1. What is dandruff?
Dandruff is a condition in which flakes and chunks of dead skin are shed from a persons scalp. Contrary to popular belief, it is not always caused by a dry scalp, many people with oily scalps are also afflicted.
2. What causes dandruff?
There are many conditions known to cause dandruff. Here we will outline known causes and others that have not yet been substantiated. The suggested remedies are discussed in more detail in the following section.
Known causes of dandruff (Cures are discussed in section 3)
Seborrheic dermatitis is a skin condition that effects the scalp, face and upper-body. Symptoms include scaly or flaky skin that is itchy and red. It is believed to be caused by the fungus Malassezia furfur that is naturally on peoples skin. The most common treatments for this condition are ketoconazole creams and shampoos coupled with oral fish oil supplements for Omega-3 fatty acids. There is an ongoing discussion about causes and remedies for this condition here (as well as photos).
Psoriasis is a skin condition that can cause silvery, flaky patches of skin on different areas of the body. It is commonly seen on the scalp, creases of the nose, eyebrows, elbows, knees and arms. There are many treatment options available including topical ointments, baths, light therapy, injections, and prescriptions. See your doctor if you believe you may have this condition.
The simplest and most easily cured dandruff is the result of a dry scalp. Often caused by overly dry environmental conditions or the overuse of cheap hair care products, this condition can be cured by moisturizing. Massage skin moisturizer or oil into your scalp 1/2 hour before bathing and follow up with a moisturizing conditioner.
People who have oily scalps can also get dandruff. The exact cause has not yet been proven, but has been speculated to be due to the excess oil promoting the growth of yeast and fungi that can irritate the scalp. Switch to a shampoo mean for very oily hair for a few weeks to see if that clears it up. If not, see your doctor or try some of the remedies in the next section.
Head lice can cause itching and flakes that are often mistaken for dandruff. The flakes are actually nits (lice eggs) and the fecal excretions of the insects. For more information and lice symptoms, see How to get rid of lice.
Other potential causes of dandruff
Following is a list of common things that have been blamed by doctors and former-dandruff sufferers:
* The use of cheap hair care products that dry or irritate the scalp as well as chemical and mechanical over styling – especially conditioners. Go to a salon and ask for product recommendations.
# Poor nutrition and food allergies have been blamed for dandruff – especially a deficiency in Zinc or Omega 3 fatty acids, which can be supplemented by taking fish oil.
# Dry environments that lead to dryness of the scalp. Consider humidifying your living space if you have dry skin anywhere on your body.
# Stress and lack of sleep have also been blamed, but what are not they blamed for?
# Excessively high or low hair PH.
2. Methods of getting rid of dandruff
Commercial dandruff shampoos
Here I will list the active ingredients used in the most common anti-dandruff shampoos and explain what they do. Make sure you read the labels when shopping for a particular ingredient since the same brand often produces similar products with different ingredients. Always follow the instructions on the labels.
Zinc pyrithione (Head & Shoulders classic, Pert Plus dandruff control)
Zinc pyrithione, or Zinc omadine is an anti-fungal and antibacterial agent that is most commonly used to fight the dandruff caused by yeast and fungi. Once you begin using this treatment, stopping will often cause dandruff to return worse than before treatment began.
Ketoconazole (Nizoral AntiDandruff shampoo)
Ketoconazole is an anti-fungal drug used to treat dandruff caused by yeast and fungi. Dandruff usually returns after treatment is stopped.
Selenium sulfide (Selsun blue, Head & Shoulders Intensive)
Selenium sulfide is an anti-fungal agent used to treat dandruff caused by yeast and fungi. In the US, 1% solutions can be purchased over-the-counter and 2.5% solutions are available by prescription. Dandruff often returns when treatment is stopped.
Coal tar (Ionil-T, Neutrogena T / Gel Therapeutic)
Coal tar is a liquid by-product of the distillation of coal. It is used in shampoos meant to treat head lice and psoriasis. Be warned, coal tar is on the NIOSH carcinogen list as a potential cancer-causing agent.
Salicylic acid (Ionil)
Salicylic acid based shampoos are used to help the scalp shed excess skin more easily, which in turn helps to keep skin pores from getting clogged.
There are tons of home brew dandruff cures out there, every family likely knows of a different one that they will swear by to cure dandruff. Here I'll list some of the most commonly recommended concoctions.
Tea tree oil
Tea tree oil has an anti-fungal quality and can be mixed into lotions, oils and shampoos. Massage the mixture into the scalp and let it sit for 15 minutes prior to rinsing clean.
Coneflower and red clover extracts
Aveda has a product named "Scalp Remedy" that is growing in popularity. It contains both coneflower and red clover extracts, comes with a dropper and is applied directly to the scalp after you shower.
Scalp massages with moisturizing oils an hour or so before bathing are said to rejuvenate a dry scalp. Skin lotions will likely work as well.
Some people have reported success after rinsing their hair with white or apple cider vinegar prior to bathing. It may have something to do with correcting your hair's PH balance.