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Really Bad Dandruff

Updated on March 16, 2011

What Causes and How to Treat Dandruff

Really bad dandruff is most often characterized by large, unsightly flakes with itching of the scalp. When you have very bad dandruff symptoms, the itching can be painful and the flakes can be more than embarrassing, although you will not lose hair because of dandruff. Some factors can put you more at risk for dandruff like being male, being a young adult, having a poor diet, having an oily scalp and/or oily hair, and certain diseases.

It really depends on the cause of your dandruff that relates to what you should do to treat your dandruff. The causes of dandruff can be a fungus, not shampooing often enough, dry skin, seborrheic dermatitis, eczema, psoriasis, and contact dermatitis.

Really bad dandruff can be caused by the yeast-like fungus, malassezia. Even the healthiest person has malassezia on their scalp. It is when this fungus grows rapidly and out of control that dandruff forms. What happens is the fungus eats the oil naturally secreted by your scalp causing irritation on the skin. This is turn causes more cells to grow, however these cells die and stick together. When they combine with oil, they turn the unsightly white color. Many things can cause an overgrowth of malassezia including hormones, stress, too much oil from not shampooing often enough, genetics or sensitivity to the fungus, Parkinson's disease, and a weakened immune system.

If you do not shampoo often enough, then your dandruff symptoms could be caused by your skin cells and oil build up. All you will need to do is start washing regularly to see if your dandruff symptoms clear up.

Dry skin that you can get with seasonal changes can contribute to the formation of dandruff. Typically, these flakes are less noticeable and smaller than dandruff caused by other conditions. This is also the most common type of dandruff and usually occurs during winter when dry skin is prevalent.

Seborrheic dermatitis, or oily and irritated skin, is characterized by greasy, red scalp with flaking white or yellowish scales. While one of the more common causes of dandruff, seborrheic dermatitis will also affect the sides of your nose, eyebrows, groin area, backs of the ears, breastbone, and armpits. It literally will affect any where oil glands are plentiful.

More Causes of Really Bad Dandruff

Eczema of the scalp can cause dandruff, and so can psoriasis. Psoriasis causes an amassing of dead skin cells that from the thick, scaly lesions that can affect the scalp, as well as the more common places like the knees, elbows, and trunk. Obviously, the eczema or psoriasis will need to be controlled before an improvement in your dandruff symptoms will be noticed.

Contact dermatitis, or sensitivity to hair products, can also be a cause of dandruff. Usually the symptoms will include red, itchy, scaly scalp. It can occur from over shampooing or using harsh chemical hair products or too many styling products. The irritation of your scalp is what ultimately causes dandruff.

If you are suffering from really bad dandruff, you will most likely want to see your doctor, so he or she can assess the cause of your dandruff and treat it effectively by simply looking at your scalp. If you know you don't wash your hair often or are using too much styling products, try washing more often or using less styling products first. If in a week it doesn't clear up, then see your doctor. You may also want to bring your shampoo and styling products with you to the doctor to assess if any are the cause of your dandruff.

Really bad dandruff can be controlled with proper dandruff treatment. There are many different shampoos on the market and some available in prescription strengths if over-the-counter brands do not work. A lot of times it is a matter of trial and error to see what products work for you.

Some types to consider are tar-based shampoos like Neutrogena T-Gel, containing coal tar, which helps slow and controls how quickly your skin cells die and flake off on your scalp. In less severe cases, dandruff can usually be controlled through regular or more frequent washings with a gentle shampoo.

Another dandruff shampoo to consider using for the treatment of your dandruff is one that contains selenium sulfide, like Selsun Blue. These also aid in controlling how quickly skin cells die and flake off, but they might help in controlling scalp fungus as well. Caution should be used and direction should be followed exactly with this active ingredient, because if they are not, selenium sulfide can lead to hair discoloration in chemically treated, blond, or gray hair.

Shampoos containing salicylic acid, like Ionil T, are also supposed to slough away the scales on the scalp, but can leave your scalp dry and more prone to flaking. With products like these, you should make sure to condition afterward.

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