FLAKES ON MY SCALP.  WHAT ARE THEY?
About half of all people will have dandruff or a scalp condition in their lifetime. Dry Scalp, Dandruff, Seborrheic Dermatitis and Psoriasis are all conditions that cause small pieces of skin to flake away. These scalp conditions can vary from very mild to severe. Unfortunately, there is no cure for dandruff, but medicated shampoos and lifestyle strategies can help you to manage it and keep it under control.
A dry scalp is the least severe of the possible scalp concerns. Flakes from dry skin are smaller and less oily than those associated with chronic scalp conditions. A dry scalp is unlikely to develop redness or inflammation. Dry skin is generally more noticeable on other areas of the body, not the scalp.
A dandruff shampoo is not usually necessary for a dry scalp. A good conditioner and shampooing less often will usually stop the flaking.
Dandruff is the most common chronic scalp condition. It’s characterized by white or gray flaky skin on the scalp that can range from mild to severe. As the dry skin flakes away, it often falls onto a person's shoulders and clothing making it more noticeable. Dandruff is not harmful or contagious.
The majority of people who have a scalp condition have dandruff. Most people are able to control their dandruff with a mild dandruff shampoo like Zincon with Zinc Pyrithione.
Seborrheic Dermatitis is a more severe chronic scalp condition and affects about 3% of the population. It is characterized by an irritated, oily scalp. The scalp appears red, greasy and covered with flaky white or yellow scales. It can be painful, itchy and life altering. It can affect other areas rich in oil glands, including the eyebrows, sides of the nose, backs of the ears, breastbone, armpits and groin.
Psoriasis is the most severe of the chronic scalp conditions. About 50% of people with Plaque Psoriasis experience symptoms on their scalp. Scalp Psoriasis usually appears as thick, inflamed, reddish patches that cause extreme itching. Scalp Psoriasis is silver in color, appears dry and scaly and can spread to the face. In serious cases, skin can become so dry that it cracks and bleeds.
OTHER TYPES OF DANDRUFF RELATED CONDITIONS
Oil producing sebaceous glands cover most of the body. Although they’re often grouped around hair follicles, many exist independently. Your face and scalp contain the highest concentration of glands. Your face can have as many as 900 sebaceous glands per square centimeter of skin. This means that dandruff can affect other parts of the body. The following are other dandruff related conditions.
HELMETS + HEADGEAR
SEBORRHEA ON THE FACE + BODY
Beard dandruff is a relatively common problem. Most men have Malassezia, a fungus found on skin. This type of fungus tends to grow on oily parts of the body, including the scalp and face. If you have scalp dandruff and a beard, it is possible to have dandruff in your beard as well. If there are flakes in your beard without redness or irritation, it may just be dry skin. Be aware of the hair of your beard and the skin underneath. Many men use the same medicated shampoo for the dandruff on their scalp, on their beard. Using a milder dandruff shampoo like Zincon with Zinc Pyrithione might be safer and gentler on your beard. As a last resort, the problem will likely go away if you shave the facial hair.
Cradle cap is the common term for Seborrheic Dermatitis in infants. It can occur on the forehead, face, behind the ears, in the diaper area, armpits and other skin folds and creases. Cradle cap is not contagious and is not caused by poor hygiene. Typically, a baby develops cradle cap between 2 weeks and 12 months old. A baby with cradle cap will have slightly red, scaly or crusty yellow patches on the scalp. Although uncomfortable and irritating for adults, cradle cap doesn't usually bother babies. Babies with Seborrheic Dermatitis tend to be healthy and the condition often clears up on its own in weeks or months.
Mild cradle cap symptoms can be alleviated by using an over-the-counter dandruff shampoo. Shampoos not formulated for babies can irritate an infant’s skin and eyes. Only the mildest dandruff shampoos like Zincon or with Zinc Pyrithione should be used on infants. Scalp washing should be supervised and done with special care. Using wooden combs and brushes with soft natural bristles is another way to treat cradle cap. They gently distribute hair oil and remove scalp build up.
Note: Babies with Seborrheic Dermatitis have an increased risk of having the condition return during puberty.
When to see a physician
Cradle cap is generally a harmless, painless condition that clears up over time. However, call a physician if you notice the following symptoms:
- Scales and patches get worse or spread to other parts of the face or body.
- The area around the patches look inflamed or infected.
- The scales or patches crust over, weep or secrete liquid.
- The infant exhibits signs of pain or discomfort.
Whether you ride a motorcycle or play a sport, wearing a helmet frequently or for a long period of time can cause dandruff or make it worse. Wearing a helmet speeds the fungal growth that causes dandruff by up to 30%. Within a few minutes, the humidity and temperature in a helmet create a perfect breeding ground for dandruff. The flaky dead skin in your hair is now inside a helmet. Over time the fungus in a helmet increases, resulting in itching, dryness and flaking. To treat helmet related dandruff, clean the helmet after each use and wear it only when needed. Continue using a dandruff shampoo but increase frequency with increased use of a helmet.
Sebaceous glands are small glands in the skin that secrete sebum to lubricate the skin and hair. When the secretions are excessive, problematic and affect the scalp, it is called Seborrheic Dermatitis. When it affects skin, it is called Seborrhea and is a common skin problem. Not all oily flakes are restricted to the scalp. It is not unusual for people to discover dandruff-like flakes on their face, forehead, eyebrows, eyelids, ears, sides of their nose or anywhere a lot of oil is produced. On the body, seborrhea often affects the middle part of the chest, around the navel, in the skin folds under the arm, below the breasts and in the groin and buttocks area. Seborrhea on the face and body gets better if it is washed every day with soap and water. Rest and exercise, especially outdoors in sunlight, can also help.
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