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Black Hair Medical News Online, Issue #001 -- "What Is Growing Dandruff?"
July 16, 2008

“What Is Growing Dandruff?”

The term “growing dandruff” has been used for years, but what does it really mean?

Let’s start with dandruff itself. Now normally, skin cells are shed on a daily basis in an inconspicuous manner from the scalp as well as the rest of the body. So, it is usual for everyone to shed these cells which are being constantly renewed and replaced, but we never see it happening.

Dandruff is the term used to describe the presence of visible scales and flakes within the hair or on the surface of the scalp. This condition represents an accelerated shedding of skin cells, which can occur because of genetic predisposition as well as environmental factors such as cool, dry climates during the winter months.

How can dandruff be connected to hair growth? Hair on the scalp grows from follicles that are located about 1/8th of an inch beneath the surface of the skin. These follicles oftentimes extend into the underlying fat layer beneath the skin. Hair growth is directed by biologic activity located at the dermal papillae which is located at the bottom of the hair root. Hormonal signals and nutrients for the hair are present in this region.

So how do cells shedding excessively on the surface of the scalp interact with dermal papillae related signals? Well no scientific evidence exists that connect these two areas of anatomy together and no functional relationship has been discovered.

So, the concept of growing dandruff is really a misnomer.

Many individuals, who are labeled as having dandruff, actually have a condition known as seborrheic dermatitis . This disorder also causes flaking and scaling of the scalp, but it is different in that it is also associated with itching of the scalp and it can also be associated with scaling and flaking of the eyebrows, around the corners of the nose, behind and inside of the ears. This condition is not associated with hair growth. There can actually be hair shedding due to friction and breakage that occurs as a result of excessive scratching in the areas that the scalp itches. Usually treating this condition causes the scalp to become healthier and when it is healthy, the hair can grow more readily.

The term growing dandruff is a terminology that does not have a factual basis related to the meaning of the two words.

Dandruff itself is usually controlled with medicated shampooing.

Seborrheic Dermatitis can be more stubborn and require over the counter or prescription medications to control the itching, scaling, and flaking.

If you are having problems with scaling, flaking, or itching of your scalp and it does not go away with regular use of medicated shampoos, see a dermatologist.

Seymour M. Weaver, III, M.D.
Board Certified Dermatologist

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