Dandruff is a condition of the scalp that causes flakes of skin to appear. It is often accompanied by itching. The exact cause is unknown, but various factors increase the risk. It is not related to poor hygiene, but it may be more visible if a person does not wash or brush their hair often.
Fast facts on dandruff
Dandruff is a common condition, but it can be embarrassing and difficult to treat.
It is not related to hygiene, but washing and brushing the hair can help remove old skin flakes.
Risk factors include having certain skin or medical conditions and the use of inappropriate hair products.
Various treatments are available over the counter, but more severe cases should be seen by a doctor.
Treatment aims to stop the dandruff by slowing down the reproduction of skin cells or counteracting the yeast production that might be the cause.
The strategy will depend the patient’s age and the severity of the condition. However, there are some lifestyle changes and home remedies that can help; these include:
Managing stress: stress can trigger dandruff in some people, so managing it better can reduce symptoms.
Shampoo more often: if you have oily hair and scalp, washing daily can help.
Sunlight: a little exposure to sunlight can be helpful.
Tea tree oil: although there is little evidence, some people believe that preparations that include tea tree oil help reduce symptoms of dandruff. It can cause allergic reactions in some people, so use caution.
Shampoos and scalp products are available over the counter at most stores and pharmacies. These can control seborrheic dermatitis, but they cannot cure it.
Shampoos and scalp preparations
Before using an anti-fungal shampoo, individuals should carefully try to remove any scaly or crusty patches on the scalp, as far as possible. This will make the shampoo more effective.
Ingredients to look out for
Most anti-dandruff or anti-fungal shampoos contain at least one of the following active ingredients:
Ketoconazole: An effective anti-fungal. Shampoos containing this ingredient can be used at any age.
Selenium sulfide: This reduces the production of natural oils by glands in the scalp. It is effective at treating dandruff.
Zinc pyrithione: This slows down the growth of yeast.
Coal tar: This has a natural anti-fungal agent. Dyed or treated hair may become stained by long-term usage. Tar soaps may also make the scalp more sensitive to sunlight, so users should wear a hat when outside. Coal tar can also be carcinogenic in high doses.
Salicylic acids: These help the scalp get rid of skin cells. They do not slow down the reproduction of skin cells. Many “scalp scrubs” contain salicylic acids. Treatment can sometimes leave the scalp dry and make skin flaking worse.
Tea-tree oil: Derived from the Australian Tea Tree (Melaleuca alternifolia), many shampoos now include this ingredient. It has long been used as an anti-fungal, an antibiotic, and an antiseptic. Some people are allergic to it.
The best strategy is to select a shampoo containing one of these ingredients and shampoo the hair every day until the dandruff is under control.
After this, they can be used less frequently.
Alternating dandruff shampoo with regular shampoo may help. A specific shampoo may stop being as effective after some time. At this point, it may be a good idea to switch to one with another ingredient.
ome shampoos should be left on the scalp for around 5 minutes, as rinsing too quickly will not give the ingredient time to work. Others should be rinsed at once. Users should follow the instructions on the container.
The exact causes of dandruff are unknown.
One theory is that it is linked to hormone production, as it often begins around the time of puberty.
Here we look at 10 more possible factors.
- Seborrheic dermatitis
Dandruff involves flakes of skin that collect in the hair.
People with seborrheic dermatitis have irritated, oily skin, and they are more likely to have dandruff.
Seborrheic dermatitis affects many areas of the skin, including the backs of the ears, the breastbone, eyebrows, and the sides of the nose.
The skin will be red, greasy, and covered with flaky white or yellow scales.
Seborrheic dermatitis is closely linked with Malassezia, a fungus that normally lives on the scalp and feeds on the oils that the hair follicles secrete.
It does not usually cause a problem, but in some people it becomes overactive, causing the scalp to become irritated and to produce extra skin cells.
As these extra skin cells die and fall off, they mix with the oil from the hair and scalp, forming dandruff.
- Not enough hair brushing
Combing or brushing the hair regularly reduces the risk of dandruff, because it aids in the normal shedding of skin.
(To be concluded next week)