Most of us have suffered from dandruff at least once in our lives. But what is this annoying problem that plagues us and leaves us scratching our heads? Dandruff is a skin condition that affects the scalp, eyebrows and nose; it is the excessive shedding of dead skin cells. These cells are normally lost through shedding but in the case of dandruff there is a higher rate of shedding.
Dandruff can be unsightly and embarrassing, although it is usually not a serious health problem. It is not caused by lack of hygiene. It is however caused by various factors.
Seborrheic dermatitis: This condition is linked with a fungus called Malessezia which is commonly found on the scalp, but becomes overactive and causes dandruff in many individuals. The skin is usually oily and reddened with yellow or white flaky scales.
Oily scalp: Some people are sensitive to naturally found common yeast called Pityrosporum orbiculare. This grows quickly by feeding on the sebum produced by the scalp. People with oily scalps are prone to such cases of dandruff.
Allergies: Some people are sensitive to certain ingredients in styling products, shampoos, conditioners, etc. One should stop any product that causes or exacerbates dandruff in that individual.
Medical conditions: People suffering from certain medical conditions are more prone to dandruff. Those who have a weakened immune system, like HIV sufferers or those who have suffered a stroke or heart attack are highly prone to dandruff.
Those suffering from certain skin disorders like psoriasis, eczema, scalp ringworm, etc, often have to cope with dandruff more frequently.
Stress: Mental stress exacerbates skin issues. Stress affects the immune system which then makes it vulnerable to attacks from dandruff-causing organisms.
Diet: Dandruff is not caused by a poor diet, but such a diet can worsen the symptoms if you already have dandruff.
Saturated and trans fats cause an increase in sebum production which worsens dandruff. Vitamin B complex which includes biotin, B-12 and B-3 is necessary for hair growth and maintenance. A lack of these vitamins in a diet can worsen dandruff.
Excess sugar causes spikes in insulin which in turn affects hormones involved in oil production. Excess sebum then exacerbates dandruff.
So how can we reduce or get rid of dandruff altogether?
Regular shampooing: Regular shampooing with a normal, non-medicated shampoo often helps control dandruff by removing excess oil, removing flakes and preventing the build up of dead skin cells. Massage the scalp well and rinse the shampoo off completely.
Medicated shampoo: If regular shampoo fails to help, using an anti-dandruff one might. These may have to be used daily, or every other day, or you may be able to switch between the anti-dandruff and regular shampoo.
These usually have active ingredients in them such as ketoconazole, selenium sulfide, zinc pyrithione, tea tree oil, salicylic acid, etc. If you have a reaction to these products, stop using them immediately. None of these products should be used on infants, as they absorb these products very easily into their system.
Brush your hair: Regular brushing of the hair can remove scales, redistribute the oil throughout the hair and stimulate scalp cells to promote healthier hair growth.
Change up your diet: Try to avoid such fats and eat more monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs). Olive oil, safflower oil, etc, are high in MUFAs. Limit sugar in your diet. Make sure to eat foods that are rich in B vitamins like oatmeal, eggs, bananas, yoghurt, tomatoes and carrots.
Managing stress: Whether it is taking a day off to yourself, meditating every day or even watching your favourite TV show, find a way to reduce stress in your life.
Get some more sun: Ultraviolet-A (UVA-A) rays from the sun have been found to reduce dandruff. Expose your hair and scalp to some early morning rays to get the best benefit.
Seek medical help: If all these methods fail to help you, seek help from a medical professional. They will be able to do a proper scalp analysis and find a remedy that is personalised to you.
Follow these tips to get healthy, flake-free hair!
(Writer can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)