Dandruff is a harmless, chronic condition that occurs when the scalp becomes dry or oily and produces white flakes of dead skin that appears in the hair or on the shoulders. Although it causes itchiness, it isn't contagious and is rarely serious, but it can be embarrassing and difficult to remedy at times.
According to experts, dandruff usually starts between the ages of 10 and 20 and affects up to 40 percent of people over the age of 30. Although dandruff is common among men and women, certain factors can make a person more susceptible, such as poor diet (zinc and vitamin B deficient), and certain illnesses like Parkinson’s disease, or those with compromised immune systems. In addition, some researchers say that male hormones and the large oil-producing glands on their scalp can contribute to dandruff.
In most cases of dandruff among teens and adults, there is really no need to consult a doctor. But if itching and flaking of the scalp persists after trying several over-the-counter (OTC) dandruff shampoos, or if the scalp becomes red or swollen, it is time to see a doctor or dermatologist. By looking at one’s hair and scalp, the doctor can diagnose whether a patient has seborrheic dermatitis or another condition that resembles dandruff.
Babies can also be affected by a type of dandruff called cradle cap. This disorder is characterized by a scaling, crusty scalp, which is most common in newborns. But parents should not be alarmed because cradle cap is not dangerous and by the time a baby is 1 year old, the scaling should have cleared up on its own.