Dandruff, adults


Dandruff, adults
Dandruff, adults

Dandruff is a common skin condition. It's not harmful and you cannot catch it.

Check if it's dandruff

Dandruff causes white or grey flakes of skin to appear on the scalp and in the hair.

The flakes are often more noticeable in darker hair and if they fall from your scalp on to your shoulders.

Your scalp may also feel dry and itchy.

How to treat dandruff yourself

Use an anti-dandruff shampoo. There are several different types you can buy from pharmacies or supermarkets.

Look for shampoo containing one of these ingredients:

  • zinc pyrithione
  • salicylic acid
  • selenium sulphide (or selenium sulfide)
  • ketoconazole
  • coal tar

Your pharmacist can tell you how to use the shampoo.

Use the shampoo for a month to see if your dandruff get better. You might need to try more than one type to find one that works for you.

Find a pharmacy

See a GP if:

  • you still have symptoms after using anti-dandruff shampoo for a month
  • your dandruff is bad or your scalp is very itchy
  • your scalp is red or swollen
  • you have flaky, itchy patches on your face or other parts of your body

The GP can check your scalp for skin conditions that could be causing your dandruff.

Causes of dandruff

Dandruff is not caused by poor hygiene, although it may be more obvious if you do not wash your hair regularly.

Stress and cold weather may also make dandruff worse.

Symptoms and possible causes

Symptom - scaly, itchy and red patches on skin on scalp, face and other areas of the body. Possible cause - seborrheic dermatitis

Symptom - red or silver rash on scalp, sometimes with patchy hair loss. Possible cause - tinea capitis, known as ringworm

Symptom - dry, red, flaky and very itchy skin on areas of the body. Possible cause - eczema.

Symptom - red, inflamed (irritated) skin; may also have blisters and cracked skin - reaction to products such as hair dye, sprays, gels or mousses. Possible cause - contact dermatitis

Symptom - red, flaky, crusty and sore patches of skin covered with silvery scales. Possible cause - psoriasis.

Symptom - greasy, yellowish crusts on baby's scalp, eyebrows and nappy area. Possible cause - cradle cap

Do not worry if you're not sure what is causing your dandruff. Follow the advice on this page and see a GP if things do not improve in a month.


The information on this page has been adapted by NHS Wales from original content supplied by NHS UK NHS website nhs.uk
Last Updated: 07/03/2024 12:23:35