What is dandruff?
Dandruff is a mild form of seborrheic dermatitis, which, in turn, is an inflammatory condition that usually occurs in areas of the body that have many oil-producing glands, such as the scalp. One common misconception about dandruff is that it occurs only on the head, but dandruff can occur on your eyebrows, chest hair, armpits, or even in your groin area.
Dandruff can be accompanied by other symptoms such as a red, greasy patch on the skin, tingling sensation, skin tightness, irritation, and dryness. Sometimes, dandruff can also cause the scalp to become inflamed or swollen. When this occurs, it is highly recommended that you consult a dermatologist.
What causes dandruff?
Here are some of the main causes of dandruff –
- Overgrowth of a yeast-like fungus called Malassezia is considered to be the main cause of dandruff. This fungus is naturally present on the scalp of most adults. However, in some people, it can overproliferate and result in dandruff.
- Dry skin during winter months can also cause dandruff. When the scalp is dry, it becomes itchy and flaky, causing dandruff.
- Certain ingredients in hair care products, like shampoos, conditioners, or hair styling products, can be sensitive to people. This sensitivity can cause scalp irritation and flaking.
- Stress and certain dietary factors may not directly cause dandruff, but they can exacerbate dandruff in some individuals.
How to avoid dandruff?
Here are some of the best ways to avoid this condition –
Use over-the-counter shampoos
If you find dandruff to be mild, then look out for an anti-dandruff shampoo with ingredients like ketoconazole, sulfide, tar, zinc pyrithione, selenium, and coal. All these ingredients help loosen the flakes from the scalp. They also work by fighting the overgrowth of Malassezia fungus.
For instance, the shampoo with zinc pyrithione contains antibacterial and anti-fungal properties. This helps by slowing down the production of excess skin cells. The shampoo with coal or tar slows down the time for skin cells to die and flake off.
Apply over-the-counter creams
Creams containing antifungal or corticosteroid ingredients can reduce your dandruff problems. Consider adding OTC topical hair creams into your regime. Apply them once or twice every day. The best time to apply the cream is when your hair is slightly damp, such as after taking a bath.
Moisturize with oil
Every night before you go to sleep, moisturize your hair with warm oils. This will loosen up dandruff. Take a small bowl of warm almond oil, mineral oil, coconut oil, or any other natural oil, and slowly massage the same on your scalp with your finger. Use a shower cap overnight. In the morning, you can rinse off the oil using an anti-dandruff shampoo.
You can also use tea tree oil, which is known to treat various skin conditions like psoriasis and acne. This oil is believed to have antifungal and antimicrobial properties that aid in fighting dandruff. One study suggests that tea tree oil aids in fighting malassezia, the key cause of dandruff.
Use aloe vera
Aloe vera has been the skin’s best friend for times immemorial and is often found in most skin products. It has been found to be quite effective against burns, cold sores, and psoriasis. A study shows that its antibacterial and antifungal properties can also help treat dandruff.
Reduce stress levels
While stress doesn’t directly cause dandruff, it can worsen symptoms like itching and dryness. A study suggests that the immune system of a person with high-stress levels for a long period gets suppressed. This impairs their body’s ability to fight fungal infections and other skin conditions that contribute to this condition. There are various ways to control your stress. You can try meditation, deep breathing, light exercise, listening to soothing music, exploring nature, or yoga to calm your body and mind.
Change your diet
Limiting consumption of certain foods helps relieve symptoms of inflammation and improves the overall health of the scalp. Some dietary changes can also help prevent fungal infections by directly controlling the growth of yeast and improving the gut microbe. Here are certain foods you must limit –
- Refined carbs
- Processed food
- Sugary food
- Red meat
- Fried foods
There are also a few foods that act as a trigger to flareups, like eczema, that will later contribute to dandruff. Here are a few common foods that trigger flareups:
- Gluten content products
Besides avoiding the above foods, try consuming healthy fats and nutrients. It can help prevent dandruff. Foods particularly containing healthy fats, Vitamin B, and Zinc aid in reducing the growth of fungus that causes dandruff.
Practice good hygiene habits
Do your best to resist the urge to scratch or even touch your scalp when it’s itchy. Once you scratch your scalp, it will increase the irritation and lead to a vicious cycle. It will also introduce dirt to the scalp, which can exacerbate the condition.
Brush your hair regularly
It is very important to brush your hair daily. Most of us style our hair using our hands without knowing the benefits of brushing. Brushing increases blood circulation on the scalp. Make sure to brush your hair when it’s damp and not when it’s wet. Try to brush your hair twice every day, as it indirectly helps in fighting dandruff.
Find the right balance of haircare products
Don’t use too many hair products, as they might irritate your scalp. Using the right shampoo will be enough for most people to keep their hair clean. You can also use conditioner if you have a dry scalp.
Limiting the amount of friction between the hair and daily materials can be of great help for a lot of hair conditions, including dandruff. Avoid wearing materials like scarves and hats, especially those made of synthetic materials. Also, while going to bed, use a soft, frictionless pillow or cover your hair using a soft cloth or shower cap.
Dandruff can create unnecessary stress in our daily lives. The appearance of a white, flaky substance on the head or shoulder might portray you as unclean to others. This can impact your confidence. Luckily, there are various ways to avoid and treat this condition, most of which we have discussed in this post. If none of these treatments are working, consider booking an appointment with a dermatologist who can prescribe the right treatment for you. To book an appointment with Dr. Renu, click here.