Dandruff is a form of seborrheic dermatitis, in which an abnormally large amount of dead skin cells are shed from the patient’s scalp. This excessive flaking is typically either the result of a chronic condition, or a response to specific triggers.

Causes and risk factors:

Dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis in general typically have certain factors and causes behind their cases, which may include:

  • Acne
  • Alcoholic skin lotion use
  • Chemical exposure
  • Fatigue
  • Genetics (runs in families)
  • Head injury
  • Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
  • Individual susceptibility
  • Infrequent skin cleaning
  • Malessizia yeast presence
  • Parkinson’s disease (PD)
  • Obesity
  • Oily skin
  • Skin disorders
  • Stress
  • Stroke
  • Weather (extreme ends)


Dandruff is normally associated with the white skin flakes that it produces. Its symptoms may vary slightly on a case-by-case basis, though. Certain symptoms may include:

  • Cradle cap (infants)
  • Dry skin
  • Flaking
  • Itching
  • Psoriasis
  • Red scalp


More frequent shampooing may assist in getting rid of the flakes left in the hair and on the scalp in dandruff. Removal of the involved fungus (Malassezia yeast) may provide even better results, though. Anti-fungal treatments used against fungal infections may be beneficial in this instance. Shampoos, or products that can be used as shampoo, may have such an ingredient.

Examples of this include baking soda (containing sodium bicarbonate), and certain shampoos (containing selenium sulfide, tar, tea tree oil, zinc pyrithione, etc.), as well as others. Anti-fungal medications such as ketoconazole may also be used directly in some circumstances.

Tea tree oil in particular has become a frequent home remedy for dandruff. Extracted from the Australian tea tree (known as Melaleuca alternifolia), it has been used over the centuries for its antibiotic, antifungal and antiseptic properties, and has now found its way into a variety of shampoos. In some people, however, allergic reactions may come with the use of tea tree oil.