The flakes, ugh. Dandruff is consistently high on the list of common and undesirable peeves along with acne and dry skin. While it does not affect quality of life as much as some other skin conditions do, dandruff is extremely common – almost everyone has had issues with dandruff at one time or another.
We all know what dandruff is; like acne, we all hate it. Technically, everyone has dandruff; like other skin, the scalp is continually shedding old skin that lies on the surface, being replaced by new skin from underneath. With what we call dandruff, this process is accelerated, making the skin clump up more, and as a result, create larger flakes that are visible to the naked eye. Up to 40% of people over the age of 30 have dandruff, but older patients can certainly get dandruff as well.
What causes dandruff and what are the risk factors?
- Skin oil or sebum
- Malassezia yeasts that live on the scalp
- Young adults and men are more susceptible to dandruff
- Some neurological conditions may trigger or make you more susceptible to dandruff
Unfortunately, there is very little that can be done to prevent or control most of these risk factors. You could say that some people are more susceptible than others to dandruff. The good news is that dandruff treatment is both very safe and effective, and take little time for it to take effect, and there are still innovations that improve efficacy still. If dandruff is causing you frustration, follow these steps:
Step 1: How serious is dandruff?
Nobody enjoys dandruff, no matter how mild. It’s important to note that there are several conditions like seborrheic dermatitis and scalp psoriasis that can appear similar to severe dandruff but are different conditions.
- Do you know for sure that it’s dandruff?
- Pay particular attention if the onset of dandruff was sudden and severe or inflamed. Is it itchy? Most of these problems can be treated but may require more than an anti-dandruff shampoo that you can get at your local drugstore.
- If you are confident that it’s just dandruff, move to step 2.
Step 2: Start with a medicated shampoo/conditioner
Seems like the obvious solution, and it is. We recommend it because it will be the most practical and effective solution for most people with dandruff problems. The overwhelming majority of dandruff can easily be controlled with medicated shampoos that are available over the counter at the local drugstore.
- Choose a shampoo and conditioner product that is specifically for treating dandruff. The labels will make this clear.
- Most dandruff products at the drugstore should be effective for treating mild to moderate dandruff.
- Check the active ingredients for one or more of the following: Salicylic Acid, Ketoconazole, Zinc Pyrithione, Coal Tar. All are effective anti-dandruff actives.
- Massage your hair thoroughly with the shampoo/conditioner, particularly if you have long or curly hair, and leave it on for a minute or two before washing away.
- Improvement should be seen within 2 weeks typically with a gradual increase over time. If the condition worsens, it’s time to see a doctor for advice.
- Recurrence is unfortunately common. Dandruff is simply the clumping of shed skin. The good news – it can easily be controlled again with medicated treatments.
Step 3: Lifestyle
While dandruff products will keep large visible clumps at bay, keeping yourself locked in your house every time you notice a flake isn’t reasonable. If you are prone to dandruff, there are some tips to make them less visible.
- First, people with dandruff are often more self-conscious than they need to be. Do you notice other people with dandruff and does it concern you? You see your dandruff a lot more than anybody else because nobody has their face staring at flakes an inch away from you!
- Wear light-colored shirts when dandruff is severe. Dandruff is also more visible on dark clothing due to the contrast in color.
- As with many skin conditions, stress seems to play a factor in dandruff, although the mechanisms are far from clear yet. Living healthy and happy and not being overly anxious about dandruff might itself have a positive effect on controlling dandruff.