Dandruff is a skin condition that affects the scalp(skin covering the head). It occurs when small bits of skin cells are shed from the scalp. Sometimes, it can be found in regions such as the edges of the nose, the ears and the eyebrows.

Dandruff on the nose

Dandruff is considered to be a milder form of a severe skin condition called seborrheic dermatitis. In babies, seborrheic dermatitis is called cradle cap. To fully comprehend dandruff, let us first look at seborrheic dermatitis.

Seborrheic Dermatitis‌‌

‌‌Seborrheic is made up of two words: sebum and rrhoe. Sebum is the oily secretion that is secreted from the glands in the skin. Rrhoe simply means flow in Greek.

‌‌Dermatitis consists of two words as well: Derma and Itis. Derma is a term to describe skin and it is used to describe inflammation.

‌‌Thus, seborrheic dermatitis is the inflammation of the skin in which there is a production of oily secretion. People who experience this condition have skin that is inflamed, itchy, scaly, red and greasy usually on the scalp.  As mentioned earlier, Dandruff is a milder condition of this skin infection: seborrheic dermatitis, without excessive itching, redness and scaling of the scalp.

‌‌One in every two individuals has experienced dandruff in their lifetime. It can be embarrassing and may reduce the self-esteem of individuals who have it, especially when the flakes fall on the shoulders in public areas.

‌‌Causes of dandruff

‌‌Dandruff is usually caused by a fungus called malassezia or pityrosporum. This fungus is a commensal microbe on our skin. This means that it is normal for it to be present on the skin because it is harmless. However, when this fungus multiplies to almost twice its original quantity, then it causes dandruff. This is because, at this rate, it can break down certain substances on the skin such as glycerides using lipase to produce oleic acid. This oleic acid gives rise to some of the symptoms observed in dandruff.

‌‌Furthermore, excess malassezia causes flaking. This is how it happens.‌‌Generally, skin cells die and are replaced by new ones between 40-50 days. However, when a person has an excess of this fungus, it reduces this rotation to about a week. This means that, instead of 40-50 days, the dead skin cells will fall off almost every week. This results in the continuous falling of dead skin cells which flakes off as seen in dandruff. These dead skin cells are usually accompanied by keratin and oily secretions.

‌‌Risk factors of dandruff

‌‌These are activities or situations that increase the likelihood of getting dandruff. They include:

1.Not shampooing enough: When the hair is left for long without washing it, the oily secretions may build up and lead to dandruff. Thus, if a female braids the hair and leave it for too long, dandruff is expected to occur.

‌‌2.Use of sensitive hair care products (contact dermatitis): Some hair products will irritate the hair which results in itching of the scalp and sometimes rash. This can lead to dandruff.

‌‌3. Dry skin

‌‌4. Irritated, oily skin: It elevates the possibility for dandruff to appear.

‌‌5. Other skin conditions, such as psoriasis and eczema.

‌‌6. Age: Dandruff mostly occurs during puberty and peaks around age 20. The elderly are less likely to get dandruff.

‌‌7. Sex: Men are more likely to get dandruff than women. This is because, the male hormone, androgen, stimulate the production of oily secretions which is a necessity for dandruff to occur.

‌‌Furthermore, dandruff may get worse if a person is stressed or sick. Also, dandruff does not occur as a result of poor hygiene but poor hygiene may worsen the infection.

Cradle cap

Newborns and young infants often experience a kind of dandruff termed as cradle cap. It is observed as yellow, greasy, scaly patches on the scalp.‌‌It often appears within the first 2 months after birth and may a few weeks or months.‌‌Gently washing the scalp with baby shampoo and applying baby oil can help prevent the scales from building up. However, if the symptoms become severe, you should see a doctor soon.

Duration of dandruff

‌‌Dandruff due to seborrheic dermatitis is a chronic condition that requires repeated or long-term treatment. As for dandruff that arises from contact dermatitis, dry skin, or shampooing habits, changing habits can clear up flakes fairly quickly.

Treatment of dandruff

‌‌Dandruff treatments are ways a person can get rid of or control itching and flaking on your scalp. The treatment will depend on the cause of the infection.

‌‌Lifestyle changes

‌‌1. Brushing the hair: Brushing or combing the hair tends to remove some of the oily secretions from the scalp that favours the growth of dandruff.

‌‌2. Dry skin: one must always hydrate the body by taking in enough fluids. Dry skin will expose the cells to irritants which may lead to dandruff.

‌‌3. Shampoo treatment

The use of dandruff shampoos to wash the hair. There are different types of dandruff shampoo with active ingredients. Examples of such ingredients to look for when buying a shampoo include:

‌‌a) Ketoconazole is an antifungal ingredient that is suitable for any age.

b) Selenium sulfide helps manage dandruff by reducing scalp glands’ production of natural oils. It also has antifungal properties.‌‌

c) Zinc pyrithione slows down the growth of yeast.‌‌

d) Coal tar has a natural antifungal agent and can reduce excess skin cell production. During long-term use, coal tar may stain dyed or treated hair. It may increase the scalp’s sensitivity to sunlight, so users should wear a hat when outside. Coal tar may also be carcinogenic in high doses.‌‌Salicylic acid helps remove excess skin cells You may need to switch between types of shampoos if one type controls dandruff at first but later loses its effectiveness.

‌‌Antifungal creams

‌‌This may be used when the fungus is the cause of infection.‌‌

Essential oils

Some oils have been proven to be useful in treating dandruff. Examples include‌‌:

Tea tree oils: They have anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties.‌‌ Coconut oil: It helps to keep the skin hydrated and prevent dryness. This reduces the symptoms of dandruff.

In summary, dandruff is the shedding of small skin cells located on the scalp or other regions such as the ear, nose and eyebrows. It occurs mainly as a result of the following;  oily secretions produced by the skin, metabolic byproducts of a skin microorganism that multiplies excessively and sensitivity to products used by a person.


  1. Medical News Today. How to treat dandruff. Retrieved from‌‌https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/152844.
  2. Mayo Clinic. Dandruff. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/dandruff/symptoms-causes/syc-20353850.


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