Extreme Dandruff And Seborrheic Dermatitis Hair Conditions

Affecting many people, dandruff is distinguished by dry, flaky patches of skin on the scalp. Sometimes, dandruff can be extreme and difficult to treat. Extreme dandruff is often causes by a condition called “seborrheic dermatitis” which has a build-up of skin cells in scaly patches on the scalp. In babies, “seborrheic dermatitis” is referred to as “cradle cap.”

What are the Signs of Extreme Dandruff?

Extreme dandruff is a scalp condition that results in an itchy scalp and flaking skin. Dandruff varies in severity but extreme cases of dandruff can be very embarrassing and difficult to treat. Extreme dandruff is not contagious.

A medical condition called “seborrheic dermatitis” is often a factor in extreme dandruff. People who suffer from extreme dandruff will often have dry dead skin cells on their scalp, which show up as scales and clumps of skin.

Common Causes of Extreme Dandruff

Non-medical causes are common reasons for dandruff. Since dandruff varies in severity, other factors may be responsible for more extreme dandruff.

Some non-medical causes of dandruff:

  • Dry Skin: Caused by environmental influences such as dry air in the winter or extra heat in rooms
  • Shampooing: Not shampooing often enough can lead to dead skin cell build up and extra oil build up
  • Allergy:Allergic reactions to hair care products can irritate the scalp. This condition is referred to as “contact dermatitis.”

Medical Causes That Can Cause Extreme Dandruff

In the event of more severe and extreme dandruff, medical reasons may exist for the condition. Seeking medical advice for extreme cases of dandruff is recommended to ensure proper diagnosis is reached.

Some medical causes for extreme dandruff are:

  • Seborrheic dermatitis:This condition is distinguished by oily and red skin and can show up on the scalp as well as other oily parts of the body. On the scalp, dead skin cells will form a crusty layer appearing yellow or white in color. These dead skin cells may attach to the hair follicles. In babies and toddlers, it is commonly referred to as “cradle cap.”
  • Psoriasis: Dead skin cells do not shed and leave the skin surface as they should. The result is a build up of dead, hard skin forming scales.
  • Eczema: Sensitive skin with dry red rash. Eczema, if located on the scalp, can make the scalp very sensitive and itchy.
  • Malassezia: A yeast-like fungus, malassezia occurs on most adult’s scalps without causing any problems. In some cases, the malassezia may grow out of control and being to feed on the oil secretions by the hair follicles. This can cause excess dead skin cells to mix with the oil and form clumps which are very visible on clothing.

Extreme Dandruff and Risk Factors for Seborrheic Dermatitis

While anyone can get dandruff at any point in their lifetime, certain factors make one more likely to get this disorder.

Risk factors for getting dandruff and extreme dandruff:

  • Age: Young adults are more likely to suffer from dandruff until they reach middle-age adulthood. Some people will suffer from dandruff their entire life.
  • Sex: Males typically suffer from dandruff more than females. Some research indicated hormones may be a factor. Males also have larger oil glands which can lead to oily scalp and dandruff.
  • Diet: Deficiencies in zinc, B Vitamins and certain fats are also linked to dandruff problems.
  • Neurological disorders: Although the reasons are not completely understood, some disorders like Parkinsons and Epilepsy have a higher instance of causing dandruff.
  • Other medical causes: People recovering from heart attacks or strokes high a tendency to suffer from dandruff as well as people who have compromised immune systems.

Treating Extreme Dandruff

Most commonly, over the counter shampoos are recommended to treat dandruff – regardless if it is extreme or not. It is recommended by the Mayo Clinic to shampoo once a day with the shampoo until symptoms are under control. Thereafter, dandruff shampoos should be used two or three times a week.

When choosing an over the counter shampoo to treat dandruff, ingredients should contains one of the following:

  • Ketoconazole
  • Ciclopirox
  • Tar
  • Pyrithione zinc
  • Selenium sulfide
  • Salicylic acid

If over the counter shampoos do not control the extreme dandruff, a medical professional may have to prescribe a medicated shampoo and/or a steroid lotion.


The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and should not be used for diagnosis or to guide treatment without the opinion of a health professional. Any reader who is concerned about his or her health should contact a doctor for advice.

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