Dandruff in the hair: where do they come from?
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Dandruff is a hair problem affecting almost one in two people, mainly fairly young men.

Although not serious, they can nevertheless have an impact on self-esteem and quality of life. In general, a treatment based on an anti-dandruff shampoo can overcome it.

Where do they come from? What are the different types of dandruff? Let’s take a closer look at this symptom.

What is dandruff?

Definition of dandruff

Dandruff is small fragments (scales) of the scalp that break off, spreading through the hair or falling on the shoulders.

They are due to excessive desquamation of the scalp. It is a benign but unsightly condition that can be bothersome for people who have it (about one in two people).

In some cases, dandruff is accompanied by itching and irritation of the scalp.

The characteristics of dandruff

There are two types of dandruff:

  • dry dandruff which are small particles that peel off the scalp;
  • larger oily dandruff, they come from a mixture of sebum and skin.

Dry dandruff

“Dry” dandruff (known in medicine as pityriasis simplex or simple) is non-oily, gray, or yellowish in color and peels off easily.

Oily dandruff

In the case of oilier, thicker, yellowish dandruff, the presence of inflammation of the scalp (it becomes red or pink) is possible. The cause: dermatitis or seborrheic dermatitis, an inflammatory skin condition characterized by the presence of red patches covered with scales on oily areas of the skin.

The causes: why does dandruff appear?

The cause of dandruff is still not fully understood and there are different factors at play.

Seborrhoeic dermal

In the case of seborrheic dermatitis (patchy scales), lesions are often found in other places of the body, for example on the sides of the nose.

The presence of a fungus (Malassezia)

It seems that a microscopic fungus called Malassezia is involved in the excessive flaking of the scalp and the appearance of dandruff. This fungus, or yeast, causes irritation of the scalp and too rapid renewal of scalp cells. Studies show that the amount of Malassezia is multiplied by 1.5 to 2 in the case of dandruff.


In other, rarer cases, the presence of dandruff is due to psoriasis, a chronic inflammatory skin disease that often affects the scalp.

What are the risk factors for dandruff?

This scalp problem can be favored by internal factors, such as:

  • stress and anxiety;
  • tiredness ;
  • an emotional change.

But also by external aggression:

  • the use of products unsuitable for your skin;
  • a poor diet ;
  • Pollution ;
  • poor water quality.

Finally, genetic factors may be involved.

Desquamation of the scalp: what are the consequences?

Dandruff itself is benign. Unless associated with an itchy scalp, they are not bothersome, except of course cosmetically.

Many people with dandruff complain about its social impact: in this case, it is important to find a treatment to eliminate it.

Moreover, when they are due to seborrheic dermatitis, dandruff is likely to persist, since this condition evolves in the form of flare-ups, interspersed with periods of remission (improvement in summer, for example).

How to treat and prevent the presence of dandruff in the hair?

In the case of persistent scales and plaques, it is important to consult a pharmacist or, in more severe cases, a dermatologist.

Using an anti-dandruff shampoo

In most cases, the regular use (twice a week) of anti-dandruff shampoo, for oily hair or dry hair, solves the problem.

These shampoos usually contain:

  • an antifungal (which acts on the fungus);
  • a keratolytic (an exfoliant);
  • soothing agents to combat itching.

Treatments to combat desquamation

If this treatment is not effective, other products may be offered with or without a prescription, based on the following:

  • coal tar (especially in cases of psoriasis), which slow down the renewal of scalp cells;
  • ketoconazole or ciclopirox olamine (antifungals).
  • salicylic acid (exfoliant), etc.

Image Credit: Image by Freepik

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