No doubt you’ve noticed little white flakes on someone’s shoulder, their clothing or throughout their hair. These flakes are certainly not snowflakes, but rather, dandruff, AKA “pityriasis capitis”, or more commonly, dry scalp.

According to dermatologist Professor Rodney Sinclair, the cause of this pesky condition is a dry scalp.

Speaking to The Huffington Post Australia, Prof Sinclair explained the condition is extremely common, with one-in-two Australians experiencing dandruff.

So what is dandruff?

Dandruff is the shedding of immature skin cells. Because the skin cells are not yet fully mature, they maintain their cell nucleus and stick together with neighbouring cells. By doing so, the cells shed in clumps of more than 1,000 cells that are visible to the naked eye.

What causes dandruff?

Psoriasis causes dandruff.

“Psoriasis produces itchy, thickened plaques on the scalp that bleed when scratched, or when the scale is pulled off. The plaques are scaly, and when the scales shed from the scalp, they produce dandruff,” said Prof Sinclair.

Psoriasis can also occur in association with plaques on the elbow, knees, nail dystrophy and arthritis. However psoriasis is not the sole cause of dandruff. Overactive Malassezia – a fungus that lives on everybody’s scalp – can become out of control and cause dandruff. Sensitivity to yeast, dry skin or eczema are other causes of dandruff.

The good news is, dandruff is not the end of the world, and can be easily and cost-effectively treated.

“Dandruff should settle with regular shampooing, and anti-dandruff shampoo may help with the scalp condition,” Prof Sinclair told The Huffington Post Australia.