Dandruff is not serious or contagious but if you’ve ever had the experience of finding those little white flakes on your clothes, you know that it can be quite embarrassing. Fortunately, it is very easy to treat and new, safer treatments are currently being researched and developed as well.
The condition is marked by the presence of small, oily white flakes on the hair and the shoulders as well as itchiness and scaling of the scalp. The flakes are dead skin cells that are being shed from the scalp at an abnormally high rate. This can happen at any age and there is a particular form of dandruff, called cradle cap, which occurs in infants.
What causes dandruff to form?
Dandruff is seasonal. It is most severe during the winter and mildest during the summer months.
The most common symptom of dandruff is scaling; itching is occasionally present. Dandruff scales usually occur as small, round, white-to-gray patches on the top of the head; however, scaling can occur anywhere on the scalp.
The following factors may make the flaking of dandruff worse: excessive use of hairsprays and gels, improper use of hair-coloring products or excessive use of electric hair curlers, cold weather and dry indoor heating, tight fitting hats and scarves, infrequent shampooing of the hair or inadequate rinsing, stress, anxiety and tension.
Individuals with very dry skin are most susceptible to dandruff during the winter months and those with very oily skin can develop a related form of the condition known as Seborrheic Dermatitis.
Various physical conditions can also contribute to the occurrence of dandruff. These include eczema, psoriasis, neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease or a suppressed immune system.
Dandruff Treatment Options and Protocols
Since dandruff is a natural process, it can not be eliminated; it can only be controlled.
Mild dandruff may be controlled by regularly shampooing the scalp with a mild, non-medicated shampoo. If frequent shampooing alone does not control the dandruff, a medicated dandruff shampoo can be used.
The most direct way to control dandruff is to use a shampoo that contains a cytostatic agent, such as selenium sulfide or zinc pyrithione. Cytostatic agents reduce the rate of growth and multiplication of horny cells (top layer of skin on the scalp), which caused a noticeable decrease in visible dandruff within several weeks. Shampoos containing selenium sulfide should not be used if there is a cut or abrasion on the scalp.
Tar shampoos such as Tarsum will help to control dandruff.
When scaling of the scalp is accompanied by redness and greasy scaling on the face, eyebrows and eyelashes, a person may have something other than dandruff. You should contact your doctor if the redness is present, or if scaling occurs on parts of the body other than the scalp.
For those who are concerned about the chemicals used in OTC anti-dandruff shampoos, there are new products coming on the market now that are entirely organic and environmentally safe. One such product is a green tea based shampoo that was introduced after researchers in Georgia conducted studies to determine an effective alternative to standard shampoos.