Dandruff – What It Is, Causes & Treatment

Dandruffs – what it is

The flakes of dry scalp, though an eyesore, are a sign of the skin exfoliating- a normal function. This exfoliation is a feature of the lifecycle of skin cells, and the white flakes are fragments of the uppermost layer of skin- the superficial stratum corneum, which have been shed as part of the process.
Some amount of flaking is expected, but excessive flaking is not.

There are several causes for this condition.

Causes of Dandruff

Skin renewal is a continuous process. To stay healthy, new cells are produced, and old ones are shed. However, when this renewal cycle speeds up, the patches of dead skin cells get dislodged into the hair- making for an unpleasant situation. There could be several reasons for this excessive flaking or dandruff. And, correspondingly, several courses of treatment.
A common misconception is that dandruff is caused by poor hygiene. Not true. Dandruff is not caused by improper hygiene, but the flakes may become less apparent after a wash since the build-up of oils and skin cells will drop off after shampooing.
Often, dandruff is caused by the overgrowth of a yeast-like fungus known as Malassezia. This fungus grows on the scalp of most people, and it thrives on skin oils, making those with oily scalps more susceptible to dandruff. In addition, Oleic acid, a metabolic by-product of this fungus, produces an increased turnover of skin cells, which in turn causes those unwanted white flakes.
Oiliness, by itself, could also cause dandruff when the oily sebum secreted by the scalp accumulates. Irregular or improper shampooing is generally the reason for this pile-up, and the sebum combines with the dead skin cells and dirt to form itchy flakes.
A dry scalp can also cause dandruff. Especially during the winter when hair tends to get washed with warm water. The heat in the water dries out the hair and scalp, making it flaky. Flakes of dandruff caused by dry skin are generally less oily and smaller in size than those caused by other triggers. And there is no redness and inflammation.
Skin conditions like seborrheic dermatitis, which is associated with an increased yeast growth on the skin, also cause dandruff. It causes the scalp and face to become greasy, red, scaly and itchy. The flakes of skin could be white or yellowish.
Another fungal infection that causes dandruff is scalp ringworm – known as tinea capitis. It is characterised by severe itching of the scalp and bald patches in the areas where the fungus lives.
Contact dermatitis is an allergic reaction and sensitivities to certain chemicals used in products. Products like hair colour, hair spray, gel or mousse often trigger the response. Excessive production of skin cells in these conditions leads to scaly skin, which, when shed, combines with dirt and sebum to cause flaky and itchy dandruff.
Skin ailments like psoriasis cause an increase in dandruff. Psoriasis gives rise to crusty patches of skin that are red, flaky and have silvery scales.
Eczema also makes the skin red, flaky and dry. In addition, it also gets itchy, causing the flaking to be more noticeable when scratched.
Hormonal changes and stress have been known to stimulate dandruff production. Neurological conditions- like Parkinson’s disease, suppression of the auto-immune system, and chronic conditions like strokes have also displayed similar reactions.

Diagnosis of Dandruff

Diagnosis of dandruff is a critical task, so you can begin treatment for the same. It is often advisable to visit a dermatologist while getting your dandruff diagnosis. Detecting the existence of dandruff is generally an easy task since the effect of this condition can be seen with less effort, owing to the presence of flakes on your person. The reason why you should visit the dermatologist to get your dandruff diagnosis is because the cause of this condition could require a skin sample for biopsy, which can only be decided by your presiding medical professional.

Dandruff Treatment (How to Get Rid Of Dandruff)

The dandruff treatment may take trial and error to arrive at the optimal solution.
Mild cases of dandruff may clear out with regular shampooing using a gentle cleanser. If ineffective, you may require a specialised shampoo for that stubborn dandruff. The choice of shampoo will depend on the cause of dandruff. You may need some expertise to determine the most suitable product since each has its distinct mode of action.
Shampoos containing zinc pyrithione are antifungal and antibacterial. They also help tackle dandruff-causing fungus and seborrheic dermatitis.
Whereas a shampoo containing selenium sulphide retards the growth of the problematic skin cells on the scalp. It slows down the death of skin cells.
Salicylic acid in shampoos help scrub off the scale but may make the scalp dry and exacerbate the flaking.
Tar-based shampoos may help deal with psoriasis and seborrheic dermatitis by slowing down the rate at which cells die and flake off.
The shampoos that contain ketoconazole target dandruff-causing fungus. Ketoconazole may work even when other shampoos have failed since it is a broad-spectrum antifungal agent.
Apart from shampoos, there are also some cortisone-based creams and lotions that reduce skin inflammation. For the fungus, anti-yeast lotions are used to deter its proliferation.
There are a whole host of home remedies that also help defend against dandruff- the application of curd, lemon, salt, garlic or apple cider vinegar. Aspirin, baking soda or mouthwash. Coconut oil, olive oil or tree-tree oil. Or aloe vera.
Cutting back on styling products, such as hair sprays, gels, mousses, has also proven to be effective. These products trigger contact dermatitis and build up on hair and scalp causing oiliness, which the fungus thrives on.
If the dandruff does not clear out with over-the-counter shampoos and home remedies or if the scalp becomes red or swollen, a visit to the dermatologist is called for. The dermatologist will thoroughly examine the scalp and, if the causes are not apparent, perform a scalp biopsy to determine the root cause of dandruff.
Don’t let the effects cascade.
Timely medical intervention is essential, especially since conditions like seborrheic dermatitis could also affect areas like the eyebrows, sides of the nose, back of the ears, the breast, groin and armpits.
Temporary hair fall is also associated with dandruff since hair follicles get damaged when the scalp is scratched due to the itching.
Further, flakes of dandruff fall on the face, blocking pores and increasing the likelihood of a breakout of pimples. The forehead, where the hair often touches the skin, is the most susceptible area.
Regardless of what causes your specific dandruff condition, there’s nothing that the right advice cannot clear. Talk to your dermatologist and be confident that you will get the weight of dandruff off your shoulders.

– By Kaya’s Expert Dermatologists

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