Dandruff: What It Is & Why You Get It& How To Prevent
Aug. 31, 2020
Dandruff is a skin disorder that typically affects the scalp, resulting in flaky patches of skin, itching, and irritation.
Although the condition is rarely serious enough to warrant medical attention, dandruff can be pesky nonetheless. On top of the irritation of an itchy scalp, the unsightly flakes are often a source of embarrassment.
We discuss the symptoms, risk factors, and causes of dandruff. Discover DIY treatments and ingredients that can help, as well as how to keep your scalp flake-free.
Dandruff Symptoms and Causes
Symptoms include white or yellowish flakes which usually appear on the scalp accompanied by persistent itching. Some people have dandruff on their eyebrows or on facial hair too.
Seborrheic dermatitis (SD), a type of skin disorder, is the most common cause. However, there are several other potential culprits:
Other Skin Disorders
SD isn’t the only skin condition behind dandruff, although it’s arguably the most pervasive one.
Psoriasis is a chronic disease that can cause a scaly scalp, although it usually manifests more intensely with unbearable itching and larger flakes.
Eczema or contact dermatitis (an allergic reaction to a product) are also possible sources.
Dry or Oily Scalp
Just like your skin, your scalp can suffer from imbalances. If it’s too dry or excessively oily, dandruff can occur.
Common fungi such as Malassazeia can exacerbate existing dandruff, especially if they replicate in high quantities.
Parkinson’s Disease, HIV, and certain other neurological and autoimmune illnesses are often associated with dandruff.
- Infrequent hair washing: It’s a myth that dandruff is a natural consequence of poor hygiene. However, a buildup of products on your scalp can worsen it.
- Inappropriate products: Using products that irritate, dry out, or oil up your scalp should be avoided.
- Poor diet: A lack of vital nutrients such as B vitamins and zinc is linked to seborrheic dermatitis.
- High stress: Chronic stress worsens almost any health condition, including skin disorders.
Am I At Risk?
Dandruff can affect anyone from infants to adults, although it’s more prevalent in adults over 50 years old. Men are also somewhat more at risk for it.
Home Remedies for Dandruff
Coconut oil can help to soothe a dry scalp and promote healthy hair.
Tea tree oil is another potent weapon against dandruff, although you should be careful making shampoos—too much oil can irritate the skin.
Apple cider vinegar is a DIY dandruff remedy that’s best avoided: it’s more likely to inflame skin than to eliminate flakes.
How to Treat Dandruff
Fortunately, there are many dandruff shampoos and preparations on the market.
Most are available over-the-counter, although if your symptoms are debilitating, you might want to ask for a prescription-strength solution.
It’s important to follow treatment instructions and stick with it: consistency is key to eliminating dandruff.
These are common ingredients to look for:
Tea tree oil, aloe vera, and other beneficial plant extracts are popular ingredients in anti-dandruff products.
Coal tar encourages the shedding of dead skin cells and slows down skin cell growth to reduce flakes. You’ll usually find it available as a foaming shampoo to allow it to penetrate the scalp.
This drug is an anti-fungal that works to reduce itching and flaking over time by slowing fungal growth. It treats common infections such as Athlete’s foot and ringworm and is just as effective on dandruff.
You might be aware of salicylic acids as an acne treatment, but they can also fight dandruff.
The ability to exfoliate and break down oil buildup helps control a scaly scalp, and limits inflammation too.
This compound has both anti-fungal and anti-bacterial effects. It’s often used against seborrheic dermatitis and is in plenty of dandruff shampoos.
Selenium sulfide is another anti-fungal agent that is an effective agent against dandruff. It can also alleviate symptoms such as inflammation, itching, and dryness on the scalp.
Unless you have a severe case of dandruff, prevention is relatively straightforward. Here’s our advice:
If you find dandruff rears its ugly head, confront it. Invest in a quality shampoo or treatment and use it until you see improvement.
You might also want to use an anti-dandruff shampoo regularly (e.g., every other day) to prevent recurrences.
Certain hair cosmetics can irritate your scalp and result in dandruff. If you notice a bad reaction after using a serum, gel, or conditioner, cut it out of your routine.
Practice good stress management techniques. Meditation, exercise, and journaling can reduce stress in your life, which can improve your dandruff.
A nutrient-rich diet can combat vitamin deficiencies that might be a precursor to dandruff. Balance it out with lean meats, fruit, veggies, and healthy fats.
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