What is dandruff?

Dandruff occurs when you shed the dead skin cells from your scalp, mostly as dry flakes. Dandruff is a result of seborrhoea (or skin eczema), a common form of skin eczema that usually affects your chest, ears, folds of skin, face and scalp.

Who does dandruff affect?

Dandruff often occurs following puberty and it is most common in people in their early 20s and continues into middle age. Research studies tend to show that dandruff is more common in men than in women, and it is thought equally to affect all ethnic groups.

What is the cause of dandruff?

There are actually various different triggers for dandruff. 
The most common cause for dandruff is having dry skin. You are more likely to have dandruff if you suffer from general skin problems (e.g. eczema or psoriasis). In contrast, having overly oily skin can also lead to a flaking scalp.

  • Irregularly brushing your hair can also lead to dandruff. If you brush your hair regularly, then it both stimulates and aerates your scalp, and this is essential for healthy skin and for getting rid of any dead flakes (as these dead flakes can aggravate further flakiness).
  • Malassezia furfur, which is a yeast-like fungus that can live on the surface of many animals, plays a role in dandruff development as it breaks down natural oils on the human scalp. 
  • Sensitivity and/or allergies to skin and/or hair products commonly trigger dandruff.
  • Research has shown that stress is directly linked to dandruff as well as to other skin conditions (e.g. facial seborrhoea).


Even though dandruff is not harmful, it can be a difficult issue to treat and can lead to embarrassment and anxiety in sufferers. 
The severity of the flakiness fluctuates due to factors that are outside the sufferer’s control (e.g. the temperature and the season), with dandruff often being worse during winter.

The treatment and prevention of dandruff

Dandruff treatment mostly aims at targeting the skin inflammation and usually involves controlling the level of flakiness of your skin rather than preventing flakiness altogether. A number of creams, chemical treatments and shampoos can soothe your dandruff symptoms, including:

  • Steroids
  • Hydroxypyridones 
  • Selenium sulphide
  • Coal tar 
  • Zinc pyrithione 
  • Anti-fungal creams
  • Cortisone creams

There are homemade natural remedies and various lifestyle adjustments to help manage your level of dandruff:

  • If you regularly wash your hair, it will help to wash loose flakes away alongside removing the excess oil from your scalp. Do not to be too rough when you shampoo or brush your hair because this can irritate and even damage your scalp.
  • A very ancient treatment using black pepper as an anti-dandruff treatment helps to pull the flakes of skin away from your scalp. Additionally, mixing black pepper with yoghurt is thought to be even more beneficial, because as the yoghurt hydrates, soothes and reduces the flakiness, the black pepper works to pull the flakes away from your scalp. 
  • Sunlight exposure is recommended for many skin conditions and can help to treat your dandruff. 
  • Olive oil, which is good for us in many ways, is a very popular home remedy for dandruff because olive oil is an excellent moisturiser. You should gently warm just a small amount of olive oil and softly rub this into your scalp prior to going to sleep. Leave the oil in your hair until the morning, then wash it out with just a little shampoo. (If you do not wash out the oil, your hair will become extremely greasy.)

Speak to your IPSA pharmacist for advice on the anti-dandruff treatments available at your IPSA Pharmacy.