While dandruff may seem pretty straight forward, it can actually present in multiple ways. According to board-certified dermatologist Kseniya Kobets, director of cosmetic dermatology at Montefiore Einstein Advanced Care, dandruff can present as an oily scalp, as an oily and dry scalp (which she says tends to be confusing for patients), and sometimes just as a dry scalp. “Dandruff—or seborrheic dermatitis—is thought to be caused by the overgrowth of a particular genus of yeast (fungus Malassezia spp), but many other factors can worsen or exacerbate it.”
For instance, dandruff can flare up during times of stress (likely, Kobets says, from an increase in cortisol, which can spike inflammation and disrupt our body’s normal immune responses), but it can also be triggered by other factors that disrupt the balance of the scalp’s microbiome. Think products that are excessively oily, product buildup, or even certain medications like systemic antibiotics.
Lastly, while dandruff is highly treatable, it isn’t curable. “There are several excellent treatments that help to reduce or prevent dandruff, but once the treatment stops, the dandruff tends to return,” notes Sanjay Batra, Ph.D., a regenerative medicine expert who’s well-versed on all things scalpcare. “Caring for the scalp is imperative so that the fungus is prevented from becoming too widespread,” Batra explains. And the treatments don’t have to be extreme or too intense. Choosing the right type of shampoo—be it clarifying, medicated, or fortified with scalp-healthy ingredients—can go a long way. More on that below!