Dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis are common scalp conditions that affect many people worldwide. They both involve the scalp becoming dry and flaky, resulting in the shedding of small, white, or yellowish skin flakes. Seborrheic dermatitis tends to be more severe than dandruff, resulting in scalp redness and itching as well. While these conditions are not contagious, they can cause discomfort and embarrassment.

Dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis can cause white or yellowish flakes on the scalp, eyebrows, beard, and even central chest in some individuals. With seborrheic dermatitis, it may cause an itchy scalp, which may become red and irritated. There can be a greasy or oily feeling on the scalp. Rarely, mild hair loss can be noted in more significant cases of seborrheic dermatitis.

The exact causes of dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis are not fully understood, but several factors may contribute to their development. Malassezia yeast is a type of yeast present on the scalp that may overgrow, leading to inflammation and increased cell turnover. Sebaceous glands are oil glands on the scalp that can produce excess oil, contributing to dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis. Some individuals may have a heightened sensitivity to the yeast or the natural oils on their scalp, leading to flaking and irritation.

Dermatologists can usually diagnose dandruff or seborrheic dermatitis through a physical examination of the scalp and a review of the symptoms. In some cases, a small sample of scalp skin may be taken for microscopic examination to rule out other conditions.

Over-the-counter shampoos with active ingredients like zinc pyrithione, ketoconazole, selenium sulfide, or salicylic acid can help many people with these conditions. You typically have to leave medicated shampoo sit on the scalp for 10 minutes before rinsing out for maximum effectiveness and use 2-3 times weekly is recommended. For more severe cases, dermatologists may prescribe medicated shampoos, topical corticosteroids, or anti-yeast topicals, and even a combination of treatments.

Wash your hair regularly with a mild shampoo to remove excess oil and flakes. Avoid using hot water, as it can dry out the scalp further. Sometimes applying a few drops of coconut oil, tea tree oil, or aloe vera gel to the scalp can soothe irritation and moisturize the skin.

Managing dandruff or seborrheic dermatitis can take time. Consistency with treatment is essential for improvement. Identify and avoid factors that may trigger or worsen the condition, such as stress or harsh hair products.

Regularly shampoo and condition your hair to keep the scalp clean and free from excessive oil and dead skin cells. Use mild, non-irritating hair products, and avoid those containing harsh chemicals. A well-balanced diet rich in vitamins and minerals can promote overall scalp health.

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