Think You Might Have Dandruff? Here's How To Deal
The Debrief: So you don't have to pretend it's snowing outside every time you move your head
Illustration by Anna Sudit
I've said loads of times that when it comes to my hair, I’m super lazy, but recently I’ve noticed that I've started getting dandruff (I’m such a catch aren’t I? Acne, shaving rash, dandruff…) It’s not the horror-story kind that some people experience, you know, when they move their head an inch and their shoulders get covered in a dusting of it. It’s just bits here and there - but I'm still not enjoying it. Dandruff is really common; up to 50% of men and women will experience it either occasionally or regularly, but the not-so-nice effects mean it’s not spoken about that much. So here I am, ready to de-mystify another pretty gross thing that happens to loads of us. Oh and, slight spoiler" it looks like I'm probably going to start washing my hair a bit more regularly. Worst luck.
What is dandruff and how do I know if I have it?
This part’s pretty straight-forward. Dandruff is the result of the skin on your scalp building up and flaking off so if you’re noticing flakes around your scalp and in your hair, you’re probably suffering from it in some way or another. Long story short: you’ll know whether you’ve got it or not.
What causes it?
Okay, now for the gross stuff. Dandruff is caused by a species of fungus called Malassezia globosa which lives on the scalp of pretty much everyone, but it’s the reaction that it has with an individual’s skin which determines whether they get dandruff or not. I asked Dr. Rolanda J. Wilkerson, Head & Shoulders Principal Scientist, to explain the sciencey part a bit further: ‘The fungus feeds on the scalp’s feeds on the scalp’s natural oils and creates acidic by-products that cause irritation of the scalp. The scalp skin of people who show the signs of dandruff reacts to the irritation by accelerating the production of new skin cells. This “hasty” renewal process of the scalp skin leads to the skin cells to clump together, which leads to the flakes that are the most visible sign of dandruff.’ Got it?
As a side note, if you’re experiencing thick plates of skin flaking off of your scalp or flaking around the eyebrows and nose, you may be suffering from seborrhoeic dermatitis and you should probably see your doctor.
How can I get rid of it?
Annoyingly, there’s no actual ‘cure’ for dandruff. Instead, it’s a case of treating and controlling it and Dr Wilkerson says the most effective way is to try and reduce the amount of fungus on the scalp (although it will never actually go completely); For this, you’ll need a dandruff-specific shampoo and conditioner. The Head and Shoulders range, like the 2in1 Shampoo and Conditioner Itchy Scalp Care £4.99, is great because it contains zinc pyrithione which helps reduce the amount of fungus on the scalp. Neutrogena’s T/GEL Therapeutic Shampoo, £4.99 is another option because it contains coal tar which slows down the overproduction of skin on the scalp (which is what contributes to it, remember?) and soothes any itchiness. But just a heads up (no-pun intended, seriously) it smells… interesting. You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do. And although dandruff isn’t linked to personal hygiene as such, Dr. Wilkerson, recommends regular hair washing; ‘regular scalp care with an anti-dandruff shampoo at least 3 times per week is recommended to get effective results.’ I’ve been told.
If using a specific anti-dandruff shampoo isn’t working it might be that you have a dry scalp instead, in which case, try keeping it hydrated by massaging coconut oil into it or a dry scalp specific product like the Eucerin Calming Urea Shampoo, £11, and see if it improves.
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Illustration: Anna Sudit
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