You practice good hygiene and shampoo your hair regularly but you just can’t seem to get rid of those loose, dry flakes that your head constantly sheds and sprinkles on your shoulders. Dandruff can be embarrassing; you try not to brush off the white flakes on your clothes too frequently because you don’t want to call attention to them but at the same time, you can’t ju…st leave them there, either. And then the itchiness can be a real nuisance.
Dandruff is a condition characterized by loose, dry, white scales of dead skin on the scalp. Dandruff is produced when skin cells grow and die off too fast. While it is a common condition, there’s very little that doctors know about dandruff, particularly what causes the skin cells to regenerate and then die at a faster rate than is normal.
Some doctors theorize that the immune system of people who suffer from dandruff may overreact to the malassezia fungus, which is normally found on the scalp. Malassezia is a fat-eating fungus that typically does not cause any health problems.
There are a few health conditions associated with dandruff. A more common cause of dandruff is a mild form of seborrhea or seborrheic dermatitis, a skin condition characterized by the excessive production of sebum by the sebaceous glands. Seborrhea also causes skin redness as well as flaky skin on the face, the ears, and scalp. Some people who have seborrhea also suffer from dandruff.
There are also factors that contribute to the worsening of dandruff, such as stress and cold weather, more specifically cold and dry winters.
Mild cases of dandruff may need nothing more than shampooing more frequently. Daily cleansing with a dandruff shampoo to decrease oil and cell buildup can keep moderate dandruff in check.
Not all dandruff shampoos are alike, so you may need to experiment with them to find the one that works best for you. Here are some examples of some effective over-the-counter shampoos you can try.
- Coal-tar preparations (Neutrogena T/Gel)
- Pyrithione zinc (Suave Anti-Dandruff, Pert Plus Anti-Dandruff, Head & Shoulders)
- Salicylic acid and sulfur (Neutrogena T/Sal, Sebulex)
- Selenium sulfide (Selsun Blue)
- Ketoconazole (Nizoral A-D) available as a 1% over-the-counter shampoo and a 2% prescription-strength shampoo.
You may need to alternate between types of shampoos if one type initially controls the dandruff but later loses its effectiveness. If you find that you are still scratching and shedding after trying over-the-counter preparations, see your doctor. You may be using the wrong shampoo for your condition. For really stubborn dandruff cases you may need to use a prescription shampoo.
How often you use dandruff shampoo depends on the brand but can vary from daily to a couple of times a week. When shampooing your hair, rub the shampoo into your scalp well and leave the lather on for 5 to 10 minutes. Once your dandruff is under control, you may be able to use the dandruff shampoo less frequently if you wish. Be sure to rinse thoroughly; shampoo and soap residue can actually aggravate skin problems. Brush your hair from your scalp outward with steady, firm strokes. This will carry oil from your scalp, where it can cause dandruff, along the hair strands, which need the oil to stay shiny and healthy.