Many of us will have looked down in horror at a fine sprinkling of white flakes on the shoulder of a dark top. But many forms of dandruff do not shed.
Dandruff is characterised by the formation of fine, white or grayish loose skin scales. The epidermis (outer layer of skin) constantly changes and skin cells renew themselves all the time. The cells begin to grow from the base layer deeper in the skin and are gradually pushed to the surface, before coming away from the scalp.
Dandruff occurs when skin cells form too fast, meaning more skin cells are shed and become clumps that can be seen by the naked eye.
This increased epidermal turnover may be caused or exacerbated by abnormally high levels of a fungus called Malassezia Globosa, which is a type of yeast and is always found on the scalp, even in those without dandruff. This yeast is strongly implicated in dandruff, though the nature of this relationship between the two isn’t completely clear.
It may introduce an inflammatory immune response in some people because the yeast produces enzymes capable of causing the scalp’s surface cells to increase their shedding rate. The medical name for dandruff is seborrhoeic dermatitis and in some it can also affect the face.
We often see dandruff and seborrhoeic dermatitis as a genetic condition in families, particularly if it is severe.
Those with greasy skin types are most at risk because the yeast likes to grow in sebum.
There are variations in the severity and form of the condition. ‘With some types of dandruff the flakes leave the scalp easily. In other cases, they adhere to the scalp and build up to form a thick covering. With simpler forms of dandruff the scalp is usually a normal colour. However, with the more severe forms of the condition there’s an underlying inflammation that renders scalp tissues more tender and sensitive than with simple dandruff.
Dandruff is mainly caused by Malassezia Glooboosa. Common causes are stress or diet poor hygiene . This is because stress increases sebum production. The sebum feeds the yeast. A few other causes of dandruff are high intakes of sugar and fats, prolonged exposure to sunlight, overuse of hair care products
Shampoo has a direct chemical effect on the yeast, but it grows back so you need to maintain use. So it’s about controlling the condition, rather than curing it. The medications that will control this condition are shampoos such as Clear that have an active ingredient such as, Activated Charcoal, Mint, Pro-Nutrium 10
It is important to treat the underlying cause or the scales will quickly return. Treatments including ingredients such as coal tar, salicylic acid and selenium sulphide can be considered a little dated compared to the more sophisticated antimicrobials such as those that are found in ‘Clear’, which control the level of micro-organisms on the scalp. Many women are turned off by some formulas as they have a reputation for stripping colour from the hair, this may have been true in the past but this had more to do with the basic cleaning agents used. ‘Clear’ formulations are less harsh, meaning they can be used often.
The shampoo should be used between regular shampoos.
If you have this method and your dandruff persists and lasts for more than six weeks, visit your Trichologist, who can refer you to a dermatologist. Steroid lotions or creams and antifungal tablets are usually successful in persistent cases.
Some specialists say that using anti-dandruff shampoos exacerbates the condition, or that once you start using them you can’t stop as the scalp becomes reliant on the medication, this was true in the old days but since that innovation and formulation of products like ‘Clear’ this is no longer true.
Optional info on natural remedies.
Treating topically with a hair rinse containing loose-leaf rosemary and tea-tree oil may help, Rosemary contains anti-fungal essential oils and tea-tree oil has been shown to have anti-fungal activity against a wide range of fungi. Topical aloe-vera gel has also shown improvement in seborrhoeic dermatitis due to its anti-inflammatory properties. Apply it topically at night and rinse in the morning.’
Anti-itch creams such as shea butter and canola oil, can also help.
Coal-tar shampoo is capable of slowing down the epidermal turnover, which is why it has been used in the treatment of psoriasis and other skin disorders. Juniper tar [a tree tar] is more effective than coal tar and tends to be used in more modern treatments.’