Alan Rockoff, MD
Dr. Rockoff received his undergraduate degree from Yeshiva College with the distinction of Summa Cum Laude. He received his medical degree from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. His internship and two years of Pediatric residency were at the Bronx Municipal Hospital Center, followed by training in Dermatology at the combined residency program at Tufts and Boston Universities. Dr. Rockoff is certified by both the American Board of Dermatology and the American Board of Pediatrics.
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
- What is dandruff (seborrhea)?
- 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) At A Glance
- 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 reducing the yeast that builds up on scaly areas and adds to the problem. Note, though, that seborrhea is not a yeast infection.
What doesn't help dandruff?
- Moisturizing: Moisturizing lotions don't do much more than smooth out scales and make patches 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, nor is there a "correct" number of times to shampoo per week; 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?
1. 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
- zinc pyrithione (like Head & Shoulders)
- selenium sulfide (Selsun Blue)
- ketoconazole (Nizoral)
You can use any of these either all of the time or just once or twice a week, depending on how severe your symptoms are. If the problem quiets down or disappears, stop and use nonmedicated shampoos. If one kind of shampoo works for a while and "runs out of gas," switch to another. For resistant cases, you can even alternate two different types.
2. Creams: Two additional types of medication that help seborrhea are cortisone creams and antifungal creams.
- Cortisone creams reduce inflammation. You can buy them 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. You can use scalp cortisone 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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