the cause of dandruff. While this species does occur naturally on the skin surface of both healthy people and those with dandruff, in 2007 it was discovered that the responsible agent is a scalp specific fungus, Malassezia globosa,[15] that metabolizes triglycerides present in sebum by the expression of lipase, resulting in a lipid byproduct oleic acid (OA). During dandruff, the levels of Malassezia increase by 1.5 to 2 times its normal level.[2] Penetration by OA of the top layer of the epidermis, the stratum corneum, results in an inflammatory response in susceptible persons which disturbs homeostasis and results in erratic cleavage of stratum corneum cells.[12]

Seborrhoeic dermatitis

In seborrhoeic dermatitis redness and itching frequently occur around the folds of the nose and eyebrow areas, not just the scalp. Dry, thick, well-defined lesions consisting of large, silvery scales may be traced to the less common affliction of the scalp psoriasis.

Inflammation and extension of scaling outside the scalp exclude the diagnosis of dandruff from seborrhoeic dermatitis.[9] However, many reports suggest a clear link between the two clinical entities - the mildest form of the clinical presentation of seborrhoeic dermatitis as dandruff, where the inflammation is minimal and remain subclinical.[16][17]

Seasonal changes, stress, and immuno-suppression seem to affect seborrheic dermatitis.[2]


Dandruff scale is a cluster of

  1. ^ Rapini, Ronald P.; Bolognia, Jean L.; Jorizzo, Joseph L. (2007). Dermatology: 2-Volume Set. St. Louis: Mosby.  
  2. ^ a b c d e f Ranganathan S, Mukhopadhyay T; Mukhopadhyay (2010). "DANDRUFF: THE MOST COMMERCIALLY EXPLOITED SKIN DISEASE". Indian J Dermatol 55 (2): 130–134.  
  3. ^ Turkington, Carol; Dover, Jeffrey S. (2007). The Encyclopedia of Skin and Skin Disorders, Third Edition. Facts On File, Inc. p. 100.  
  4. ^ "A Practical Guide to Scalp Disorders". Journal of Investigative Dermatology Symposium Proceedings. December 2007. Retrieved 2009-02-06. 
  5. ^ a b c d Turner, GA; Hoptroff, M; Harding, CR (Aug 2012). "Stratum corneum dysfunction in dandruff.". International journal of cosmetic science 34 (4): 298–306.  
  6. ^ Medical news Today 
  7. ^ a b
  8. ^ DeAngelis YM, Gemmer CM, Kaczvinsky J.R, Kenneally DC, Schwartz JR, Dawson TL; Gemmer; Kaczvinsky; Kenneally; Schwartz; Dawson Jr (2005). "Three etiologic facets of dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis: Malassezia fungi, sebaceous lipids, and individual sensitivity". J. Investig. Dermatol. Symp. Proc. 10 (3): 295–7.  
  9. ^ a b Ro BI, Dawson TL; Dawson (2005). "The role of sebaceous gland activity and scalp microfloral metabolism in the etiology of seborrheic dermatitis and dandruff". J. Investig. Dermatol. Symp. Proc. 10 (3): 194–7.  
  10. ^ Ashbee HR, Evans EG; Evans (2002). "Immunology of Diseases Associated with Malassezia Species". Clin. Microbiol. Rev. 15 (1): 21–57.  
  11. ^ Batra R, Boekhout T, Guého E, Cabañes FJ, Dawson TL, Gupta AK; Boekhout; Guého; Cabañes; Dawson Jr; Gupta (2005). "Malassezia Baillon, emerging clinical yeasts". FEMS Yeast Res. 5 (12): 1101–13.  
  12. ^ a b Dawson TL (2006). "Malassezia and seborrheic dermatitis: etiology and treatment". Journal of cosmetic science 57 (2): 181–2.  
  13. ^ Gemmer CM, DeAngelis YM, Theelen B, Boekhout T, Dawson Jr TL; Deangelis; Theelen; Boekhout; Dawson Jr Jr (2002). "Fast, Noninvasive Method for Molecular Detection and Differentiation of Malassezia Yeast Species on Human Skin and Application of the Method to Dandruff Microbiology". J. Clin. Microbiol. 40 (9): 3350–7.  
  14. ^ Gupta AK, Batra R, Bluhm R, Boekhout T, Dawson TL; Batra; Bluhm; Boekhout; Dawson Jr (2004). "Skin diseases associated with Malassezia species". J. Am. Acad. Dermatol. 51 (5): 785–98.  
  15. ^ "Genetic code of dandruff cracked". BBC News. 2007-11-06. Retrieved 2010-04-30. 
  16. ^ Pierard-Franchimont C, Hermanns JF, Degreef H, Pierard GE; Xhauflaire-Uhoda; Piérard (2006). "Revisiting dandruff". Int J Cosmet Sci 28 (5): 311–318.  
  17. ^ Pierard-Franchimont C, Hermanns JF, Degreef H, Pierard GE. From axioms to new insights into dandruff. Dermatology 2000;200:93-8.
  18. ^
  19. ^ Milani, M; Antonio Di Molfetta, S; Gramazio, R; Fiorella, C; Frisario, C; Fuzio, E; Marzocca, V; Zurilli, M; Di Turi, G; Felice, G (2003). "Efficacy of betamethasone valerate 0.1% thermophobic foam in seborrhoeic dermatitis of the scalp: An open-label, multicentre, prospective trial on 180 patients". Current Medical Research and Opinion 19 (4): 342–5.  
  20. ^ Anti-Dandruff (coal tar)WebMD:
  21. ^ H. Panda (2004). Handbook On Ayurvedic Medicines With Formulae, Processes And Their Uses.  
  22. ^ Zhong Ying Zhou, Hui De Jin (1997). Clinical manual of Chinese herbal medicine and acupuncture.  
  23. ^ "Tea tree oil". Medline Plus, a service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine from the  
  24. ^ Prensner R (2003). "Does 5% tea tree oil shampoo reduce dandruff?". The Journal of family practice 52 (4): 285–6.  
  25. ^ "dandruff | dandriff, n." OED Online. Oxford University Press, March 2015. Web. 27 April 2015.


See also

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word dandruff is first attested in 1545, but is still of unknown etymology.[25]


Dandruff affects up to half of adults.[5]


Tea tree oil is sometimes used topically for dandruff.[23][24]

In traditional Indian[21] and Chinese medicine,[22] egg oil was used in dandruff, but there is no evidence to indicate that it works.

Egg oil

Coal tar causes the skin to shed dead cells from the top layer and slows skin cell growth.[20]

Coal tar

Ciclopirox is widely used as an anti-dandruff agent in most preparations.[19]

Ketoconazole is a broad spectrum, antimycotic agent that is active against both Candida and M. furfur. Of all the imidazoles, ketoconazole has become the leading contender among treatment options because of its effectiveness in treating seborrheic dermatitis as well.[2]

A number of antifungal treatments have been found to be effective including: ketoconazole, zinc pyrithione and selenium disulfide.[5] Ketoconazole as a shampoo appears to be the most effective.[5]


Shampoos use a combination of special ingredients to control dandruff.

Nizoral (ketoconazole) 2% shampoo


[2] cells often make up part of dandruff. Their numbers are related to the severity of the clinical manifestations, which may also be influenced by seborrhea.Parakeratotic The size and abundance of scales are heterogeneous from one site to another and over time. [18]

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