Gary W. Cole, MD, FAAD
Dr. Cole is board certified in dermatology. He obtained his BA degree in bacteriology, his MA degree in microbiology, and his MD at the University of California, Los Angeles. He trained in dermatology at the University of Oregon, where he completed his residency.
William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.
In this Article
- Dandruff facts
- What is dandruff? What causes dandruff?
- What treatments are available for dandruff?
- What doesn't help dandruff?
- What over-the-counter products can help dandruff?
- If over-the-counter products don't work, what can the doctor prescribe for dandruff?
- Dandruff (Seborrhea) Slideshow Pictures
- What Your Scalp and Hair Say About Your Health Slideshow Pictures
- Top 10 Foods for Healthy Hair Slideshow Pictures
- Find a local Dermatologist in your town
What treatments are available for dandruff?
Treatment of seborrhea (dandruff) is directed at fighting the skin inflammation. This is done either directly, by using cortisone-based creams and lotions (which reduce inflammation), or by using topical anti-yeast lotions and shampoos. Treatment should be directed at the cause of the dandruff.
What doesn't help dandruff?
- Moisturizing: Moisturizing lotions don't do much more than smooth out scales and make plaques look redder.
- Switching brands of shampoo: Shampoo doesn't cause dandruff. However, medicated shampoos (see below) can help.
- Changing hair-care routines: There is no "right" shampoo or conditioner. What is more important is the frequency with which these agents are used. As a rule, the more frequently one shampoos, the better the result. Seborrhea and dandruff are not caused by excessive shampooing "drying out the scalp." Hair dyes and conditioners do not cause or aggravate dandruff.
- Switching antiperspirants: When underarms are red from seborrhea, almost anything will make them redder, including antiperspirants, even though they are only aggravating the seborrhea and not causing it.
What over-the-counter products can help dandruff?
- Shampoos: Here are some ingredients in medicated shampoos that you can look for to help control dandruff of the scalp. All are available over the counter.
- Tar (T/Gel)
- Salicylic acid (T/Sal)
- Zinc pyrithione (like Head & Shoulders)
- Selenium sulfide (Selsun Blue)
- Ketoconazole (Nizoral)
- Creams: Two additional types of medication that help seborrhea are cortisone creams and antifungal creams.
- Corticosteroid creams reduce inflammation. These can be purchased over the counter in either 0.5% or 1% concentrations. They are safe to use on the face and will often help in just a couple of days when applied twice daily. These products also are available as scalp lotions that are applied once a day, preferably on damp hair after shampooing. One can use scalp corticosteroid creams together with medicated shampoos.
- Antifungal creams are often effective, apparently because they reduce the number of yeast organisms living on the skin. Over-the-counter creams include 1% clotrimazole cream and miconazole cream 2%. Antifungal creams also are applied once or twice a day.
As with shampoos, creams should be applied until the seborrhea subsides. When the seborrhea comes back (and it will, sooner or later), the creams should be used again.
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