Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario on February 26, 2013

Sources

American Academy of Dermatology. Seborrheic dermatitis: Tips for Managing; American Academy of Dermatology. Seborrheic dermatitis: Diagnosis, Treatment and Outcome; American Academy of Dermatology. Scalp psoriasis: Signs and Symptoms; American Academy of Dermatology. Tips for Healthy Hair; NIH Medlines Plus. Hydrocortisone Topical; Chynna Steele-Griffin, MD Dermatologist; Aesthetic & Dermatology Specialty Centre

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Video Transcript

NARRATOR: Dandruff. Aside from the white flakes we see on our shoulders, just what is it, really?

CHYNNA STEELE-GRIFFIN: Dandruff Is an inflammatory condition of the skin.

NARRATOR: Dandruff stems from a variety of causes, but one of the most common is seborrheic dermatitis.

CHYNNA STEELE-GRIFFIN: It looks pretty good today. I actually don't see any redness or flakiness. People experience flares of dandruff when they have an increase of scaling or flakiness, an increase in itchiness and redness of the scalp. That can be during changes of the weather, and occurs more often during the wintertime, and also during stressful periods of life.

SPEAKER 1: When I have dandruff, I don't feel that beautiful. I just feel like throwing a hat on and, you know, going through the day with that.

CHYNNA STEELE-GRIFFIN: Dandruff can be a very embarrassing condition. No one wants to have others see flakes coming off on their clothing, especially when meeting someone new, or in front of friends and family. The good thing to know is that you're not alone. Many, many people suffer from dandruff, and it's a condition that is very common.

SPEAKER 2: So, I've heard of seborrheic dermatitis, but I don't know what it is. Can you tell me about it?

CHYNNA STEELE GRIFFIN: Seborrheic dermatitis is the fancy medical term that we use for the inflammatory condition of the scalp that is commonly called dandruff. Dandruff is probably on the minor end of the scale for this condition. There's often a lot more redness and irritation associated with it when we call it seborrheic dermatitis.

SPEAKER 3: I thought that dandruff was caused by dry skin. Is it not?

CHYNNA STEELE-GRIFFIN: Since one of the symptoms of dandruff is a flaky scalp, people often think that it's a dry skin condition. The truth is it's actually associated with increased oil production. We're not exactly sure what causes dandruff specifically. However, what we do know is that it's an inflammatory condition of the skin. That inflammation may happen for unknown reasons, and it may be an abnormal response to something that's living on our skin normally, like the yeast called Malassezia.

SPEAKER 4: I've never heard of Mala-- what is Mala-- laysia?

CHYNNA STEELE-GRIFFIN: We think that a yeast called Malassezia furfur can be a contributing factor for dandruff. It's not that that yeast infects certain people and therefore is associated with dandruff, it's more that some people probably have an abnormal response to the yeast. The yeast is, in fact, on all of our skin, so it's not something that you can give from one person to another. It's all in one's biochemistry, their response to that yeast.

The good news is that dandruff is very treatable. Although we can't cure it, we can manage the symptoms very well. There are several over-the-counter options, which can be very helpful, and if those don't work, there are certainly other medical treatments that you can get from your dermatologist that will help.