Skin Conditions

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Dandruff occurs when the scalp sheds dead epidermal (skin) cells in large clumps. Dandruff scales appear dry, white or grayish, appearing as small, unsightly patches, especially on top of the head.

Scalp cells replenish themselves in a pattern similar to that of hair, but more rapidly: The skin of the head renews itself about once a month. Dead scalp cells are constantly being pushed from the deepest layer of the epidermis to the skin's surface, where they gradually die. Usually the scalp sheds them in a nearly invisible way. But for reasons that are still unclear, cell turnover sometimes becomes unusually rapid, and dead cells are shed as the visible flakes called dandruff.

Although most people assume dandruff comes from a dry scalp, the opposite is true: People with oily scalps tend to suffer most from dandruff.

Children under 10 rarely have dandruff, but it is common in adolescents.


Dandruff is treatable with over-the-counter (OTC) products and causes no general health problems or permanent damage. But care must be taken not to confuse simple dandruff with other conditions that also cause flaking of the scalp, such as seborrheic dermatitis or psoriasis.

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