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A Dandruff Demise

December 2023
1min read

In your anniversary issue there is one area of progress that you don’t mention, and I doubt if anyone else will either. That is the general demise of dandruff. “Infectious dandruff” or, medically, “seborrheic dermatitis” was so rampant at the time you started your magazine that people wearing blue suits looked as if they had a snowstorm on their shoulders. Since the germ causing the dandruff ( Pityrosporon ovale ) is lipophilic (or in laymen’s language, eats fat), the national craze at that time for using lanolin contributed to it. As a dermatologist, whatever other disease I saw, there was also additional seborrheic dermatitis. Telling patients, particularly those with beehive hairdos, that they should wash their heads more frequently was not received with enthusiasm. Almost no one washed his or her head more than once a week, and women with beehive hairdos usually washed only once a month, and there were many patients who never washed their heads at all, only brushed and combed their hair. They felt that washing their hair frequently made it fall out!

One person who influenced the way Americans lived was the singer Michelle Phillips, who sang with the Mamas and the Papas. Her adoring fans knew that she washed her hair every day so that it would whirl and swirl in a distracting fashion. Since they observed her over a period of time, and she did not become as bald as an egg, acne patients who would pay no attention to me or anyone else over thirty, dermatologist or not, who was exhorting them to wash, paid attention to this.

Kids almost universally, male and female, now wash their hair daily. Adults too! This has changed the infection problem very dramatically.

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