DARE TO ASK: Dandruff is dandruff, by any color
By PHILLIP MILANO, The Times-Union
Do black people get dandruff? And if they do, what color is it? I've asked my
black friends this, but they think I'm joking and just laugh.
Clint, 32, white, Jacksonville
I have to admit, I laughed, too.
E.D., 48, black female, Kansas City, Mo.
Hold onto your shorts, junior; here's a fact that may shake your world loose:
When you look at somebody's skin, you're looking at a layer of colorless cells.
The skin pigment is deeper than the surface. When this layer dries and flakes
off, it appears white.
Nick F., Seattle
Are black people not human?
Peter, 21, black, Jacksonville
Yes, black people get dandruff. It is more a gray color because a black
person's skin gets a grayish hue when it is very dry (which is where the term
"ashy" comes from). Most blacks put "grease" on their scalps to avoid this. In
case you are wondering, I didn't know any of this until I met and married a
Darby, 33, white, New York
Our dandruff looks like tar flakes. Just kidding, it's white and flaky.
Cris, black female, Michigan
When I get dandruff, it looks white on my black clothes and dark on my white
David, black, London
We may not get it as often because we don't wash our hair as often, but I
know we get it. I have some right now.
Monika, 27, black, Houston
Because of the texture of our hair, the dandruff usually stays in our hair,
instead of falling onto our clothing.
Alisha, 36, black, Charlotte
We don't mean to get under anyone's skin, but apparently some black people
do, in fact, have chips on their shoulders.
Relax, we're talking about seborrheic dermatitis here, after all.
Monica Farrow of Jacksonville, an expert on African-American hair, confirmed
"The skin is an organ that sheds, and we all have skin," said Farrow, who
runs OurHair.net, which offers care solutions for African-American and ethnic
hair. "Dandruff is nothing more than shedding skin. If you're human, you do get
But it may be harder to see on some people.
"A lot of black people use moisturizers with oil on their scalps because
black hair can be more naturally dry," she said. "The oil tends to disguise the
fact that the dandruff is there [because] when oil is on the scalp, the flakes
that can fall become translucent."
Because oils attract dirt, many African-Americans are experimenting with
"no-oil routines," using emulsions and creams that are higher in water content,
Still, nothing can fully guarantee against an occasional bout of the scaly
"Oh yeah, we get it," she said. "When I grew up, we had Selsun Blue in the
Phillip Milano, author of I Can't Believe You Asked That! (Perigee),
moderates cross-cultural dialogue at Y? The National Forum on People's
Differences. Visit www.yforum.com to submit questions and answers. Send general
column comments to phillip. firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also hear his