Dandruff is a perfectly common condition, but it doesn’t make experiencing those little white flakes on your shoulders any less embarrassing. Even though we may know many people share our frustration with the dry flakes of skin falling onto our dark clothing in a business meeting or first date, it feels so personal in the moment, and it can be hard to ignore the way you feel.
Dandruff can be a tricky thing to deal with, as it has numerous causes. Along with the most common causes, dry skin and psoriasis, it is supposedly caused by not cleaning your scalp often enough, or cleaning it too often. To make this even more frustrating, some people say it can also be caused by simply shampooing with something your sensitive scalp doesn’t like. So how are you supposed to deal with it. And what exactly is dandruff, really?
What’s going on up there?
Part of the embarrassment of dandruff is the misunderstanding behind it; a lot of people believe that dandruff is caused by poor hygiene. But this isn’t scientifically sound. In fact, experts agree this is probably the last thing responsible for those flakes. Dandruff is a skin condition, first and foremost. It causes your scalp, and the scalps of 50% of the population, to flake off in tiny little pieces and usually comes with some itching. It’s closely linked to something called Malassezia. This is a fungus that everyone has (sorry) on their scalps and it feeds on the oils secreted by hair follicles. This can cause skin cells to shed and clump into those annoying flakes .
Surprisingly, dandruff doesn’t just happen on your scalp. In fact, you can get dandruff on your face. Plenty of people discover dandruff in their eyebrows, around their ears and even on their noses. Basically, if your skin produces oil, it’s at risk of producing dandruff .
Regardless of where you experience it, before you run to the store to purchase dandruff shampoo, make sure you are truly experiencing dandruff, and not something else. Beverly Hills dermatologist Stuart H Kaplan, M.D. recommends a medicated dandruff shampoo that contains ketoconazole, selenium sulfide or zinc. If you don’t see any improvement after two weeks of using the ‘poo, you may want to consult a physician. You could have psoriasis or another skin inflammation.
The Causes of Dandruff.
Some studies have found diet can impact your risk for dandruff, claiming people who eat lots of salt, too much sugar or foods rich in spice can experience more dandruff than a person with a healthier diet. Excessive alcohol use can also lead to flaking skin. However, with a significant number of dandruff sufferers claiming it seems to get better as they age, the jury was out as to whether it really is caused by what you’re eating or if it’s just something we all have to experience. That is until 2007.
In 2007, scientists found that the fungal yeast responsible for dandruff produces enzymes which break down oils produced by our sweat glands. This creates an acid which penetrates the top layer of our skin and triggers cells to be created faster than usual, resulting in dandruff.
While the myths are still out there that claim dandruff is caused by poor hygiene and a lack of washing your hair, it could be that you are washing it too much.
Not shampooing enough will only make your dandruff worse — it causes more oil and dead skin cells to accumulate on your scalp, which the yeast and fungi just continue to feed on. – Stuart H. Kaplan, M.D.
Do you brush your hair enough?
If you aren’t combing your hair regularly, you may be setting yourself up for dandruff. When you brush your hair, you’re helping your scalp shed all the dead skin. This is good! It’s when you make your scalp pull double duty that it can slough off in embarrassing flakes.
Are you sensitive?
No matter how good that shampoo and conditioner smells, your skin may hate it. While shampooing too often can lead to dandruff, shampooing with the wrong products can also lead to extreme irritation and ultimately, dandruff.
Do you have yeast sensitivity?
People who are sensitive to yeast are at a higher risk of experiencing dandruff. Taking a probiotic can help. More on this in the next section!
What You Need To Do If You Have Dandruff?
So what now? Brush your hair more, shampoo only as needed and rule out skin conditions? It may seem like a lot to figure out. Unfortunately, you probably won’t be able to ever get rid of dandruff completely, but it can certainly be controlled. Shower regularly and comb your hair frequently. If you find dandruff on other parts of your body, you may want to use a skin brush to get rid of the dead skin effectively.
If you are using every tip and trick you can think of but you still find yourself dealing with an itchy scalp and awful flakes, it may be time to consult your doctor. They can rule out any other skin conditions and, if necessary, discuss prescription options with you.
But if you’re like me and you love a good DIY, here are some home remedies that may be helpful in handling those flakes :
- Apple Cider Vinegar. The acidity of the vinegar can sooth dry skin and even get rid of the dandruff-causing fungus. Simply mix together equal parts ACV and water and slather it on your head. Leave it for about 30 minutes before washing off.
- Baking Soda. Baking soda acts like a scrub and can exfoliate your scalp. This is a simple DIY, as you simply need to add a little baking soda to your shampoo and wash your hair as usual.
- Aloe Vera. I keep this plant in my backyard; it’s good for all kinds of things! Open up the plant and squeeze the gel onto your scalp. Massage it into your hair and scalp and then wash with an anti-dandruff shampoo.
- Coconut Oil. Of course this magical oil was going to be on my list! Put about five tablespoons of coconut oil in a container. Take a little at a time into your palms and rub until it’s clear and melted. Apply to your scalp and massage your head. Let it stay on for an hour and then wash it out with regular shampoo. If you want to reap the benefits even more, choose a shampoo with coconut oil in it!
How to prevent having Dandruff long-term.
- Watch what you eat. Go ahead and avoid all that gross, saturated fat. And forget about trans fats while you’re at it. Diets rich in these fats cause glands in your body to produce more oil which makes dandruff worse.
- Take your vitamins. Try to get plenty of fruits and veggies, especially those containing zinc and B vitamins, to keep the flakes at bay. Synthetic forms of vitamin D have been shown to slow down the growth of skin cells, while Vitamin A can help normalize the abnormal DNA happening in the body .
- Find your perfect probiotic. I’m a big believer in probiotics, because they seem to be good for just about everything your body does. Look for a supplement that claims to aid with candida overgrowth. This is a yeast your body can over-produce over time, and yeast can make dandruff worse.
- Try a dandruff shampoo. Look for a product that contains ketoconazole, selenium sulfide or zinc. When applying it, lather up two times and let it sit for about five minutes. The goal is to get the product to really penetrate those hair follicles and skin cells. And if you hate the smell or find it too medicinal, rinse with a little lemon juice to remove the scent.
- Consult a dermatologist. If your dandruff is caused by a skin condition, a dermatologist may recommend anti-inflammatory drugs.
Do you have your own methods of dealing with dandruff? Make sure to share them!
Featured photo credit: Michael Fertig via stocksnap.io