How to Treat Dandruff

Dandruff is a common, usually harmless problem, and there are several possible causes for these white flakes. See more pictures of personal hygiene practices.
© Kublanski

If you're avoiding all of your dark clothing, and a hat has suddenly become a necessary accessory, it might be time to face the facts: You have dandruff. It's annoying, it's frustrating and it's embarrassing, but the good news is that it's not that hard to treat.

Dandruff is not contagious, and it's usually not caused by anything too serious. In fact, the most common cause of those flakes is dry skin [source: Mayo Clinic]. You might also notice dandruff if you're not washing your hair often enough -- without frequent shampooing, the oil and skin cells can build up on your scalp and eventually flake off.

Of course, dandruff can also be an indicator of more serious skin conditions. In many people, seborrheic dermatitis -- a condition marked by oily, irritated skin -- can cause flaky skin on the scalp and on other areas of the body [source: Mayo Clinic]. Allergies to hair care or scalp care products (also called contact dermatitis) and psoriasis are other contributors to dandruff, as is an excess of a type of fungus called malassezia on the scalp [source: Mayo Clinic].

Because it is such a common problem, there are many options for getting rid of dandruff. In addition to anti-dandruff shampoos, there are also over-the-counter creams and lotions that can help reduce your dandruff. In extreme cases, your doctor can prescribe medicated shampoos or creams.

You can make some small changes to your lifestyle to reduce your dandruff, too. Too much stress can cause dandruff, so keeping your stress level to a minimum or finding an outlet for it can help. Easing up on styling products such as mousse, balm, gel and volumizer can also help reduce flakes.

Though it's hard to get rid of those pesky flakes for good, there are many things you can do to keep them at bay. Read on to the next page for detailed information about some of your options for treating dandruff.