My watch list  


Classification & external resources
ICD-9 690.18
DiseasesDB 11911

Dandruff (also called scurf and historically termed Pityriasis capitis) is due to the excessive shedding of dead skin cells from the scalp. As it is normal for skin cells to die and flake off, a small amount of flaking is normal and in fact quite common. Some people, however, either chronically or as a result of certain triggers, experience an unusually large amount of flaking, which can also be accompanied by redness and irritation. Most cases of dandruff can be easily treated with specialized shampoos. Dandruff is not an organism like lice; it is just dead skin that accumulates in the scalp. Dandruff is unlikely to be the cause of hair loss.

Excessive flaking can also be a symptom of seborrhoeic dermatitis, psoriasis, fungal infection or excoriation associated with infestation of head lice.

Dandruff is a global phenomenon and many people find that dandruff can cause social or self-esteem problems. Treatment may be important purely for psychological reasons.



As the epidermal layer continually replaces itself, cells are pushed outward where they eventually die and flake off. In most people, these flakes of skin are too small to be visible. However, certain conditions cause cell turnover to be unusually rapid, especially in the scalp. For people with dandruff, skin cells may mature and be shed in 2 - 7 days, as opposed to around a month in people without dandruff. The result is that dead skin cells are shed in large, oily clumps, which appear as white or grayish patches on the scalp skin and clothes.

Dandruff has been shown to be the result of three required factors:[1]

  1. Skin oil commonly referred to as sebum or sebaceous secretions[2]
  2. The metabolic by-products of skin micro-organisms (most specifically Malassezia yeasts)[3][4][5][6][7]
  3. Individual susceptibility

Common older literature cites the fungus Malassezia furfur (previously known as Pityrosporum ovale) as the cause of dandruff. While this fungus is found naturally on the skin surface of both healthy people and those with dandruff, it was discovered that a scalp specific fungus, Malassezia globosa, is the responsible agent.[8] This fungus metabolizes triglycerides present in sebum by the expression of lipase, resulting in a lipid byproduct oleic acid (OA). Penetration by OA of the top layer of the epidermis, the stratum corneum, results in an inflammatory response in susceptible persons which disturbs homeostasis and results in erratic cleavage of stratum corneum cells.[5]

Rarely, dandruff can be a manifestation of an allergic reaction to chemicals in hair gels/sprays, hair oils, or sometimes even dandruff medications like ketoconazole.

There is no convincing evidence that food (such as sugar or yeast), excessive perspiration, or climate have any role in the pathogenesis of dandruff.

Seborrheic dermatitis

Flaking is a symptom of seborrheic dermatitis. Joseph Bark notes that "Redness and itching is actually seborrheic dermatitis, and it frequently occurs around the folds of the nose and the eyebrow areas, not just the scalp." Dry, thick, well-defined lesions consisting of large, silvery scales may be traced to the less common psoriasis of the scalp.

Seasonal changes, stress, and immuno-suppression seem to affect seborrheic dermatitis.


There have been many strategies for the control of dandruff. Simply increasing shampooing will remove flakes.[9] However, elimination of the fungus results in dramatic improvement. Regular shampooing with an anti-fungal product can reduce recurrence.

Active ingredient Example of product
Sodium Bicarbonate Baking Soda
Zinc pyrithione[10] Head & Shoulders, Clinic All Clear, Pantene Pro V
Ketoconazole[11] Nizoral, or Fungoral
Selenium sulphide Selsun Blue, Vichy Dercos Anti-Dandruff shampoo, other varieties of Head & Shoulders
Tea tree oil[12] Himalaya Anti-dandruff shampoo
Tar[13] Neutrogena T/Gel
Piroctone olamine (INCI)[14] Octopirox

Anti-fungal/anti-dandruff shampoos containing ketoconazole have been shown to be more effective than zinc pyrithione.[15] Ketoconazole is the most effective antifungal agent concluded by multiple studies.[16][17]

See also

  • Hair care


  1. ^ DeAngelis YM, Gemmer CM, Kaczvinsky JR, Kenneally DC, Schwartz JR, Dawson TL (2005). "Three etiologic facets of dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis: Malassezia fungi, sebaceous lipids, and individual sensitivity". J. Investig. Dermatol. Symp. Proc. 10 (3): 295-7. doi:10.1111/j.1087-0024.2005.10119.x. PMID 16382685.
  2. ^ Ro BI, Dawson TL (2005). "The role of sebaceous gland activity and scalp microfloral metabolism in the etiology of seborrheic dermatitis and dandruff". J. Investig. Dermatol. Symp. Proc. 10 (3): 194-7. doi:10.1111/j.1087-0024.2005.10104.x. PMID 16382662.
  3. ^ Ashbee HR, Evans EG (2002). "Immunology of diseases associated with Malassezia species". Clin. Microbiol. Rev. 15 (1): 21-57. PMID 11781265.
  4. ^ Batra R, Boekhout T, Guého E, Cabañes FJ, Dawson TL, Gupta AK (2005). "Malassezia Baillon, emerging clinical yeasts". FEMS Yeast Res. 5 (12): 1101-13. doi:10.1016/j.femsyr.2005.05.006. PMID 16084129.
  5. ^ a b Dawson TL (2006). "Malassezia and seborrheic dermatitis: etiology and treatment". Journal of cosmetic science 57 (2): 181-2. PMID 16758556.
  6. ^ Gemmer CM, DeAngelis YM, Theelen B, Boekhout T, Dawson Jr TL (2002). "Fast, noninvasive method for molecular detection and differentiation of Malassezia yeast species on human skin and application of the method to dandruff microbiology". J. Clin. Microbiol. 40 (9): 3350-7. PMID 12202578.
  7. ^ Gupta AK, Batra R, Bluhm R, Boekhout T, Dawson TL (2004). "Skin diseases associated with Malassezia species". J. Am. Acad. Dermatol. 51 (5): 785-98. doi:10.1016/j.jaad.2003.12.034. PMID 15523360.
  8. ^
  9. ^ Mayo Clinic (November 27, 2006). Dandruff. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved on 2007-03-28.
  10. ^ Warner RR, Schwartz JR, Boissy Y, Dawson TL (2001). "Dandruff has an altered stratum corneum ultrastructure that is improved with zinc pyrithione shampoo". J. Am. Acad. Dermatol. 45 (6): 897-903. doi:10.1067/mjd.2001.117849. PMID 11712036.
  11. ^ McGrath J, Murphy GM (1991). "The control of seborrhoeic dermatitis and dandruff by antipityrosporal drugs". Drugs 41 (2): 178-84. PMID 1709848.
  12. ^ Prensner R (2003). "Does 5% tea tree oil shampoo reduce dandruff?". The Journal of family practice 52 (4): 285-6. PMID 12681088.
  13. ^ Piérard-Franchimont C, Piérard GE, Vroome V, Lin GC, Appa Y (2000). "Comparative anti-dandruff efficacy between a tar and a non-tar shampoo". Dermatology (Basel) 200 (2): 181-4. PMID 10773717.
  14. ^ Dubini F, Bellotti MG, Frangi A, Monti D, Saccomani L (2005). "In vitro antimycotic activity and nail permeation models of a piroctone olamine (octopirox) containing transungual water soluble technology". Arzneimittel-Forschung 55 (8): 478-83. PMID 16149717.
  15. ^ Piérard-Franchimont C, Goffin V, Decroix J, Piérard GE (2002). "A multicenter randomized trial of ketoconazole 2% and zinc pyrithione 1% shampoos in severe dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis". Skin Pharmacol. Appl. Skin Physiol. 15 (6): 434-41. PMID 12476017.
  16. ^ Rapaport M (1981). "A randomized, controlled clinical trial of four anti-dandruff shampoos". J. Int. Med. Res. 9 (2): 152-6. PMID 7014286.
  17. ^ Bulmer AC, Bulmer GS (1999). "The antifungal action of dandruff shampoos". Mycopathologia 147 (2): 63-5. PMID 10967964.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Dandruff". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
Your browser is not current. Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.0 does not support some functions on Chemie.DE