How to get rid of dandruff – No more scratching your head
Have a quick look at our succinct and comprehensive infographic on all things dandruff.
What is dandruff
Dandruff is a fairly common skin condition whereby the affected skin begins to scale more quickly than usual, leading to the appearance of distinctive white flakes that end up in your hair and on your shoulders. Dandruff mainly affects the skin on the scalp, but may also present on other hair-bearing areas of the body e.g. eyebrows or eyelashes.
In some instances, dandruff can cause self-esteem issues and isn’t so easy to brush off. Rest assured, however, here at Behealthible we want to equip you with the knowledge to deal with dandruff and get it off your back once and for all.
What causes dandruff
In dandruff the skin turnover is amplified, meaning that the skin sheds faster than it usually would in normal skin. Following this process the natural oils from the scalp cause the shedded ‘dead’ skin cells to clump together, forming those dreaded white dandruff flakes.
To start, we need to understand the mechanism behind why the skin sheds excessively in the first place. Dandruff can have various causes, ranging from genetic to environmental, and in turn, it can be difficult to pinpoint the exact cause(s) of dandruff.
Dandruff is considered a mild form of the skin condition known as “seborrheic dermatitis”, a condition that turns the skin oily, red and scaly. This condition is commonly triggered by the naturally occurring and easy to pronounce fungi “Malassezia Globosa”, which reside on the scalp.
The Malassezia Globosa fungi are responsible for 50% of dandruff cases, and does so by the following process:
- Feeding on sebum, which is a natural oily substance produced by the scalp. Sebum acts to keep your hair and scalp moisturised.
- Once the fungi have eaten the sebum they secrete an irritant by-product called oleic acid.
- Oleic acid irritates, the scalps of half of those individuals exposed to it.
- As a result of this irritation the scalp becomes red, inflamed and itchy.
- As with most things, when your body is threatened by something irritant it attempts to rectify the situation, by making the necessary adjustments. In the case of irritation with oleic acid, the body seeks to mend the situation by increasing the turnover of skin from the scalp.
- This now removed skin, once exposed to oils “sebum” begins to clump and in turn produce the visible white flakes that are synonymous with dandruff.
Moreover, certain factors can cause the Malassezia Globosa fungi to multiply and increase in number, which allows for them to wreak even more havoc, common examples including old age, stress and hormonal changes.
Other common causes of dandruff
- Not shampooing the hair enough or conversely washing the hair too often.
- Using hair products that cause sensitivity to the scalp, also known as “contact dermatitis”.
- Other skin conditions, such as eczema and psoriasis.
- Dry, irritated and oily skin.
- Emotional stress.
- Cold weather.
You don’t need to become too concerned with the possible cause(s) of your dandruff, rather follow our advice and if once implemented you don’t see any improvement within a month contact your GP.
Who is usually affected by dandruff
Age – Most people experience some degree of dandruff at some point in their lives, but the age that people are most affected tends to be from teenage years to midlife, however in some instances, dandruff can be a lifelong condition.
Gender – Being a male: a man’s scalp contains 50% more sebum than a woman’s scalp, which as mentioned above increases the risk of developing dandruff. Researchers believe that male hormones, in particular, testosterone increases the amount of sebum that the scalp produces, due to its proliferative effect on oil-producing glands.
Certain illnesses – Diseases that affect the nervous system, for unknown reasons increase the chances of developing dandruff e.g. Parkinson’s disease. Other illnesses include those that cause a weakened immune system e.g. HIV.
Difference between dandruff and dry scalp – an overview
Dandruff and dry scalp share the same symptoms of flaking and an itchy scalp, but it is important that you know of and understand the difference, as they dictate the appropriate course of treatment. Moreover, if either condition is misdiagnosed and as a result inappropriately treated, the condition may worsen.
So what makes dandruff different from dry scalp?
In dandruff, the skin sheds its cells at a faster rate than usual, and in many instances, this is owed to excessive oil ‘sebum’ production by skin cells on the scalp. On the other hand, dry scalp occurs when the scalp does not produce enough oil for the skin to become lubricated and in turn, becomes dry.
How to tell the difference between dry-scalp and dandruff
Dandruff: The skin on the scalp is oily and appears red and scaly. Moreover, the flakes appear larger, with a yellow/ white colour.
Dry-scalp: The skin on the scalp is not the only part of the body that is affected, and the flakes appear smaller than in the case of dandruff.
How to treat dandruff
In cases of mild dandruff, you should initially try daily cleansing of the hair, using a gentle shampoo to massage your scalp. This acts to help reduce sebum on the scalp and also the build-up of dead skin cells that later become dandruff flakes.
If more regular washing of the hair doesn’t prove beneficial there are many other useful and proven anti-dandruff treatment options available from your local pharmacy. Most of these shampoos work by exerting an antimicrobial effect or directly reducing the cell turnover rate of skin on the scalp.
In some instances, you may need to try more than one shampoo to find the best treatment for your individual case of dandruff. Once identified, the anti-dandruff shampoo will more than likely have to be utilised on a repeated or long-term basis. If one shampoo works for a certain time period and seems to lose its effectiveness, then you can alternate between two different types of shampoo
Examples of medicated anti-dandruff shampoo treatments
- Zinc pyrithione (brand names: DermaZinc, Head & Shoulders and others) – An antibacterial and antifungal agent that inhibits the effects of dandruff-causing micro-organism “Malassezia Globosa”.
- Selenium sulfide (brand names: Head & Shoulders Intensive, Selsun and others) – An antifungal agent that inhibits the effects of dandruff-causing micro-organism “Malassezia Globosa”.
- Coal-tar (brand-names: Neutrogena T/Gel) – Works by slowing down how quickly the skin cells on your scalp turnover, die and finally flake off.
- Ketoconazole (brand names: Nizoral amongst others) – An antifungal agent that inhibits the effects of dandruff-causing micro-organism “Malassezia Globosa”.
- Salicylic acid (brand name: Neutrogena T/Sal and others) – Work to facilitate the turnover of dead skin cells on the outermost layer of the scalp. This works to increase moisture in the skin of the scalp and also dissolves the sebum/ oil that causes such cells to clump together snd form dandruff flakes.
For information on the most suitable treatment option(s) for your case of dandruff and how to best use these shampoos #ASKAPHARMACIST.
When starting treatment with an anti-dandruff shampoo you should generally use the medicated shampoo one to three times per week, to be tapered down to once weekly for maintenance and prevention purposes.
If you happen to develop considerable itching, stinging, redness or burning you should stop using the product. If you experience any signs of an allergic reaction e.g. a rash, hives or difficulty breathing, you need to seek immediate medical attention.
When to see a doctor if you have dandruff
When treating yourself for dandruff with products bought from a pharmacy you can generally expect to see improvement within a months time. If you don’t notice any improvement within the month you need to visit your GP, as it may be the case that you are suffering from a more serious skin condition that is causing your dandruff, that requires treatment.
Other cases of dandruff that should prompt you to see your GP:
- Your scalp appears red or feels swollen and inflamed.
- Your dandruff is really bad.
- You scalp if very itchy and interfering with your day to day life.
- After assessing your scalp you believe to be suffering from a serious skin condition e.g. psoriasis.
Lifestyle advice to help with dandruff
Along with the recommended treatment for dandruff, you should adopt some lifestyle measures and home remedies to help reduce your risk of developing dandruff in the future and controlling dandruff once you have successfully gotten rid of it.
Try to manage your stress to help treat dandruff
As mentioned previously emotional stress has been shown to trigger and worsen symptoms of dandruff.
There are many techniques that you can employ to help you reduce stress, with an example being the utilisation of breathing exercises.
There are many different breathing exercise techniques that have been developed over time e.g. Bhramari pranayama (have fun pronouncing that), three-part breathing, box breathing amongst many others. For the sake of simplicity a more simple approach to breathing exercise is outlined below:
Whilst laying down, *close your eyes *place your arms by your side with your *palms facing up. You can either keep your legs straight or bend your knees with the soles of your feet flat against your mattress.
Now with a presence of mind, visualise your breathing, imagine the inhaled oxygen reaching your forehead, neck and shoulders and then focus on releasing all the stress and tension you have built up as you calmly breathe out.
- When mentally prepared breathe in deeply through your nose and count steadily from 1 to 5 seconds (start with a time you can manage and gradually increase over time).
- Finally, breathe out steadily through your mouth from 1 to 5 seconds (start with a time you can manage and gradually increase over time).
Continue this for for 3 to 5 minutes until you feel relaxed and less tense.
Eat a more healthy diet
There is evidence that a diet that provides adequate levels of zinc, B vitamins and certain types of essential fats can help to reduce dandruff.
Zinc: Beef, lamb, poultry, shrimp, scallops, oysters, beans, green vegetables, mushrooms, nuts and cocoa powders.
Essential fats: Oily fish such as salmon and some seeds such as chia and flaxseeds. When consumed these seeds increase the integrity and also moisturise the skin, including the scalp.
B vitamins: A deficiency of biotin (B7), found in eggs, meat, seeds and nuts has shown to lead to skin lesions that resemble seborrheic dermatitis. On the other hand, fold acid (B9), found in green leafy vegetable has shown to improve symptoms of dandruff.
Limit the use of hair products
When overusing hair products your scalp can become oiler and make you more prone to developing dandruff.
Don’t be flaky when it comes to controlling your dandruff, take on board our advice, tips and tricks and we hope to see you standing head and shoulders above dandruff.
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