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If you have a flaky scalp we tend to say we have "dandruff", but this is often not the case at all.

Dandruff is a particular condition of the scalp that needs a specific treatment to control it. Often confused with many of the other conditions of the scalp you may find yourself treating the wrong thing. Therefore we suggest that you check that whatever you have conforms to this description:

  • More often associated with an oily scalp than a dry scalp. Flakes are whitish in colour and may be spread over the entire scalp. The scalp may be itchy, but if you examine it closely it should not be red or inflamed. Scaly skin on other parts of the body is not associated with dandruff.

If you're not 100% convinced that this description fits with your condition then read the following definitions to find which one most closely matches with your symptoms so that we can recommend the right treatment:

  • Flakiness that is dry and often confined to the top of the head, hairline or nape with tiny, if not dust like flakes, that are white in colour. The patches which may or may not be itchy can often be worse at certain times of the year e.g. the change of seasons. Also ask yourself if this dry area is the same spot that you always apply your shampoo to or that the hot shower hits? This is simple dry flakiness and is easily treated by using a number of different products and by following the advice in the next section.
  • Flakiness accompanying slight swelling, redness and small blisters that may weep could mean either contact dermatitis or eczema. These 2 conditions are very similar and only differ in how deep they penetrate into the layers of the skin. They are produced when you come into contact with something that you are allergic to and initially the symptoms are confined to that area. You need to seek the help of a trichologist or doctor as soon as you can and find out the cause of the irritation. Once the allergen is found you need to avoid it as further contact results in a spread of the irritation to areas that have not necessarily contacted with it.
  • Flakes that are more yellow than white colour, greasy with red itchy skin and in the most severe cases spreading of the condition to the eyebrows, beard and around the nose. This could be seborrhoeic dermatitis. Treatment for this severe form of dandruff should be prescribed by a trichologist or doctor.
  • Intensely itchy patches of greyish-white scale surrounded by a red ring-shaped area is the distinctive feature of ringworm. The 'ash-like' scale is due to the destruction of the hair shafts by the fungus but quite often though there is no hair loss at all.
  • Diagnosis is made by microscopic examination.
  • The treatment for this condition are anti-fungal creams and prescription medications.
  • Your trichologist can diagnose this condition but you will need to see your family doctor for treatment.

Don't feel shy or embarrassed when you're with your hairdresser though, this condition is really quite common and definitely not infectious, so they are not going to treat you like a leper.

 If at all concerned then consult your:

  • Dermatologist (if the condition also appears elsewhere on the body).
  • Trichologist (specialist in hair and scalp conditions).
  • Hairdresser (great mine of information on everything and would know which of the above to refer you to).


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