What is Dandruff?
Dandruff is a chronic scalp disorder, characterized by an itchy scalp and an excess of white flakes off the skin of the scalp. The skin of the scalp has many layers with skin cells starting to grow in the dermis (the bottom layer), and work their way up until they form a layer of dead cells on the skin surface.
Most of these dead cells are microscopic, and brushing our hair gets rid of most of them without us even noticing. When these flakes of cells get larger due to an overly dry scalp or fungal infection (that makes the skin cells grow much faster, causing more dead cells to mix with the hair oils to make bigger flakes) it may result in the condition dandruff.
Diagnosing dandruff will involve a visual examination of the scalp. The condition can mostly be self-diagnosed upon observation of dry and scaly scalp accompanied by itchiness.
What is known as Seborrheic dermatitis usually appears as reddish-looking skin with mild, greasy, yellow scales and plaques with indistinct margins. Psoriasis can also affect the scalp and causes silvery, scaly, well-defined plaques. A doctor or dermatologist will usually make the diagnosis for seborrhea or psoriasis based on the appearance of the skin.
What Causes Dandruff?
There are many factors and conditions that can cause flaky, itchy skin, such as:
Hormonal fluctuations; stress; neurological disorders, (such as Parkinson's disease); a weakened immune system; those recovering from a stroke or heart attack, infrequent shampooing and extra sensitivity to the fungus that may contribute to the development of dandruff may make an individual more susceptible to the condition.
Other influencing factors include age (Dandruff usually begins in young adulthood and continues through middle age) and gender (more men than women have dandruff, men also have larger sebaceous glands that produce an oil called sebum).
While Dandruff is a chronic condition, it can almost always be controlled. Over the counter dandruff shampoos may succeed in the short term and prescription shampoos containing Zinc pyrithione, Tar-based shampoos, salicylic acid, Selenium sulfide and Ketoconazole may have side effects or worsen the condition – over drying the skin and causing irritation. Steroid lotions may also be prescribed, but may be too harsh for sensitive scalps.
Help for Dandruff
Many herbal and homeopathic remedies have been formulated with specific ingredients to help soothe and naturally hydrate the scalp. Natrium Muriaticum is a biochemic tissue salt that has an excellent reputation for effectively treating rashes and all itching skin conditions, including scalp disorders. Kali. Sulph. also promotes healing, reduces inflammation and removes infected or dead cells.
This tissue salt is well-known for its ability to treat stubborn skin conditions such as dandruff, and fungal infections of the skin. Trifolium pratense is a well-known cleansing herb for skin disorders and has the ability to improve lymph functioning and reduce lymphatic swellings - helping to purify and detoxify the system.
More Information on Dandruff
Tip to help treat dandruff
One natural therapy that seems to be effective is daily shampooing with a tea tree oil infused shampoo. Tea tree oil has been used for centuries as an antiseptic, antibiotic and antifungal agent. It's now included in a number of shampoos found in natural foods stores.
Please note – tea tree oil is generally well tolerated but may cause allergic reactions in some people. ‘Raw' tea tree oil can hurt broken skin, or irritate healthy skin, so test it on a different part of your skin before you try it on your head or use a shampoo that contains tee tree oil instead.
Tips to reduce your risk of dandruff:
- Learn to manage stress. Stress affects your overall health, making you susceptible to a number of conditions and diseases, sometimes helping to trigger dandruff or worsen certain symptoms.
- Cut back on styling products like hair sprays, styling gels, mousses and hair waxes as these can all add build up to the hair shaft and scalp - making them oilier than usual. (Hair products also tend to ‘hold on’ to the tiny flakes making bigger lumps!)
- Eat a healthy diet that provides enough zinc, B vitamins and essential fatty acids – which may help prevent dandruff. Plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, egg yolks, fish, meat, soybeans, sunflower seeds and whole grains are also recommended.
- Get a little sun. Exposure to ultraviolet light damages your skin and increases your risk of skin cancer, so don't sunbathe - rather spend a short time outdoors (be sure to wear sunscreen on your face and body).
- Gently does it. If you have oily hair, using a gentle shampoo every day to get rid of the extra oil, or try using baby talc powder overnight to soak excess oil secretions. Always brush your hear gently, and use tepid water instead of water that is too hot.