Ultimate Guide To Dandruff: Cause And Effects

Ultimate Guide To Dandruff: Cause And Effects

At some point in your life, you probably struggled with dandruff – a.k.a. those pesky white flakes that keep showing up at the roots of your hair. And unlike greasy hair, those flakes cannot be washed away.

As a result, each time you wash your hair, you have a nice, grease-free, seemingly clean hair – that’s flaking all over your clothes. It may not seem such a big deal, but this condition is embarrassing and can greatly affect one’s self-confidence.

Dandruff close-up.

If you’re reading this, you are probably having a problem with dandruff as well. To make things easier for you, we’re going to tell you everything you need to know in this guide to dandruff – we’ll also tell you how you need to treat it.

What Is Dandruff?

We’ve known it for a while. We’ve seen it embarrass us, and we’ve tried several times to “brush it off,” only to realize that we just made the condition worse. This is a common condition, and one out of three people definitely have it.

Still, why do we have it? Does it manifest the same for everyone? Let’s put dandruff under a microscope.

Symptoms

For most people, no matter if they are teenagers or adults, dandruff is fairly easy to spot: tiny, white, and oily-looking dead skin flakes that hang at the root of your hair – and sometimes travel on your hair and clothes as well.

Sometimes, dandruff is accompanied by itchy skin, with the condition worsening once you start scratching. This is why it is not recommended to run your hands through your hair very often when you’re faced with this problem.

There’s a type of dandruff that can also appear in babies – only, in this case, the scalp will look scaly and crusty. It generally appears during the newborn stage, but in some cases, it appears in a later stage of infancy.

Generally, you do not have to see a doctor if you are dealing with dandruff. However, if you see that dandruff shampoo doesn’t do you any good or if the itching is unbearable, you might want to consult a dermatologist.

These symptoms may be a sign of seborrheic dermatitis – a condition that looks like dandruff but isn’t exactly that.

Causes

There are several causes for dandruff – some more surprising than others. Discovering the cause is what’s going to help you find a treatment for your problem. Here are the main causes for dandruff:

Dandruff on a man's suit.

Oily, Irritated Skin

Also known as seborrheic dermatitis, this condition is one of the main causes of dandruff. The giveaway is red, greasy-looking skin covered by white or yellow-looking scales.

Seborrheic dermatitis can affect not only the scalp, but also other areas that are packed with oil glands – for example, your eyebrows, your nose sides, your groin area, and even your armpits.

Malassezia

Malassezia is a yeast-like fungus that lives on the scalp of most adults – the only difference being that in some people, it just lies dormant.

However, in some cases, this fungus can irritate the scalp – and therefore cause more skin cells to grow. In these circumstances, the dead and discarded skin cells have nowhere to go – and they turn into dandruff.

Not Shampooing Enough

If you do not shampoo your hair often enough, the oils and dead skin cells will have no way of being cleared from your scalp – so they’ll just bundle up. The more you leave your hair unattended to, the more likely your dandruff will spread.

Scrubbing

When you are shampooing your hair, you need to gently massage the shampoo into your hair – not scrub the living daylight out of it. We know, scrubbing gives the impression of a thorough cleaning – but this does not apply to hair.

Some people go as far as using their nails to scrub in the shampoo. However, this will just irritate the scalp – leading to a whole pile of dandruff.

Dry Skin

If your dandruff is small and not really that oily, the chances are that the cause is dry skin. When you are not hydrating enough, the skin tends to flake – usually without it being accompanied by redness of the skin.

Dry skin on a baby's head.

The chances are that if you have dry skin on your scalp, you also have dry skin on other body parts – such as the face, arms, and so on.

Contact Dermatitis

Contact dermatitis is generally known as sensitivity to hair products. It is not clear why, but sometimes, the scalp does not accept certain ingredients from a shampoo, hair wax, or a hair dye, for example.

In these cases, the dandruff is more or less an allergic reaction. This kind of dandruff is usually accompanied by a red, scaly, itchy scalp.

Stress

Yes, stress can actually cause dandruff – just like it can worsen any other skin conditions. When you’re stressed, your body’s health is thrown into turmoil – and the stress is literally showing on your scalp.

We’re not exactly sure how these two are linked. However, if you see that dandruff appeared after a few weeks of continuous stress, then you might want to take a break.

Dandruff And Seborrheic Dermatitis

There are many skin conditions that resemble one another – without them actually being the same. Granted, most of them do have a certain connection, but they manifest differently.

In this section of our guide to dandruff, we’ll talk about the connection between dandruff and dermatitis, as well as the factors that place them in different categories.

Dandruff

Dandruff is a fairly common scalp condition that affects almost 50% of the people on this planet. It can be caused by many factors, such as sex, age, or even lifestyle. Most people have dandruff during puberty, but it’s not uncommon to see it later in life.

Dandruff can be caused by several factors such as excess sebum, age, and hygiene. It’s more common in men than it is in women, mostly because men’s sebaceous glands are bigger once they hit puberty.

Dandruff.

A sign of dandruff is excess flaking on your scalp. The consistency of those flakes would be oily, and the patient suffering from dandruff may also have an itchy scalp – especially a few days after washing their hair.

Dandruff can be treated in several ways – the standard is a dandruff shampoo. This shampoo will have active ingredients that will work to take off dandruff, dry the excess sebum and heal the flaking scalp.

There are several ingredients to pick from, such as zinc pyrithione. This is generally the most common active agent, while ketoconazole is a last resort that is of medical origins.

Seborrheic Dermatitis

Seborrheic Dermatitis (SD) is a chronic condition that is present in about 3% to 5% of the population in the US – and is as high as 85% in those suffering from AIDS.

This condition becomes more likely to appear after puberty, although an infant version can also appear under the name of “cradle cap.”

Generally, the condition appears in people with a distress to their central nervous systems such as Parkinson’s disease, head injuries, or those who are prone to strokes. SD is also likely to appear in obese people or those who are subjected to stress.

Seborrheic dermatitis is often mistaken with dandruff; however, unlike the white scales of dandruff, SD presents itself as oily and yellowish – which the dead skin adhering to the healthy skin.

It is also common to see red splotches and irritated skin – lesions that will spread even farther than the scalp. The SD distribution is fairly symmetrical, so it can appear all the way to beneath the breasts.

Treatment

So, thanks to this guide to dandruff, now we know what dandruff is and how it’s different from other serious conditions such as seborrheic dermatitis. Still, if we already have this condition, how do we treat it?

If you’re already “plagued,” here’s how to get rid of dandruff and an itchy scalp.

Natural Remedies

A way to control dandruff from home would be to handle the skin cell reproduction before it gets too big to handle. This may change depending on the age of the patient, along with the severity of the case.

Since one of the main causing factors for dandruff is stress, you may want to try some stress management. Some people found relief in yoga exercises, as well as meditation.

Woman washing her hair.

The way you take care of your hair also helps. Be careful not to scrub your scalp as you are washing, since it may do more harm than good. Similarly, you should wash your hair often if you have oily hair, so as to prevent dead skin buildup.

Sunlight has also been said to help reduce dandruff, and baking soda can have a similar effect. Bear in mind that both baking soda and sunlight are known to slightly discolor your hair.

Tea tree oil is also considered one of the best dandruff home remedies. It is an ingredient that you are likely to find in hair care products as well.

Shampoos

Before you start using a shampoo – particularly an anti-fungal one – you may want to remove as much of the scales on the scalp as possible. This way, the shampoo will be much more effective.

Here are the ingredients that you should look out for:

  • Ketoconazole: A strong antifungal that may be used for any age.
  • Coal tar: Antifungal, but may make the scalp sensitive to sunlight.
  • Zinc pyrithione: It slows the rate at which the yeast grows.
  • Selenium sulfide: It reduces excess production of natural oil – therefore, making it less likely for dandruff to appear.
  • Salicylic acid: Commonly known as aspirin, this removes the dead skin cells from the scalp.

The best way to control your dandruff would be to find a shampoo or some remedies with one of these ingredients and use it until dandruff goes away. You may want to try the ones presented in this guide to dandruff.

New Studies

Since dandruff is a very common problem, studies are continuously done to find ways to treat this condition. Tea tree oil is one of the latest “bio” ingredients that were added to shampoos in order to prevent its reappearance.

Colloidal silver is also said to be effective if you rub it into your head every day – although studies are still conducted on the effects.

Green tea has also proven to be fairly efficient against dandruff and other similar conditions. It helps by fighting excess cell growth, as well as inflammation and oxidative stress.

Last but not least, some scientists discovered that if you add llama antibodies in your shampoo, you may also fight off dandruff. This is still researched upon, and it may take some time until the answer is conclusive.

The Baby Dandruff

We have already specified that dandruff usually starts around puberty – but infants can also get a type of dandruff named “cradle cap.” This condition resembles seborrheic dermatitis, with the scales being yellowish and oily.

Baby with a towel on their head.

However, unlike SD, the cradle cap only lasts for a few weeks before going away on its own. The best way to get rid of it is to gently shampoo your baby’s scalp – an action that may prevent further buildup.

However, if the skin is cracking or if you see signs of infection, bleeding, itching, or swelling, then you might want to see medical attention. In this case, the condition would have progressed from less dandruff to more seborrheic dermatitis.

Final Thoughts 

Dandruff can be an embarrassing condition – especially if you have it as a teenager. It may cause self-esteem issues, and it can sometimes be a sign of more pressing issues – such as stress or inflammation in the body.

Hopefully, this guide to dandruff managed to shed some light on this problem. With a little bit of patience – as well as the right products – this problem can go away in a very short time.

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