With at least 50% of the world’s population effected by dandruff, it’s no wonder that so many anti-dandruff products are currently available on the market.
From shampoos and conditioners to peels and scalp creams, the treatment of dandruff is a multi-million dollar industry.
While everyone is desperate to rid themselves of the white flakes commonly associated with the disorder, those with a susceptibility to hair loss may be dealing with much more urgency.
This is because dandruff can lead to hair thinning and may even cause damage to the follicles and hair roots.
So, what can a dandruff sufferer do to treat the root cause of the condition, while simultaneously protecting against hair loss?
I aim to answer this very question below.
First, I’ll explain exactly what dandruff is, including the main cause and symptoms.
Second, you’ll learn of common dandruff treatments on the market, from ketoconazole to zinc.
Finally, I’ll show you the natural way to rid your scalp of dandruff. This will help you to protect your scalp from further hair fall, as well as promote the growth of stronger, healthier strands.
What is Dandruff?
Dandruff is a scalp condition, characterized by white flakes and itching. It’s clinically known as Pityriasis Capitis, and it’s a disorder which can negatively impact the lives of sufferers.
Not to be confused with seborrheic dermatitis, which is a condition that can affect other areas of the body in addition to the scalp, dandruff is an extremely common condition which affects upwards of 50% of people worldwide.
This is a condition known to appear around the pubertal age, though it can extend to 50 years of age and beyond.
There is a similar condition which is seen in infants and known as cradle cap, though it’s temporary and typically resolves on its own.
What Causes Dandruff?
While many believe that dandruff is simply a case of dry scalp, the cause goes much deeper than that.
According to a 2014 research study, the culprit appears to be a species of fungus, known as Malassezia.
As is shown above, 84% of individuals with clinical dandruff have levels of Malessezia present in their scalps.
This is in comparison to healthy individuals, with only 30% having the fungus present in their scalps.
Malessezia is also believed to be the cause of seborrheic dermatitis, a much more serious skin condition, and has also been found to be linked to increased levels of hair fall.
What are the Symptoms of Dandruff?
For those who’re suffering from itchy scalp, it may be difficult to distinguish between general irritation and a clinical diagnosis of dandruff. Here’s a list of symptoms which, when combined, may indicate that you suffer from more than just scalp itch.
- Intense itching, requiring constant scratching
- White or yellowish scale flakes found on the scalp and shoulders
- Red patches on the scalp (in extreme cases)
- Sore and tingly scalp
- Scaly rash on scalp
Additionally, you may feel a tightness or dryness of the scalp, leading to further irritation and itching.
Conditions Similar to Dandruff
Aside from sebborheic dermatitis, which is a more severe form of dandruff, there are other scalp conditions which are similar to dandruff. These conditions, however, are not caused by the same mechanisms and, therefore, require different treatments.
One such condition is scalp psoriasis. This is a chronic and immune-related condition which is marked by silver-colored scaling on the scalp and surrounding areas.
Unlike dandruff, which is linked to an overgrowth of fungus, psoriasis is caused by a faulty mechanism which enables skin cells to be produced at an accelerated rate.
This leads to rough, thick scales that are dry, itchy, and sometimes painful.
Is Dandruff Linked to Hair Loss?
Dandruff is not a direct cause of hair loss. Instead, those who suffer from dandruff may experience hair thinning and excessive shedding due to the constant itching of the scalp.
This is because constant rubbing of the scalp can dislodge hair, especially in individuals who are already susceptible to hair fall.
Additionally, as mentioned above, those with a known Malassezia infection are more likely to experience some degree of thinning. This isn’t a direct result of the fungal infection, but instead a side effect.
Common Methods Used for Treating Dandruff
As dandruff is such a common occurrence, there are a number of treatments which have been scientifically researched over the years. Each of the treatments will vary in effectiveness, and some may also come with less-than-desirable side effects.
Zinc pyrithione is a common ingredient in shampoos, and may be a successful treatment method for those with dandruff.
Even though the results were less than those shown in the Minoxidil group, the hair growth was maintained throughout the 26-week study thanks to continued use of the zinc treatment.
While not one of the most popular treatments, mainly due to its odor and mess, there was been studies performed which show that tar-based shampoos are just as effective at treating dandruff as other methods, such as salicylic acid.
An ingredient found in popular anti-dandruff shampoos, like Head and Shoulders and Selsum Blue, there’s no doubt that selenium sulfide is an effective treatment for dandruff.
However, the ingredient has been linked to hair loss, even going as far as to damage the roots of the hair.
For individuals with androgenetic alopecia or other forms of hair loss, then, selenium sulfide is one treatment to be avoided.
Hair products, such as nizoral shampoo contain the active ingredient ketoconazole.
For more than 2,000 years, salicylic acid has been used to treat a variety of skin disorders. These include acne, scarring, and wrinkles, though it’s also been proven effective in the treatment of dandruff. Now it’s also used in shampoos.
How to Improve the Efficacy of Dandruff Treatment Methods
No matter which method you use, there are ways to ensure that you’re using it effectively in order to treat dandruff.
As dandruff is associated with high levels of fungus, it’s first important to follow the appropriate hair washing methods. To prevent the buildup of oils and the development of flakes, it’s important to wash your hair frequently.
This will depend upon the individual, though three to four times per week seems to be the general recommendation.
Additionally, you should avoid the use of products which lead to buildup and clogging of the follicles. These include hair sprays, mousses, and gels.
You can also combine the above treatment methods with natural, home-based methods. These include the supplementation of tea tree oil and coconut oil, both of which have been shown to have antimicrobial properties.
How to Treat Dandruff Naturally
I’m a huge proponent of treating dandruff and other such maladies as naturally as possible. This is because the chemicals found in many commercial shampoos can damage the hair follicles and lead to an unhealthy scalp.
So, if you’re struggling to keep your dandruff under control, here are a few things I recommend.
1) Perform a Salicylic Scalp Peel
In order to rebalance the scalp and remove any buildup of oils, DHT, and dandruff flakes, it’s first important to perform a scalp peel.
This peel utilizes salicylic acid as a main ingredient, known to rejuvenate the skin.
What You’ll Need:
- Coconut oil
- Salicylic acid
As salicylic acid can be drying, it’s first important to apply a protectant to the scalp. Coconut oil is a great candidate, as not only does it moisturize the top layer, but it also penetrates deep within.
First, apply the oil to the scalp, allowing it to sit for at least 30 minutes.
Next, apply the salicylic acid slowly. Using a pipette will allow you to better control application, and ensure that you don’t over apply.
If you have any particularly flaky areas of the scalp, be sure to pay special attention to them.
Allow the acid to sit for 10 minutes, and then wash away with warm (or cold, if you can stand it) water.
You’ll notice peeling where the salicylic acid was applied. Gently remove the peel, making sure not to rip or tear in swift movements (this can damage follicles and remove healthy hair strands). If you notice any particularly scalp or thick patches, reapply the peel in two or three days.
2) Use a DIY Dandruff-Fighting Shampoo
- Apple Cider Vinegar (1 cup)
- Water (1 cup)
- Rosemary (1 bunch)
- Jojoba Oil (1/4 cup)
- Peppermint Essential Oil (10 drops)
Begin by preparing the rosemary tea. Bring one cup of water to a boil, remove from heat, and add in the rosemary bunch. Allow to steep until the tea water has cooled to room temperature.
After straining the rosemary tea water into the container of your choice and disposing of the rosemary bunch, it’s now time to combine the rest of the ingredients.
To apply, shake the container well and apply to wet hair.
You’ll want to massage the combination into your scalp, ensuring that it’s spread evenly throughout. Then, allow to sit for up to 3 minutes.
Rinse out completely.
Rosemary is the anti-inflammatory ingredient, working to reduce scalp irritation and bring the scalp back to its naturally healthy state.
While dandruff is not a direct cause of hair loss, it can negatively impact the lives of those effected and make hair fall more likely to occur. This is due to the actions of said sufferers – namely, scratching – and can lead to the dysplasia of fragile hair.
In the treatment of dandruff, I recommend you utilize the natural treatments offered above first. These can treat the root cause of dandruff – fungus – and bring your scalp back into a healthy, fungus-free state.
Do you have any questions about dandruff and how to rid your scalp of it? Drop a comment below!