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Cedars-Sinai Blog

Dandruff: What It Is and What to Do About It

dandruff, flaky skin, peeling skin, psoriasis, eczema, seborrheic dermatitis, seborrhea, pityriasis capitis

Dandruff is a common scalp condition that can affect anyone. It’s often associated with poor hygiene, but that’s a misconception—no one’s really sure what causes it. 

One of the more likely culprits is hormones, but there are many factors that could be causing the problem.

And plenty of things can make dandruff worse, including not brushing your hair enough, dry skin, over production of yeast on the scalp, and underlying skin conditions like eczema or psoriasis.


"Dandruff isn't usually a sign of something more serious, but if your scalp is red, tender, isn't responding to over-the-counter treatments, or appears to be infected, it's important to see your doctor right away."


How serious is dandruff?

Although it can be embarrassing to deal with, dandruff doesn’t usually require a trip to the doctor.

"Dandruff isn't usually a sign of something more serious, but if your scalp is red, tender, isn't responding to over-the-counter treatments, or appears to be infected, it's important to see your doctor right away,"  says dermatologist Dr. Ohara Aivaz.



How do I get rid of dandruff?

There are many things you can do at home or in your daily routine to help get rid of dandruff. 

Some remedies to try:

  • Tea tree oil – This oil has been shown to work as an anti-inflammatory and an anti-microbial agent. Add a few drops to your shampoo and wash your hair as normal. 
  • Sun exposure – Getting a little sun can help many skin ailments and reduce yeast production on the scalp. Just be sure you use don’t overdo it—sun exposure can damage your skin and increase your risk of skin cancer.
  • Increase Omega-3 intake – Omega-3s can help regulate oil production on the skin. A deficiency of these fatty acids could make dandruff symptoms worse. 
  • Reduce stress – While not directly responsible for dandruff, stress can aggravate many health and skin conditions
  • Dandruff shampoo - The most common treatment for dandruff is over-the-counter anti-dandruff shampoos. These products aim to slow skin cells from reproducing or impede yeast production on the scalp. Look for products that contain salicylic acid, zinc pyrithione, coal tar, ketoconazole, or selenium sulfide.


Dandruff usually doesn't require medical attention, but if you’ve tried at-home treatments and it doesn't improve, you should consult your primary care doctor or a dermatologist.