Short Attention Span Sum up:
Scroll to the bottom of this article for a helpful infographic of helpful tips!
According to commercials from the late ’60s, if you have dandruff it can ruin your social life (especially if you’re a woman, DUH). People will silently judge you behind your back, look at you like you’re some kind of “challenged” circus freak, and kids will point and yell out, “LOOK MOMMY! That lady has dandruff!”
Please watch this little gem I found recently. It’s so awesome:
I’ve got one question for ol’ Pam. Why are you keeping your shampoo in the medicine cabinet as opposed to the shower, you weirdo? Ok, enough about Pam and her insanely frothy shampoo…
If you’re someone who has tried everything and still suffers a tortured existence like poor ol’ Pam in the commercial above, read on to get your learning on. Put on your cozy pants and listen to a tale… A tale, of dandruff.
The Two Main Types of Dandruff
Regular ol’ Boring Dandruff
The majority of flaky, itchy scalp is caused by regular ol’ dandruff, affecting half of the population worldwide. That’s a lot of head skin people… It is generally categorized with the following symptoms:
- Small, white flakes of skin on the scalp.
- Flakes may be oily looking (yum!).
- Head may feel tight, sore, or itchy.
- Flakes only appear on the scalp.
Seborrheic Dermatitis (SD)
Now we’re getting to the more stubborn type! It affects fewer people, a mere 50 million, but it’s more severe and difficult to treat. It is generally categorized with the following symptoms:
- Larger patches and flakes, redness present, and covers a larger surface area.
- The symptoms are more long term.
- It can affect other oily areas of the body, such as your face, upper chest, and back.
- Believed to be caused by a yeasty little critter named Malassezia Globosa (image below).
So What do You do?
Step 1: Rule out any possible irritants
Fragrance is a horrible, irritating, harsh fiend of a product. Many people do not experience any adverse reactions, some people do without even knowing, and others experience obvious reactions. Many fragrances are made with synthetic, potentially hazardous chemicals, known to be, “…associated with hormone disruption and allergic reactions, and many substances that have not been assessed for safety in personal care products.” SWEET! To make matters worse, producers are not required to disclose their ingredients so they can protect their “recipes.”
To rule out fragrance as the cause:
- Switch out all hair products to fragrance-free versions. This includes shampoo, conditioner, leave-in conditioner, hairspray, gels, treatments, dry shampoo…EVERYTHING.
- Wash your sheets in fragrance-free detergent. Remember, your head spends a lot of time on your pillow!
- Stop wearing any perfumes, body sprays, colognes, etc. If your significant other wears any of these, kick them out.
- Just to be safe, don’t use car fresheners, scented candles, room sprays, etc.
- If you notice that your dandruff is localized around your hairline, change your face products to fragrance-free as well.
Step 2: Rule out a dry scalp
- Wash your hair 1-2x time day
- Notice more flakes during winter
- Have dry skin
- Use hair products with alcohol
…then you may just have dry scalp. If that’s the case, you might want to consider cutting back on the washing, using a humidifier in your room at night, removing hair products containing alcohol from your routine, and/or utilizing oils as a scalp treatment.
Step 3: Eat a healthy diet
In some studies, vitamin deficiencies have been linked to dandruff and SD. You should be eating a healthy diet anyway, so this just gives you another excuse! Here is a list of nutrients that may benefit you and the top 3 foods highest in each:
- Oysters, beef, chicken thighs
- Hemp seeds
- Tuna, chicken breast, pork chops
- Brown rice
- Vitamin D
- The SUN. Go outside.
- Mushrooms exposed to UV light
- Fortified milk
Step 4: Wash your hair more
If dry scalp has been ruled out, it may be that you’re producing too much oil and/or not cleansing your scalp of that delicious oil. You see, those yeasty critters previously mentioned love to convert human sebum (oil) into other products that have been linked to scalp inflammation and SD. The less oil you have on your head, the less food those jerks have to make your life miserable.
You might also be experiencing product build-up from not washing enough, which could irritate your scalp. So get to cleaning!
Step 5: Use antifungals
There are tons of dandruff shampoos out there, with most of them working to strip your hair of excess oils and skin flakes. They may be successful at fighting good ol’ dandruff, but not SD. If you’ve tried dandruff shampoos such as Head & Shoulders or Neutrogena’s T-Sal with no improvements, try an antifungal shampoo. Since SD is generally believed to be caused by Malassezia Globosa, which is classified as a fungus, you’ll want an antifungal shampoo to kill those jerkfaces dead!
There’s only one (that I know of) that you can purchase in the store and it’s Nizoral. I would suggest using it no more than twice per week, and leave it on your scalp for at least 5-10 minutes. If you don’t see any improvement in a few weeks, the fungus may not be your problem.
Tea tree oil has also shown some benefits for preventing SD, which makes sense because it is also an antifungal. You can add a couple of drops of high-quality tea tree oil to your own shampoo or purchase tea-tree oil shampoo. Other essential oils such as thyme and oregano have also been observed to have antifungal, antibacterial properties.
Lastly, there’s a bunch of “hubbub” about apple cider vinegar (ACV) as a treatment. However, I couldn’t find any studies supporting this. In addition, ACV is highly acidic and may irritate your scalp or cause damage, such as burns. Current recommendations are to dilute with water (1-2 tablespoons of ACV per 8 ounces of water) and leave on the scalp no longer than 1 minute before washing it off.
Step 6: Rule out food sensitivities
The skin is usually the first organ (yes it’s a really large organ) to show signs that something is wrong. Acne, rashes, psoriasis, eczema, dryness, etc. can sometimes be the skin’s way of saying, “Hey jerkhead, you’re putting something in here that’s messing up my mojo! STOP IT!” If you’ve tried everything above and are still suffering, you might want to rule out foods that may not agree with you. You can do this in a couple of ways:
- Remove one of the most common allergens from your diet for two weeks and see if symptoms improve. It’s important to remove them one at a time, or else you won’t be able to know which one was causing you problems. Click here the list.
- Analyze your diet! Think about what foods you eat regularly that you almost feel addicted to and can’t go without eating. Bread? Cheese? Alcohol? A lot of the times, the food we eat most frequently could be the culprit. Try removing that food for two weeks and see if your symptoms improve.
- Keep a food diary complete with symptoms. You’ll be able to track when you have flare-ups and hopefully be able to rule out the food cause.
So there ya have it folks! Hopefully, something on this list will be able to help you. If you try all of these recommendations and nothing works, consider seeking out a dermatologist and getting professional help. And remember, HALF the population suffers from dandruff so you’re definitely not alone!