Dandruff- What You Need to Know to Keep the Flakes from Falling
Oct. 12, 2020
Image credit: Canva
The down-low on dandruff:
Dandruff is a mild form of seborrheic dermatitis, a scaly condition that mainly affects the scalp and other oily areas such as the upper chest and back. It causes skin flakes that can appear on your scalp, hair, eyebrows, or beard. Symptoms also commonly include an itchy scalp, and the flakes and itchiness can worsen during times of stress, and when the condition flares in cold, dry seasons.
So what causes dandruff anyways?
Simply put, dandruff is caused by a yeastlike fungus. Specifically, the group Malassezia, which has 10 species that inhabit human skin. Two of these species, M. restricta, and M. globosa are the species associated with dandruff. These fungi feed off of the oils (sebum) produced by our skin.
I know, yuck, but to be fair, everyone has some level of this fungus calling our bodies home. The difference is that dandruff occurs when the bodies’ ability to fight back against this fungus is diminished, and its level increases.
Things that can make dandruff occur or worsen:
- Age (most common in ages 20-50, though it can happen to anyone)
- Being male (sorry boys, some researchers believe this is due to male hormones)
- Oily Skin
- Immunodeficiency or immunosuppression by medication
Dandruff can be difficult to treat, but there are a few ways that you can prevent it from occurring in the first place. Now that you know what dandruff actually is and what Malassezia feeds off of, you can diminish its food source (sebum), as well as eliminate the ideal conditions in which fungi thrive (humid and moist environments).
If you frequently sweat, it’s really important to try and stay as clean and dry as possible; sweat = moisture, and humidity. Moisture and humidity = fungus. So after exercise, or a long day outside or at work, it’s important to take a shower and cleanse your body (and especially your hair/scalp) with a gentle body wash and shampoo to remove that sweat. Just make sure that you thoroughly dry your skin and hair to eliminate any excess moisture afterward.
By cleansing regularly, you also remove excess oil from areas commonly affected by dandruff. Using a gentle shampoo will remove excess oils from your scalp and hair that Malassezia needs to thrive, and make it harder for this fungus to proliferate and give you those itchy flakes in the first place. Dandruff? We don’t know her.
Image credit: Canva
You’re currently dealing with those pesky flakes, and I just want you to know that this is extremely common, and nothing to feel embarrassed about. Dandruff happens. In fact, according to Everyday Health, it happens to about half of the population. That being said, here are some things you can do to improve the situation:
The first step is as mentioned in the section above, cleanse regularly. If that doesn’t seem to be doing enough, then its time to go the medicated shampoo route.
There are five main types of dandruff shampoo:
It may take some trial and error to find the best-medicated shampoo for you, as everyone's biochemistry is unique and reacts differently to a treatment. Try and stick to your new shampoo for at least 1 month for results, as the skin cell life cycle renews at an average of 28 days. It may be cliché, but Rome wasn’t built in a day, and your dandruff won’t be gone in a day. But with some patience and consistency, you can manage the Malassezia.
Cabañes FJ, 2014 Feb, “Malassaezia Yeasts: How Many Species Infect Humans and Animals?”, PLoS Pathogens
Hon A/Prof Amanda Oakley, Dermatologist, Hamilton, New Zealand, 2004. “Skin Conditions associated with Malassezia”, DermNet NZ
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