(This post has been sponsored by Head & Shoulders South Africa who want you to #livescratchfree)
For a long time I have been thinking of posting in depth on dandruff so that you can have a better understanding of this demon and find better ways of defeating it. I call it a demon because it is so stubborn and if not attacked in a comprehensive way, getting rid of dandruff can only be a dream. Let’s get the formalities of understanding exactly what dandruff is first before we go any further.
What is dandruff?
Dandruff is actually a symptom of an underlying problem on the skin or in the body which presents itself as a condition on the scalp and can also appear on the rest of the body. Dandruff is characterised by an itchy flaky scalp, dryness, inflammation on the scalp or a red scalp. All these symptoms are commonly known as dandruff and the condition has various causes some of which we are going to list and discuss below.
What causes dandruff?
There are various causes of dandruff but the most common are, seborrheic dermatitis, a fungus called malassezia globosa, product build up on the scalp and contact dermatitis.
Malassezia globosa is a yeast like fungus that lives on the scalp naturally and is believed to be the main culprit in causing dandruff because all other causes often point to it or some form of Malassezia. When in balance with other bacteria that live on the skin and scalp, MG as I will refer to it, does not cause any issues. The problem only comes when there is a disturbance in the ecosystem and there is an overgrowth of the said fungus. Then all hell breaks loose. You see, MG feeds on oils which is the sebum and the other oils that we add onto our scalp. MG releases a byproduct called oleic acid and some people have a negative reaction to oleic acid which we can call an allergic reaction of some sort. The oleic acid irritates their skin and their immune systems responds by producing more skin cells and shedding the existing ones at a higher rate. And because the skin is shedding at a higher rate than it should, it forms what we call dandruff flakes. No wonder some oils and butter may exacerbate a dandruff condition instead of clearing it. And some people are prone to dandruff while others aren’t. Those who are allergic to or their skin gets irritated by oleic acid are those prone to dandruff.
It is characterised by an irritated oily, often with an inflamed greasy scalp with flaky gray, white or yellow scales. Seborrheic Dermatitis generally affects areas rich in oil glands like the scalp, eyebrows, back of ears, groin area and sides of nose and is believed to be caused by a fungus called Malassezia globosa.
Product build up on the scalp
Dandruff caused by product buildup is due to the irritation of an unwashed scalp. The sebum that we naturally produce and the products applied to the hair and scalp and left unwashed for several days or weeks, especially when we have a protective style on, causes the overgrowth of fungus on the scalp which then results in the scaling of the skin on the scalp due to excessive cell production to counter the effects of the fungus.
Contact dermatitis is caused by sensitivity to certain ingredients in hair products. An irritated scalp is what triggers first then the immune system responds by increasing the rate at which skin cells renew on the affected area. Dandruff flakes are the result as the older skin sheds at a faster rate. It’s more like the MG scenario but in this case, one may be allergic to any ingredient which causes an inflammation of the scalp. Using a product high in oleic acid may be one way of irritating the scalp which result in dandruff flakes as the skin sheds at a faster rate.
Is there any cure?
Currently, there is no cure but can be controlled successfully to keep the symptoms at bay most of the times. What is causing the dandruff may be what needs to be eliminated to find relief from dandruff in most cases. If that is done consistently, dandruff needs not be a problem at all. Let’s look at some of the things you can do to get rid of dandruff, or at least to keep it under control and make those flare ups a thing of the past.
- Diet changes.
And overgrowth of fungus in the gut and the blood stream may be one of the causes of an overgrowth of fungus on the scalp and all places with rich oil glands. Getting a good balance of good bacteria and fungus may be first step and that can be done by making a few changes in the diet. Removing the things that fungus feeds on is the first step in doing that. Fungus feeds on sugar. So, any form of sugar will feed the fungus and make it multiply exponentially. Starving the fungus of sugar will kill the fungus and allow good bacteria to flourish.
- Prescription Drugs
For serious cases, you will need to see your doctor. Diet changes, though very important, may not be enough. Prescription oral medication may be necessary to break the colonies that the fungus would have formed in the gut and or blood stream. Prescription oral medication will be the first line of attack in your fight against dandruff and yeast overgrowth in general. So, make sure to see your GP so that he can do a proper examination and investigate your symptoms for proper treatment. Prescription drugs include oral fungicides like Ketoconazole, Fluconazole and itraconazole. I had to take repeated courses of fluconazole for my dandruff and other symptoms associated with yeast overgrowth to be under control.
- Over the counter products for dandruff
These can be in the form of anti-fungal gels and creams or supplements that encourage the growth of good bacteria in the gut. Creams and gels are for topical treatment on the affected area and they normally contain ketoconazole as a main ingredient. Common supplements for the control of yeast and to increase good bacteria growth in the gut are pro-biotics. I use the Biogen brand called Pre& Pro-biotics to maintain my gut flora in balance.
- Dandruff Shampoos
Dandruff shampoos are a very powerful way of controlling dandruff as they have active ingredients that either removes the scales so that they don’t fall off and keep embarrassing you and to keep your scalp clean and inhibit the fungus from multiplying on the scalp by removing the oils that it feeds on. Anti dandruff shampoos like Head & Shoulders contain zinc pyrithione which prevents Malassezia from forming scalp irritants. So as long as it stays active on the scalp, you stay dandruff free and scratch free. There are also shampoos with Nizoral and Ketoconazole and these are more expensive and stronger prescription shampoos but they often leave the hair too dry which makes it not wise to use them often and for too long.
Home remedies for dandruff
Of course, for every conventional treatment for an ailment, there’s always a home remedy to go with it. What did humans do when there were no conventional medicines? Enter “Home remedies.” So, indeed there are home remedies for clearing dandruff and keeping it away. Some of these remedies are now also included in dandruff shampoos and some examples that quickly come to mind are tea tree oil and aloe vera. But, believe you me, there are so many home remedies for dandruff out there some of which I tried and worked for me while others did not change a thing on my scalp. The ones I have tried are aloe vera juice, water mixed with tea tree oil, apple cider vinegar, garlic juice, baby oil, castor oil, olive oil and many more, some of which I can’t remember. Most of these home remedies are believed to have anti-dandruff properties or anti-fungal properties while Apple cider vinegar adjusts the pH of the scalp making it difficult for the fungus on the scalp to multiply and thereby be under some form of control. As much as all these may work for dandruff, I prefer combining them with dandruff shampoos and other lifestyle changes because I happen to have the more severe type of dandruff and it needs attacking from different angles. Some home remedies are also not based on scientific facts but just beliefs so the jury is still out on whether they actually do work or not.
How to best control dandruff
There are a few things that I had to do and I will mention them briefly here. It’s only now that I see I am winning with dandruff and it no longer appears soon after I wash my hair like it used to. Only if I don’t wash my hair for say 3 weeks, then the flakes come. But if I keep to my weekly routine, I don’t see any flakes at all. Like nothing. So here is what I have done to get rid of dandruff.
- I went to see my GP and he gave me prescription medication to get rid of the yeast colonies that had colonised my gut as symptoms of a general yeast overgrowth were present. I was put on fluconazole and also told to buy Niz shampoo, an anti-dandruff shampoo that has Nizoral. This shampoo made my hair too dry though but I had to use it everyday for at least 2 weeks I think. I used it every other day though. I just could not get myself to wash my hair everyday. You know, washing natural hair is a mission and half.
- Lifestyle changes and diet changes. You know the whole jig. staying away from sugars, starches and all. Basically banting. I also try and stay away from dairy as much as possible. It’s not easy but worth it. My toe nails which were so consumed by fungus for so many years are starting to clear now and I’m kind of excited about that as well.
- Taking supplements that help with increasing the good bacteria in my gut. So I take probiotics and also have as much yogurt as possible. I love the double cream from Woolies. I bant so I can have more fat in my diet.
- I also supplement with B-complex vitamin for general health. I used to take biotin for some time because, the shortage of biotin is said to contribute to dandruff because biotin helps with controlling blood sugar and people with dandruff are generally those who have problems with blood sugar levels. I was once a patient of type 2 diabetes so biotin became highly recommended. However, I found out that the daily amount that I needed was available in the b-complex tablets I take, so there is no need to take Biotin on its own.
- I still use dandruff shampoos often and for me, Head & Shoulders African Scalp and Hair Care works wonderfully for my natural hair and keeps me dandruff free for longer. I have been using Head & Shoulders African Scalp and Hair Care range of products for a year now and I love this range for dandruff and the fact that, although it’s a dandruff range, it does not leave my hair very dry like the other shampoos used to do. So I can use it as often as I need to which is not much because this range does indeed keep the flakes away. I am going to review this range pretty soon so make sure you are subscribed to this blog so that you can get the post straight to your email. In the review, I will tell you what my favorites in the range are so make sure you don’t miss it.
- Those with dandruff will know that, switching up shampoos helps a lot. When I need to switch up my shampoo and conditioner, so that my routine keeps giving me the maximum benefit, I use African black soap shampoo which is also a good shampoo for dandruff. I then condition with the Nashe Organics Moisturising conditioner to keep my stresses soft and moisturised for long.
- Keeping my scalp healthy is important for fighting dandruff. I only trust a few things on my scalp and do not apply anything that may clog the pores or cause any irritation. I also don’t scratch my scalp either with my fingers or a comb to lift any flakes from my scalp when they do appear. I would rather wash my hair than scratch my scalp because that only causes inflammation on the scalp which will lead to more dandruff and even possible hair loss.
- Exercise is also important for general well being. So I walk, jog or if time is not on my side, I do the 10 minutes work out.
- I wash my hair more often, like at least once a week or even twice when I have time. I only stretch longer if I have a protective style on because once I allow water on a protective style, the frizz is something else and I may as well remove it. It doesn’t look good.
- I use a shampoo brush when I wash my hair. It helps to lift the flakes, any dirt and also gives my scalp a good massage. The shampoo brush is a must have for everyone, more so if you have dandruff flakes on your scalp that need a little nudge to lift when shampooing.
- Now I know, I don’t apply conditioner on my scalp. So, co-washing is not for me as well. Conditioner has the potential of causing more dandruff on the scalp and is best applied on the hair. Not the scalp.
Is dandruff contagious?
Dandruff is not contagious. It’s just irritating at least and at most, causes inflammation on the scalp from scratching, restlessness as well because of itching scalp and the need to scratch. It’s also embarrassing and often results in self consciousness and a low self esteem. It may also be the main cause of hair loss in some people and that is a big problem. That’s why us, people who have dandruff issues or are prone to dandruff will try everything to make sure we get rid of dandruff and stay flake and scratch free.
I hope this helps you as well to stay scratch free. Do you have dandruff? Do you have any questions on dandruff that you need answered? Comment on this post and I will do another post to specifically answer your questions. Otherwise, keep smiling, keep laughing and keep loving. Besides that, keeping aiming for your dreams and always strive to be the best version of you every day. You owe yourself that.
Love and blessings always