What Is Dandruff?
The simplest explanation of dandruff is that it is the pieces of dry scalp skin that have fallen off. These get stuck in your hair and land on your shoulders. It’s a completely natural process and all part of the skin cycle, but when it shows up and makes your life miserable, dandruff treatments can really help.
Excessive dandruff is not a medical problem but a cosmetic issue, but like many cosmetic issues such as hair loss and skin wrinkles it can make you unhappy and in some cases affect your mental well-being.
What Causes Dandruff?
The white flakes that fall from your head can be caused by a variety of issues. These can include:
Dry Scalp - A dry scalp caused by hormones, heat styling or the sun, for example, will flake and when that damaged skin peels off it needs to land somewhere! Unfortunately, it is most likely to be your shoulder. A dry scalp can cause dandruff and it won’t shift until you address the dryness.
Fungus growth - Another reason for dandruff is a fungus called Malassezia globosa. This tiny fungus needs oil to multiply so it feeds on the oil produced by your scalp. Many people have this but it’s not a problem until the fungus grows out of control and causes flakes. The combination of sebum and fast growth makes skin cells renew too quickly and this leads to itchiness and flakes.
Poor hygiene - If you wash your hair just once a week, the dirt and dead skin build up will lead to a flaky scalp. It can also encourage the growth of Malassezia globosa. (Read: Natural hair care essentials for flaky scalp)
Skin allergies - Skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema can also cause dandruff. Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease that creates a pattern of quickly shedding skin cells. It can affect the whole body and the scalp; particularly over the ears and around the bottom hairline is usually worst affected. There is also a type of eczema known as seborrhoeic dermatitis that causes scalp flakes, but these are usually yellow. Both psoriasis and eczema cause inflammation and soreness on the scalp, so it’s best to get it checked by a doctor if you suspect a skin condition as some treatments for dandruff may irritate, sore and inflamed skin.
Hair styling products - You may have developed dandruff as a result of contact dermatitis. This is an allergic reaction to hair products and common culprits are perfumed sprays, gels, and mousse. If you have contact dermatitis, try a dandruff shampoo to calm your skin down and throw the offending product away. Look for natural ingredients in your hair products and try to keep irritants from touching your scalp in future.
Stress - It may seem odd, but stress, anxiety, and depression cause a chain of physical reactions in the body. They can lead us to colds by suppressing the immune system, raise the heart rate and cause skin breakouts. Stress can exacerbate mild dandruff so that a small amount of unnoticeable dandruff suddenly turns into something obvious.
Weather - Cold weather, in particular, can worsen mild dandruff as well as wind and central heating drying out your scalp. Sweat and heat during the summers make it easy for the fungus to thrive and thus aggravates flaking of the scalp.
How to Get Rid Of Dandruff
The right type of anti-dandruff shampoo can help you get rid of dandruff easily. It is a myth that dandruff shampoos are meant to just get rid of the flakes and are harsh on the hair.
The best anti-dandruff shampoo will moisturise your scalp and deal with the Malassezia fungus that feeds on sebum with anti-fungal ingredients. Specialist anti-dandruff shampoos dry up sebum leaving the fungus nothing to feed on, reducing its number and preventing more from forming to help you get rid of dandruff.
The best dandruff shampoos will not only target your scalp but moisturise your tresses too. This is important as dry, brittle hair can result from harsh dandruff shampoos. It’s worth looking into top quality anti-dandruff shampoos if your condition is out of control. If you use anti-dandruff shampoo two or three times a week your scalp should quickly respond and stop shedding flakes.
How to Stop Dandruff
If you’re using an anti-dandruff shampoo then you’re on the right track, but you can use an oil masque too as dry itchy scalps need moisture as well. Take coconut oil or olive oil, warm it slightly and then rub it into your scalp. It’s sensible to patch test first but if you have no reaction go ahead and apply the oil mixture. Leave the oil on for twenty minutes before thoroughly rinsing it out. A dry scalp will soak up the oil and become smooth and supple helping to get rid of dandruff.
How to Remove Dandruff
If your hair is full of dandruff you can remove it by carefully combing your hair from root to tip. Wash your hair first with an anti-dandruff shampoo and apply some oil then gently comb from your scalp to the ends of hair with a fine tooth comb, but make sure it doesn’t dig into your scalp. If you are away from home or not able to wash your hair, maybe you’re at work, for example, use a dry shampoo on your roots to grip the flakes and comb it out gently.
If you have long hair pull it back into a ponytail or bun to cover your scalp and trap the flakes before they can fall. If you have short hair you can rub a tiny amount of oil or hair smoothing serum into your scalp to temporarily moisturise your dry flaky skin. When you get home, use a dandruff shampoo and deep condition your hair to get rid of dandruff.
How to Treat Dandruff
An effective way to get rid of dandruff is to treat it gently! Roughing up your head by scratching and yanking a comb through your scalp in frustration is understandable because dandruff can be itchy and intolerable but this will only loosen more flakes that show up on your clothes. Your best bet is a dandruff shampoo that literally tackles the root of the problem to get rid of dandruff. Using an anti-dandruff conditioner is also important to support the effects of the shampoo.
How to Prevent Dandruff
- Don’t scratch! Distract yourself so your hands stay away from your scalp.
- Keep stressful situations to a minimum to reduce dandruff breakouts. If you can practice mindfulness, use essential oils or take up a hobby to reduce your stress, your body and scalp will follow suit and reduce irritation.
- Be careful while towel drying your hair as it can affect the scalp and aggravate itchiness and scatter the flakes further.
- What we eat and drink also has a direct effect on our appearance. Cut out sugar, fat, and salt from your diet and introduce leafy green vegetables, fruits, low-fat meats, cereals, beans and nuts as these can help get rid of dandruff. This will boost your nutrient intake as well and improve the condition of your skin.
- It’s also a good idea to cut down on alcohol and drink more water to ensure your skin is healthy and hydrated. This is also great for your body in general too!
The Final Word
If you have dandruff it can really dent your confidence and be difficult to shift. A dandruff shampoo or a treatment will get an outbreak of fungus under control, but a long-term approach to your scalp health is important too if you want to get rid of dandruff completely. Eat well, drink more water and don’t apply irritating products to your scalp.