Dandruff can be a really annoying problem and it’s a lot more common than you think. It causes white or grey flakes of skin to appear on the scalp and they’re often more noticeable in darker hair. Dandruff can appear in both greasy and drier hair conditions and sometimes your scalp can feel uncomfortable and itchy.
What causes dandruff?
It’s caused by a number of skin conditions and has nothing to do with poor hygiene!
Seborrheic dermatitis is the most common form (particularly if you have oily roots) and is caused by an overgrowth of a harmless yeast called Malassezia. This yeast lives naturally on our skin and produces oleic acid and sometimes our skin reacts to this acid causing a red, itchy and flaky scalp.
If your dandruff suddenly flares up and your scalp is red and irritated with dusty flakes (rather than sticky) you may have contact dermatitis. This is a reaction to an allergen or irritant in a hair product. Common irritants include hair dye, soap, fragrance and preservatives. Ingredients to avoid include formaldehyde (used as a preservative) and Sodium Lauryl sulphate (SLS) (a foaming agent) which is commonly found in shampoo.
A less common cause is psoriasis which affects about 2% of our population. This is due to an over-production of skin cells which causes a build-up on the surface of the skin which appear as flaky, crusty red patches covered with silvery scales. It’s thought psoriasis is linked to problems with our immune system and can often be genetic.
Atopic or seborrheic eczema on the scalp can also cause dandruff and this also appears as red, scaly, dry patches. Eczema commonly occurs in people who have allergies and can be made worse by certain triggers such as soaps, stress and the weather.
Things to avoid
Stress, tiredness, heat and pollution can cause flare-ups. Working out and exercise also creates an environment on our scalp which encourages malassezia yeast to thrive. Dry shampoo can also result in a yeast build-up leading to oleic acid overload. Wearing hats in the winter months causes scalp humidity and then we come indoors to central heating and our scalp becomes dry! All these factors play havoc with dandruff it’s no wonder we have more flare-ups in the cold weather.
Choose the right shampoo
Look for products with ingredients to deal with the flakes (zinc pyrithione, piroctone olamine and Salicylic acid) and emollient ingredients to soothe and nourish the scalp (shea butter, aloe vera and vitamin E). It's important to continue using the right shampoo, even when your dandruff improves.
Exfoliate dead skin build up with sea salt scrub
There are a number of scrubs on the market but massaging your scalp with Epsom salts is an inexpensive alternative. Try the following DIY treatment:
Essential oil massage
Essential oils can work wonders in treating dandruff and will also stimulate hair growth, strengthen hair and improve condition. Vitamin E rich Jojoba oil is chemically similar to that of our skin's own oil (sebum) and will balance and nourish our scalp. Lavender is soothing and healing, peppermint cleanses and removes build up on the scalp and rosemary regulates oil production and encourages hair growth. Try the following DIY treatment:
Healthy hair starts from the skin it grows from. Looking after your scalp will clear-up dandruff and help your hair grow strong and healthy.