Dandruff is a common condition that causes the skin on the scalp to flake and you will notice these small, white flakes in your hair and on your scalp.
What exactly is dandruff?
Dandruff flakes are dead skin cells that fall off your scalp. When you have dandruff, your scalp may look scaly or red and feel itchy or raw. Scratching or rubbing your head loosens the flakes, making them more visible. It is a very mild form of seborrheic dermatitis which usually presents as tiny flakes on your scalp, hair, eyebrows, beard or moustache. (1)
Often the first tell-tale sign of dandruff is when you see the little white flakes on your clothes. Dandruff is especially visible on darker clothing and if you are feeling self-conscious, you can avoid wearing dark clothes. Dandruff is not contagious, meaning that you cannot pass it on to anyone else. It is not dangerous to your health, but it can cause some embarrassment and irritation.
Where does dandruff come from?
People mistakenly think that dandruff is a bad hygiene issue. Having dandruff doesn’t mean that you’re unclean in any way. Dandruff can be caused by allergic reactions, psoriasis, and eczema. (2) It can also be caused by excessive oil or a fungal infection. (3)
Common dandruff triggers
Certain things can make dandruff worse or cause a sudden flare up. These include:
- hormonal changes or illness
- harsh detergents, solvents, chemicals and soaps
- hair coloring and styling products
- cold, dry weather
Wash away your dandruff
Most times, an anti-dandruff shampoo is all you need to get rid of those pesky flakes. Medicated shampoos contain specialized ingredients which you should look out for. These ingredients are: (4)
- Salicylic acid
- Selenium sulfide
- Zinc pyrithione
Be sure to read the instructions on these shampoos and follow precisely. Some may need to be left on for a longer time to be more effective, or used for a certain number of days per week. Another line of treatment for more severe dandruff generally seen in seborrheic dermatitis is Betamethasone, for swelling (inflammation) associated with dandruff.
Natural dandruff remedies
Some natural remedies to try include (5):
- aloe vera
- tea tree oil
- coconut oil
- apple cider vinegar
All of the above can be applied to the scalp to soothe the itch and dryness associated with dandruff. Be cautious if you have overly sensitive skin. For example, consider mixing a few drops of tea tree oil with coconut oil, or making a paste out of apple cider vinegar and raw honey. Honey has natural anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal properties. (6)
If these remedies don’t work to your satisfaction or the symptoms become worse, consult your doctor or a dermatologist to find out about other treatment options for long lasting relief.