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Guy brushing off dandruff from his hair.

Is dandruff more common in the winter months?

If you are prone to dandruff, you may notice a few more flakes during the colder months, but dandruff isn’t caused by dry skin on your scalp. 

“Dandruff is caused by your body's reaction to a yeast that lives on the skin,” says Jodi Ganz, M.D., a dermatologist at Piedmont. “This yeast is particularly common in hair-bearing areas. The yeast is normal; it is supposed to be there. But when your body reacts to the yeast, it causes a red, flaky rash.”

This type of yeast, Malassezia globose, thrives on an oily scalp, so if you are prone to oily roots, you may be more likely to have dandruff. So, why do you notice more flakes when it’s cold outside? You may have more dandruff symptoms during the winter months if you:

The difference between dandruff and dry scalp

Dandruff flakes are typically large, oily, yellow or white, while dry skin flakes tend to be small and white. Both conditions can cause itching, but if you have dandruff, you may notice redness as well. If you have dry scalp, you may have dry skin elsewhere on your body

How to effectively treat dandruff

“Dandruff can be controlled with the regular use of anti-yeast shampoos and topical steroids,” says Dr. Ganz. “However, it cannot be truly prevented if you are prone to it. It often recurs.”

She recommends choosing a shampoo that contains sulfur, zinc pyrithione or tee tree oil.

“Many over-the-counter shampoos can help to kill the yeast; however, they will never fully get rid of it,” explains Dr. Ganz. “Again, the yeast is ‘normal flora’ on the body.”

Managing your stress levels and cutting back on inflammatory foods may help too.

What to do if dandruff shampoo doesn’t work

“If a medicated shampoo does not adequately control your symptoms, see your dermatologist for a stronger prescription shampoo,” she says. “You may also need a topical steroid – either over-the-counter or prescription – to help the redness and itch associated with the rash.”

Learn more health and wellness tips from Living Better experts.

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