What to Do about Dandruff

Although dandruff isn’t a serious medical concern, the flaking and itchiness that come along with it can be cause for lowered self-esteem and get in the way of fully enjoying social activities. The good news, however, is that there are steps you can take to help get rid of dandruff and keep it from coming back in the future.

What Causes Dandruff?

In mosts cases, dandruff is caused by a skin condition called seborrheic dermatitis, which may be related to immune system function, chronic stress, or even the climate in which you live (American Academy of Dermatology). Although the most common symptoms of this condition are flaking and red patches of skin on the scalp, seborrheic dermatitis can also affect the ears, eyebrows, and other areas of the face.

In other cases, dandruff could be caused by contact dermatitis due to a reaction to a particular hair care or other cosmetic product. This can also result in the characteristic flaking and itchiness of dandruff.

The best way to know for sure what is likely the culprit of your flaking and itching scalp is to schedule an appointment with your dermatologist. That way, you can custom-tailor your treatment methods to target the underlying cause rather than just work to cover up your symptoms.

How to Get Rid of Dandruff

In the case of seborrheic dermatitis, while there isn’t currently a cure for this condition, there are some tips you can follow to help keep its symptoms at bay. These include:

  • Switching up your shampoo each month. You may want to switch between a tar shampoo like Neutrogena T/Gel, a zinc pyrithione shampoo like Head & Shoulders, and a selenium sulfide shampoo like Selsun Blue. This rotation may help by keeping your skin from growing accustomed to the active ingredients and thus decreasing their effectiveness.
  • Making stress-reducing lifestyle changes such as meditating, getting enough sleep, and exercising regularly. You can also try increasing your intake of foods rich in omega fatty acids, including flaxseed oil, argan oil, and wild salmon, to help decrease inflammation.
  • Avoiding products that contain strong fragrances or dyes. If you notice that flaking and itching tend to become worse after using a particular product, try eliminating it from your regular routine and see if your symptoms clear up. Keep in mind that many people have skin sensitivities to essential oils, so be on the lookout for those ingredients in your skin and hair care products.
  • Talking to your dermatologist. He or she might prescribe clobetasol foam or a fluocinolone solution for your scalp. If these prescription treatments don’t help, you may have psoriasis of the scalp, which your dermatologist should be able to diagnose and help you properly manage.
  • Apply clobetasol foam or fluocinolone solution to your scalp before coloring. These ingredients could help to decrease and even completely prevent itching while the hair coloring agent is on your scalp. Just be sure to apply these products 30 to 45 minutes before heading to the salon.

The Bottom Line

Dandruff can be an embarrassing problem to deal with, but know that it has nothing to do with poor hygiene and is, in fact, a diagnosable condition. If you’ve tried the above tips and tricks to help alleviate your symptoms, and aren’t making progress, check in with your dermatologist. They can formulate a more detailed assessment of your skin condition and individualized treatment options to help you better manage dandruff. Remove that stumbling block and get back to fully enjoying your hobbies and social activities!


Dr. Leslie Baumann, M.D. and her team at Baumann Cosmetic Dermatology believe in proof, not promises. World-recognized for both cosmetic and general dermatology, our treatment strategies rely exclusively on evidence-based, scientifically verified products and procedures that promote skin health and a natural appearance. We combine effective medical procedures with individualized instruction on proper skincare, nutrition, supplementation and lifestyle in order to maximize the health of the skin and body as a whole while minimizing the effects of aging. For more, visit Dr. Baumann’s blog for daily updates Monday through Friday, or inquire about an appointment through

March 15, 2017 Contact Dermatitis, Dandruff