Hair dandruff can look like a simple dry skin ailment; in reality, its root cause—and even root symptoms—creates debate amongst doctors and specialists. Experimenting with different over-the-counter and at-home remedies can isolate the cause of patient-specific dandruff and facilitate a solution. While dandruff in and of itself may not be curable, dandruff patients can subdue the worst symptoms and gain back self-confidence.
No single cause for dandruff exists; additionally, no one dandruff location exists. Research records facial dandruff and facial-hair dandruff, as well as scalp dandruff. Facial dandruff and facial-hair dandruff do not require as many treatments.
Rather than assume one cause or one condition, survey the following list of causes that promote dandruff and otherwise unhealthy skin cell loss. A patient may be tempted to reach for the first medicinal shampoo they can find, but studies show that natural, more cost-effective solutions exist for the worse dandruff causes. Let’s look at some root causes for dandruff before we explore their solutions:
- Bacteria—Many doctors believe that skin bacteria and fungi can cause dandruff, as opposed to dry skin. “Bad” oils help skin cells separate and brush off the scalp, causing irritation and dry skin that promotes the original problem. Akin to acne and dry skin, many doctors believe that introducing better, different oils best treats oil problems.
Studies show that patients prone to yeast infections, in both men and women, also tend to be dandruff prone. This study supports the theory that dandruff is caused by bacteria.
A second theory revolves around the natural scalp fungus Malassezia. Malassezia grows naturally in all people. Some patients can still inherit genetically over-active fungi, which can produce more skin cells than normal and cause them to slough off the scalp.
- Weather-specific dry skin—Doctors remain divided on dry skin as a potential cause for dandruff, but studies show that cold weather—and over-heated indoor areas—can create dry skin and skin peeling on the scalp. Artificially heated air can cause dry skin, flaky skin, and skin peeling on the scalp and surfaces of thin skin, like hands, elbows, or feet. If dry skin does not cause dandruff by itself, these weather conditions certainly still don’t help pre-existing dandruff issues.
- Hair brushing—Patients that don’t frequently brush their hair tend to accumulate scalp skin cell buildup. If not hair brushing, daily hair washing with the right products, or finding another way to massage the scalp, can alleviate skin cell buildup, which aggravates dandruff by producing bad oils and bacteria against the skin.
- Hair products—Harsh chemical hair products—especially among the allergy-prone—can facilitate dandruff, or dandruff symptoms. Using the wrong shampoos, or too harsh shampoos, can also lead to itchy, red, burning scalps.
Some harsh chemical products also include hair dyes, sprays, and other products that contain dye components like paraphenylenediamine. Dye-allergic patients can experience an irritated burning scalp, as well as dandruff.
- Illness—Dandruff accompanies some symptoms of other skin illness like psoriasis and eczema. Immune system deficiencies, or vitamin and mineral-weakening diseases, can also cause dandruff as a side effect.
- Diet—Mineral or vitamin deficiencies, like a lack of vitamins B or D, or a lack of zinc or iron, can cause skin cells to shed more quickly. Alternatively, those deficiencies can lead to greater oil production on the scalp.
Just as the causes differed between studies and specialists, treatments often fall on either side of doctoral debates. Ultimately, doctors agree that dandruff is, as of yet, incurable. Patients can experiment and find the treatment best suited for their case.
- Wash often with infused shampoo—Many believe that patients cause dandruff by over-scrubbing their scalp and irritating the skin. By contrast, many doctors and studies believe that washing less often increases oil production and skin cell buildup. Specialists recommend choosing a dandruff shampoo and washing the scalp gently once daily.
If patients must use hair products, opting for natural skin products will soothe skin irritation, allow “good” oil production and otherwise clarify the scalp.
Look for alternative shampoos that contain one or more of the following ingredients:
- Zinc: combats yeast growth
- Tea tree oil: antibacterial and antifungal oil that moisturizes and clarifies skin
- Green tea: soothes irritated skin to treat common skin ailments
These ingredients and others tend to be antifungal and antibiotic, without drying the skin or stripping the skin of the scalp’s good nutrients. Make sure to follow the label instructions and allow the shampoo to saturate the scalp—at least for five to ten minutes.
- Moisturize the scalp with healthy oils—Many doctors recommend that moisturizing the scalp with healthy oils, rather than the bacterial, dirty oils the scalp produces, can subdue dandruff production.
One natural remedy includes olive oil, applied lightly to the skin and hair and left for twenty minutes before washing with shampoo and water. Other studies show that sunlight promotes vitamin D3 production, which brings healthy oils to the hair follicles.
- Treat the hair with antifungal remedies—If Malassezia seems a likely cause, calming the fungal activity itself can alleviate dandruff symptoms. Many believe that this fungus does promote over-producing skin cells.
Many natural ingredients also serve as antifungal topical remedies. These ingredients include:
- Coconut oil
- White vinegar
- Apple cider vinegar
Rinse out either concoction in as few as twenty minutes, or as long as forty minutes. These treatments should pair with the above shampoos and conditioners.
Dandruff will unfortunately likely recur for the rest of a patient’s life, but it is a manageable problem if proactively treated. Consult a doctor for mild to moderate dandruff symptoms, or dandruff that accompanies dry, flaky, or crusty patches against the scalp. These can be signs of fungal infections or other serious medical problems. Additionally, discontinue any remedy that further irritates the scalp. Dandruff can often signify greater diseases or disorders—see a specialist if dandruff continues without change, despite at-home treatment. Have you ever had dandruff and, if so, what treatments worked best for you?