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  Dandruff

Dandruff is also called scurf which is the excessive flaking of the dead skin cells that forms on the scalp. Its scientific name is Pityriasis capitis. The outermost layer of the skin known as the stratum corneum which is actually dead skin is quite common and in fact, a small amount of flaking is normal. In majority of people, these flakes are too small to be visible by the naked eye. However, certain conditions make the turnover of the epidermal cells to be unusually rapid, especially common in the scalp. Hence, in people with dandruff, the skin cells that may die are replaced about once every two weeks as compared to those with once a month turnover in normal people. The result is that dead skin cells flakes off in large amounts as clumps appearing as small, white or grayish patches on the scalp. In some people, this condition occurs chronically or as a result of certain triggers or combination of several factors. This condition may also be accompanied by redness and irritation.

Dandruff
Dandruff


The most common cause of dandruff is the fungus formerly known as Pityrosporum ovale now called Malassezia furfur, a fungus found to be a normal flora on the skin surface of both healthy people and those suffering from dandruff. This fungus has the capacity to metabolize human fat, resulting in a lipid byproduct which is known to be antigenic. Hence, the dermatitis is found in sebum-rich areas or areas with many sebaceous glands (also called oil glands) namely: scalp, face and upper part of the body.

Mild dandruff may be caused by over activity of the sebaceous glands. Other causative factors include the following: strong family history, food allergies, excessive sweating (diaphoresis), use of alkaline soaps, yeast infections, and stress. Dandruff can also be seasonal especially during cold, dry winter season which is contributory and notorious for bringing on and making the dandruff worse. Other aggravating factors include: exposure to dust, prolonged UV light exposure, harsh shampoos, and hair dyes. Rarely, excessive use of hair gels or hair spray may cause dandruff.

Dandruff can also be a symptom of other dermatologic diseases such as seborrheic dermatitis, psoriasis, fungal infection or head lice (pediculosis). Excessive scratching to the point of causing epidermal skin breaks can increase the risk for infections, particularly from staphylocci and streptococci bacteria. Therefore, repeated scratching should be avoided as much as possible to avoid serious infections. While these infections are considered to be the biggest risk from dandruff, many people find that dandruff can also cause social and self-esteem related issues. This is the reason why treatment can be very important especially for those with purely social reasons.

The current drug of choice for dandruff treatment is Ketoconazole (nizoral) but for milder forms of dandruff, you may first attempt the use of coal tar and other less expensive shampoos. However, in the United States, coal tar use is disfavored lately due to its suspected carcinogenic properties. Another alternative effective treatment is the application of the herbal product, tea tree oil.

Dandruff can also be seen in cases of nutritionally impaired or malnourished individuals, particularly those with deficiencies of the mineral zinc which can normally be found in foods like shellfish (especially oysters), turkey, pork, and some nuts.

The appearance of flakes can be reduced by proper hair care. Regular washing of hair can remove the dead skin before it builds up into larger visible flakes. Use of acid-based shampoos will also help restore the acidity of the scalp, hence; breaking down the oils and prevents the collection of dead skin cells into large clumps.

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