Dandruff is itching and flaking of the scalp that some people start getting around puberty. The skin of the scalp has many layers. Cells start growing in the dermis at the bottom, and work their way up until they form a layer of dead cells on the skin surface.
These dead cells fall off in small flakes which we don’t even notice. Washing your hair or brushing it gets rid of these tiny flakes.
For some people however, there are many more big flakes and their scalp gets to be very itchy. These big flakes are what we call dandruff - and they can be very distressing because they can show up on your hair and on your clothes. Some people might think you don’t take good care of your appearance even when you are trying hard - but really most people won’t notice these flakes as much as you do!
How do you get dandruff?
It is not clear why some people get dandruff, and others don’t, but there are some things that we do know about it.
It seems to start happening around puberty, when a lot more oil is made by glands at the base of each hair. This oil holds the tiny flakes together to make bigger, more noticeable flakes. Boys get more oily hair than girls, and boys have dandruff more often than girls.
There are some other things that can cause flaky, itchy skin, such as ring worm and dermatitis. Your doctor would be able to look at your hair and tell you if you have one of these problems or dandruff.
What can you do about dandruff?
Well, the first thing is to work out if you really have dandruff, or do you just have the normal tiny flakes of dead cells which everyone has.
Have a talk with your mum or dad, or with your doctor, to see whether you really do have a problem. There are several different things you can try to see if you can improve your scalp health.
First, if you have oily hair, using a gentle shampoo every day will get rid of the extra oil. Since the oil holds the flakes together making big, noticeable flakes, getting rid of the oil is enough for some people.
Avoid hair products like hair gels. These hold on to the tiny flakes making bigger lumps too. Then there are the treatments, such as anti-dandruff shampoos. These can be expensive, but can be helpful if you are having problems with dandruff.
Sometimes your scalp may be flaky and itchy because it is too dry. Maybe you wash it too much. Do you use hair conditioner?
Getting out into the fresh air and exercising is a good way to get your body working as it should. There are some treatments that can only be prescribed by a doctor - so get your parent to take you to see a doctor if the other treatments do not work.