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Dandruff: How to Care for Your Child

Dandruff is a common scalp condition that causes flaky skin and an itchy scalp. Dandruff is usually treated with over-the-counter shampoos.

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  • Use shampoos, creams, or lotions as directed by your health care provider.

  • When using dandruff shampoo:

    • Allow the shampoo to remain on the scalp 3–5 minutes, or as directed.

    • Rinse well.

    • Try a different shampoo if there's no improvement after 4–6 weeks.

  • Your child should not scratch the scalp. This can lead to infection.

  • Your health care provider may recommend a topical steroid if your child's scalp is very itchy or red.

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  • The dandruff doesn't get better after treatment.

  • The dandruff or itching gets worse.

  • Your child's scalp gets red or swollen.

  • Your child gets red or flaky skin on other parts of the body.

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What does dandruff look like? People with dandruff may notice dry, flaky skin in their hair or on their shoulders. The scalp may be red, crusty, or feel raw in some areas.

What causes dandruff? Dandruff is a mild form of seborrheic dermatitis. The exact cause of seborrheic dermatitis is not known, but it's likely a combination of things. Too much skin oil (sebum) in the oil glands and hair follicles and a type of yeast found on the skin, called Malassezia, may play roles in the development of dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis. People with dandruff may also get seborrheic dermatitis on other parts of their body, including eyebrows, nose creases, behind the ears, or in sideburns and beard areas.

What makes dandruff worse? Some hair care products may irritate the scalp and make dandruff worse. Dandruff often gets worse in the winter when skin dries out.

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