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Chronic Dandruff

By Barb Nefer ; Updated August 14, 2017

Most people feel embarrassed by white flakes in their hair or raining down on their shoulders. This is a symptom of a scalp condition called dandruff. The Mayo Clinic explains it doesn't pose any serious danger to your health, but its visibility makes it especially annoying. It is a chronic condition, which often makes it hard to conquer without a consistent, long-term effort.


The Mayo Clinic states that dandruff is most commonly triggered by a skin condition called seborrheic dermatitis, which attacks the scalp. The skin becomes excessively oily, leading to redness and irritation. Eventually it develops and sheds white or yellow flakes. A yeast called malassezia can also lead to dandruff. It is usually harmless, but sometimes it feeds on excess oil and grows rapidly. This irritates the scalp and causes abnormal skin cell growth. The cells die, mix with the extra oil, and clump together into flakes. The National Institutes of Health states that dandruff often causes itching, skin lesions and hair loss. Dandruff tends to be chronic because its causes are hard to eliminate.


Certain risk factors contribute to chronic dandruff. The Mayo Clinic advises that you are more prone to ongoing problems if your hair is naturally oily. Dandruff usually affects people from young adulthood through middle age, and it occurs most often in men. A diet lacking enough vitamin B or zinc can make a person more vulnerable. Dandruff also chronically affects many heart attack and stroke survivors and people recovering from highly stressful illnesses. The National Institutes of Health cites HIV infection, obesity and Parkinson's disease as other contributors.

Home Treatment

Many drug stores and other retailers sell treatments for chronic dandruff. They usually do not cure the problem completely, but they control it and reduce the visibility. The Mayo Clinic explains that shampoos containing zinc pyrithione, tar, selenium sulfideas, Ketoconazole or salicylic acid as their active agreement are the most popular choices. They are used every day until the dandruff subsides. Then they are used two or three days each week to maintain positive results.

Medical Treatment

Over-the-counter shampoos do not always control chronic dandruff well enough. The Mayo Clinic advises that they should give relief within weeks. Otherwise, the condition might need medical treatment. Doctors can provide prescription-strength shampoos or steroid lotions.


Several at-home steps can help to manage chronic dandruff. The Mayo Clinic recommends proper stress management, since anxiety makes you more vulnerable. Wash oily hair frequently and don't use gels, mousse, hair spray other other heavy styling products. Eat foods rich in vitamin B and zinc to ward off dandruff-causing deficiencies.

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