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What’s Causing Your Dandruff and How to Find Relief

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December 19, 2018
Home Lab Notes Scalp Care What’s Causing Your Dandruff and How to Find Relief

Flakes. Itchiness. Scaly skin. Scabbing. Dandruff can get in the way of an otherwise good hair day. So, what can you do about it, aside from complain? Plenty. Find out here exactly what dandruff is—and how you (and your scalp) can finally find relief.

So, what is dandruff?

Contrary to popular opinion, dandruff is not the result of a dry scalp. (That said, yes, you can have dry scalp and flakes. But, clinically speaking, that’s not dandruff.) Dandruff typically occurs when too much sebum (a.k.a. oil) has built up on the scalp, enabling a yeast called malassezia to grow in abundance. Depending on the severity of your malassezia overgrowth, you may develop two kinds of dandruff. The first, pityriasis simplex, is typically just characterized by white flakes. The second, seborrheic dermatitis, tends to exhibit with yellower flakes, some scaley-ness of the skin and a tendency toward greasy roots. Both can be itchy. There are dozens of causes of the excess sebum production that triggers malassezia growth (hormonal fluctuations, under-washing, heredity, diet, stress…to name a few) so it can be challenging to identify exactly what’s led to your specific case. Fortunately, you may not have to, as there are also a number of effective remedies.

To get relief when you’re already flakey

If you want to go the FDA-approved drug route, look for a shampoo with active ingredients such as pyrithione zinc or ketaconazole, which are both anti-fungal medicines and which help stop the growth of the malassezia. They are effective and usually fast-acting but (and there is a but), they can also be very drying to the hair. If you’d prefer to employ a gentler, hair-safe strategy, you can also try a natural remedy. At Prose, when a client tells us they notice flakes, we typically add ingredients that deep clean the scalp, such as Pomegranate Peel, to help remove some of that excess oil. Then, to regulate sebum production going forward, we add a combination of Kale, Spirulina and Peppermint. If the scalp skin is especially sore (scale-y, scabbing), we might also include a cocktail of scalp-soothers such as Liquorice, ProVitamin B5, and CBD. Of course, we always recommend to see a doctor if the condition is causing bleeding, getting worse or is health-threatening.

To prevent dandruff from coming back

As we indicated above, it can be difficult to identify exactly why you got dandruff in the first place. But experts say, for those prone to dandruff, it is probably wise to up the frequency of shampooing, especially if you’re someone who has been stretching washings to once a week (or longer). Shampooing at least twice a week should help temper that excess sebum production. Also, when you do wash, use warm water and be sure you really knead your scalp with your fingertips (not nails!) to help soften the excess oil so it can be washed away. This massaging technique will also help dislodge and get rid of any dead skin cells on the scalp, as those cells can contribute to the dandruff problem by building up and trapping sebum against the skin.


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