Dealing with
Seborrhoeic Dermatitis (dandruff)

Seborrheic dermatitis is most commonly known as dandruff in adults and may be called cradle cap in infants. Seborrheic dermatitis may appear anywhere, and while prone to flare-up, it can also disappear, never to be experienced again.

It is a common chronic scalp condition, which is marked by itching and flaking of the skin on your scalp. Seborrheic dermatitis may appear anywhere on the body, but it is most common on the scalp. Although dandruff is not contagious and is rarely serious, it can be embarrassing and sometimes difficult to treat.

The good news is that dandruff can usually be controlled. Mild cases of dandruff may need nothing more than daily shampooing with a gentle cleanser. More stubborn cases of dandruff often respond to medicated shampoos.

How do you know it’s dandruff?

For most teens and adults, dandruff symptoms are easy to identify: white, oily looking flakes of dead skin that dot your hair and shoulders, along with an itchy, scaling scalp.

A type of dandruff called cradle cap can also affect babies. This disorder, which causes a scaling, crusty scalp, is most common in new-borns, but it can occur anytime during infancy. Although it can be alarming for parents, cradle cap is not dangerous and usually clears up on its own by the time a baby is a year old.

When to see your doctor?

Most cases of dandruff do not require a doctor’s care. But if you’re still scratching your head after several weeks of experimenting with over-the-counter (OTC) dandruff shampoos or if your scalp becomes red or swollen, see your doctor or dermatologist, as you may have seborrheic dermatitis or another condition that resembles dandruff. Most often, your doctor can diagnose the problem simply by looking at your hair and scalp.

What causes Dandruff?

The exact cause of dandruff is unknown. Possible causes and associations include increased oil production, oily skin, increased skin secretions and increased numbers of normal skin yeasts.

Dandruff may also be triggered by poor hygiene and infrequent shampooing and washing. The immune system may also play a part in dandruff.

Although mild dandruff is a very common condition in many people with a normal immune system, severe dandruff is generally more common in people with chronic illnesses or a compromised immune system as in advanced HIV/AIDS and Parkinson’s disease.

Common triggers of dandruff may include the following:

  • Increased oil production causing oily skin and an oily scalp
  • Excessive sweating
  • Poor hygiene with infrequent bodily washing or infrequent usage of shampooing
  • Weather (hot and humid or cold and dry)
  • Yeast or fungal skin infections
  • Weak immune system
  • Chronic illnesses
  • Emotional or mental stress.

Dandruff can also be associated with:

  • Chronic health conditions which may cause extreme and severe dandruff.
  • If others in your family have ever had dandruff because the condition probably has a small hereditary component making it more common to run in families.

It is important to remember that dandruff is not contagious.

What treatment can you use for dandruff?

Anti-dandruff shampoos are the mainstay of treatment for simple dandruff. It is usually trial and error finding the one that works for you.

For more stubborn dandruff or seborrheic dermatitis, the ingredients selenium, zinc, coal tar and especially coconut oil or salicylic acid in shampoos can be successful for helping treat dandruff. Most common shampoos for dandruff contain various combinations of these. Be careful when using tar, however, as it can discolour fair hair and bed linen.

Antifungal shampoos containing ketoconazole, such as Kez Shampoo, work well for dandruff. They need to be used a few times a week, so follow the instructions carefully.

All these treatments are available from the pharmacist without a prescription

Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is more commonly found in young children, although it is commonly experienced in adulthood too.

Symptoms usually include dry and very itchy rashes on the face, scalp, elbows, neck, wrists, ankles or legs. The rashes may become red, raised, bumpy and thickened, cracked or crusted over.

Eczema is related to a gene variation that affects the skin’s ability to regenerate and provide protection. Because of this genetic predisposition, your skin can be affected by environmental factors, irritants and allergens (link to Allergies). You are at higher risk of developing eczema if you have a history of asthma or hay fever

Either eczema clears up on its own or the symptoms are treated with medications and creams. It is also important that you keep your skin moisturised if you have eczema.

back to top

Seborrhoeic Dermatitis (dandruff) by topic

These articles are for information purposes only. It cannot replace the diagnosis of a healthcare provider. Pharma Dynamics gives no warranty as to the accuracy of the information contained in such articles and shall not, under any circumstances, be liable for any consequences which may be suffered as a result of a user’s reliance thereon.

The information the reader is about to be referred to may not comply with the South Africa regulatory requirements. Information relevant to the South African environment is available from the Company and in the Professional Information/Patient Information Leaflet/Instructions for Use approved by the Regulatory Authority.

md logo
Welcome to My Dynamics!
  • Welcome

    Hi, I'm the My Dynamics Chat Bot. I can help you find recipes, articles, pamphlets and so much more!

    Give me a try, simply just type you question below and I will give you links to the most relevant content!