A flaky or itchy scalp can be a sign of dandruff, an unpleasant skin condition which affects at least one in two people at some point in their life.
The condition is characterized by white or grey flakes of skin shedding from the scalp and that can often be seen on the affected individuals hair, hairbrush and clothes.
The exact cause is unknown, but various factors increase the risk. It is not related to poor hygiene, but it may be more visible if a person does not wash or brush their hair often.
Facts on dandruff :
- Dandruff is a common condition, but it can be embarrassing and difficult to treat.
- Dandruff is caused by a normal, healthy fungus that lives on everyone’s scalp (Eew! Seriously? Ya!) Sometimes, that fungus gets out of control and needs treatment
- Risk factors include having certain skin or medical conditions and the use of inappropriate hair products.
- It is not related to hygiene, but washing and brushing the hair can help remove old skin flakes.
- Various treatments are available over the counter, but more severe cases should be seen by a doctor.
Dandruff is only found in the scalp, Right? Wrong ! the scalp is not the only place where flakes show up. You’d be surprised to know that some of them can be found on your eyebrows, forehead or even at the sides of your nose
What causes dandruff?
1. Irritated and oily skin :
This can be caused by conditions such as seborrheic dermatitis. Seborrheic dermatisis is marked by red and greasy skin that is covered in flaky white or yellow scales.
The condition can affect your scalp and other areas of the body which are rich in oil glands, such as the creases around your nostrils, the backs of your ears, the groin and armpits.
2. Dry skin :
If you suffer from dry skin or have a medical condition such as eczema, it is likely that your scalp will also become dry, flaky and probably also very itchy. Flakes due to dry skin usually appear smaller and less oily.
Dry skin can be exacerbated in colder climates and during winter due to dry weather conditions.
3. Shampooing and skin care products :
Certain hair care products can trigger a red, itchy, scaling scalp. Frequent shampooing may cause dandruff, as it can irritate the scalp.
Some people say not shampooing enough can cause a buildup of oil and dead skin cells, leading to dandruff, but evidence is lacking that this is true.
4. Brushing your hair irregularly :
Can also increase your chances of having dandruff, as a build-up of dead skin occurs on the scalp.
5. Air pollution
Can also contribute to dandruff as chemicals which are circulating in the air can affect the skin and cause irritation or allergic reactions on the skin and scalp which can cause dandruff.
Can worsen any skin condition and impair your immune system. Although the microbe malassezia is already present on everyone’s scalp, it can thrive once the immune system becomes compromised or impaired leading to the development of dandruff.
Stress can cause an itch-scratch cycle where the more you scratch the itchier your scalp becomes.
Therefore it is important to incorporate some relaxation methods into your daily routine to reduce stress levels and improve scalp health.
Not consuming enough foods that contain zinc, B vitamins, and some types of fats may increase the risk.
Dandruff is more likely from adolescence through middle age, although it can be lifelong. It affects men more than women, possibly for reasons related to hormones.
Shampoos and scalp products are available over the counter at most stores and pharmacies. These can control seborrheic dermatitis, but they cannot cure it.
Before using an anti-fungal shampoo, individuals should carefully try to remove any scaly or crusty patches on the scalp, as far as possible, This will make the shampoo more effective.
Dandruff shampoo is available to purchase online. Products are also available to treat dandruff in the beard.
Ingredients to look out for
Most anti-dandruff or anti-fungal shampoos contain at least one of the following active ingredients:
- Ketoconazole: An effective anti-fungal. Shampoos containing this ingredient can be used at any age.
- Salicylic acids: These help the scalp get rid of skin cells. They do not slow down the reproduction of skin cells. Many “scalp scrubs” contain salicylic acids. Treatment can sometimes leave the scalp dry and make skin flaking worse.
- Selenium sulfide: This reduces the production of natural oils by glands in the scalp. It is effective at treating dandruff.
- Tea-tree oil: Derived from the Australian Tea Tree (Melaleuca alternifolia), many shampoos now include this ingredient. It has long been used as an anti-fungal, an antibiotic, and an antiseptic. Some people are allergic to it.
- Zinc pyrithione: This slows down the growth of yeast.
- Coal tar: This has a natural anti-fungal agent. Dyed or treated hair may become stained by long-term usage. Tar soaps may also make the scalp more sensitive to sunlight, so users should wear a hat when outside. Coal tar can also be carcinogenic in high doses.
The best strategy is to select a shampoo containing one of these ingredients and shampoo the hair every day until the dandruff is under control.
After this, they can be used less frequently.
Some shampoos should be left on the scalp for around 5 minutes, because rinsing too quickly will not give it time to work. Users should follow the instructions on the container.