There would hardly be anyone who is not familiar with dandruff, the dreaded little flakes that appear on your scalp. While for some people dandruff appears during a particular season, for others it is a long-term problem. You might think it is relatively harmless, but too much dandruff can fall on your shoulders and surroundings, taking a toll on your self-confidence. It may also cause itching, irritation, and sometimes hair fall.
The most annoying thing about dandruff is not the symptoms it leads to, but how hard it is to get rid of. It is frustrating to search the aisles of different supermarkets, using the most expensive hair oils, hair creams, “mild” shampoos, and all kinds of hocus pocus to get rid of those stubborn flakes. However, all of these tactics might be useless and inefficient if you choose to do them without understanding what type of dandruff you have.
To simplify, there exists a range of different dandruff conditions that appear on the scalp due to varying causes. Once you explore the type of dandruff you have and what is causing it, you are enabled to fight the problem at its roots once and for all. And this blog will do exactly that for you!
The four types of dandruff
Just like the skin on our body, our scalp sheds old skin gradually to make way for healthier skin. Dandruff, in the simplest words, is nothing but dead skin cells shed by your scalp. While these dead skin cells get accumulated due to a dry scalp for some, for others, their oily scalp ironically leads to the same problem. Oil makes it more likely for your scalp to have dirt and dead skin cells stuck on it, which ultimately leads to dandruff.
Largely, dermatologists classify dandruff into four different types, each differing by its underlying cause. Let us discuss these types thoroughly.
Dry skin dandruff
This is the type of dandruff most people assume themselves to have, as it is the most frequent type of dandruff. The causes behind dry dandruff are straightforward: your scalp gets too dry, causing flakes of dead skin cells to shed all over. They occur more commonly in winters because of the cold air, and can also be triggered if you use too much shampoo or hot water on your scalp.
Dry skin dandruff flakes are typically white and exist in small flakes. Because of the dryness, you may be experiencing itching and irritation on the scalp. Mild shampoos, hydrating hair masks, oiling, and avoiding heat styling may help you reduce dry dandruff.
Oily skin dandruff
Sebum, which you might know as an oily fluid that helps to keep your skin moisturized, is produced in good quantities by your scalp. Sometimes, if you don’t shampoo regularly enough or just have a greasy scalp, excess oil clumps together, accumulating dead skin cells, and leading to dandruff. Since the cause behind them is grease and oil, these dandruff flakes tend to be larger than dry dandruff flakes and look yellowish.
Most people assume they have dry skin dandruff. If you mistake your oily skin dandruff for dry skin dandruff, you might be using treatments that don’t just prove inefficient, but also make your dandruff worse. Regular shampooing with a composition of salicylic acid in your product can help you reduce oily skin dandruff. Scalp scrubs are another good option to get rid of them.
Fun biology fact: our skin is an ecosystem in itself. Ecosystems refer to geographical areas where many biotic and abiotic things co-exist. This means that many microbes exist on the surface of your skin. Malassezia, a common type of fungus, is one such microbe living its days on the surface of your skin. If your scalp or skin is too oily, Malassezia thrives and expands, creating an inflammatory response. This can lead to dandruff, along with many other disorders like eczema.
Fungal dandruff flakes too, tend to be yellowish and larger than typical dry dandruff flakes. It tends to exist in clumps and may not be treated as easily as the two types discussed before. To treat a fungus-infected scalp, professionals recommend using a shampoo containing Malassezia-inhibiting chemicals, such as zinc pyrithione. Tea tree oil, which is a great anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal natural compound, may also aid you in treating such dandruff. You could even opt for a shampoo that contains tea tree oil.
While the above types of dandruff are symptoms caused by relatively manageable sources, sometimes your dandruff might be a symptom of a medical condition. These conditions include diseases like seborrheic dermatitis, eczema, psoriasis, and so on.
Seborrheic dermatitis occurs in people with oily skin and is similar to oily skin and fungal dandruff. It is a more severe form of a scalp condition that can cause itching, redness, and scaly patches. Eczema and psoriasis both lead to the overproduction of dead skin cells on your scalp, leading to excessive dandruff and irritation. Generally, to treat disease-related dandruff, you may have to consult a professional. The doctors will determine your problem and give you appropriate treatment plans and precautions.
Tips to prevent dandruff
Several lifestyle changes can help you prevent dandruff in the long run. Here are some very doable practices you could adopt to prevent dandruff:
Come up with your own haircare routine
If dandruff is an ongoing problem for you, it is time for you to ditch the over-the-top one-time treatments and make changes in how you treat your hair. For example, avoid using hot water on your scalp. If you are used to it, switch to lukewarm water first. But ideally, always use cold water on your hair. If you have an oily scalp, invest in a good scalp scrub and a shampoo with a good composition of salicylic acid.
The bottom line is, make it a routine without slacking off. Try out a few routines that suit your dry/oily scalp, and strictly stick to what works.
Stress can potentially cause dandruff or exacerbate existing symptoms. High amounts of stress can wreak havoc on your immune system and magnify skin diseases including seborrheic dermatitis, eczema, and psoriasis. If you are someone who is stressed quite often, try engaging in relaxation techniques, and make sure your body gets enough sleep. You need to relax enough so that your body gets proper rest to recover from stress.
Monitor your diet
A balanced diet is not just good for you because it prevents dandruff, but it also keeps your hair strong and shiny. Eat lots of protein, zinc, omega-3 fatty acids (present in fish), B vitamins, and probiotics (present in yogurt), and be sure to ditch greasy, oily, or salty food. Also, make sure to always stay hydrated (especially in winters) so that your scalp doesn’t dry out due to dehydration.
Limit styling products
All of us love to try out new hairstyles and experiment with our looks. However, using too many styling creams or serums can lead to an accumulation of products in your hair. This can attract dirt and dead skin cells to get stuck on your scalp, leading to dandruff. Similar reasons suggest that you should be limiting heat-styling your hair. Heat can dry out your scalp, causing flakes all over.
To sum up, it is okay to switch it up once in a while, but make sure you take precautions. If you use styling creams or gels, make sure you shampoo often enough to get the excess product out of your scalp. On the other hand, if you absolutely have to heat-style, never forget to protect your scalp with serums or creams first.
This one may seem obvious, but we mention it because it is important. Even if you are someone who suffers from dry dandruff, do not compromise on your hair hygiene needs. Use hydrating hair masks and mild shampoo, but wash your scalp frequently so that dead skin cells don’t get accumulated on your head.
Natural home remedies to treat dandruff
No matter what kind of dandruff you have, if its symptoms are mild, you can easily treat it at home. All you would need is some patience, faith, and these miraculous home remedies that follow!
Coconut oil for dry dandruff
Coconut oil is one of the thickest oils out there, a favorite for dry skin and hair. It has a soothing feel to it, along with its nourishing emollient properties. Mixing it with lemon juice can do wonders for you, especially in winters. The steps are easy to follow: -
- Warm-up some coconut oil and squeeze half a lemon into it.
- Apply the oil on the scalp, and leave it on for either a few hours or overnight.
- Next, wash your hair with a mild shampoo.
- Do this before every hair wash to prevent an excessively dry scalp.
When using hair oils, one needs to be careful. While they may treat excessively dry skin, they do not get rid of dandruff on their own. If you keep them on your scalp for too long, they can attract more dandruff and dirt. It is essential to wash your hair after oiling your scalp.
Baking soda scalp scrub
An ingredient available in all kitchens across the globe, baking soda is an exfoliating magician in haircare (and skincare). It makes an excellent scalp scrub, cleansing it of any dead skin cell residues, and in turn, dandruff. Unlike most other physical exfoliators, baking soda is milder on your scalp and therefore does not irritate or cause itching.
Enriched with anti-fungal properties, it is most suitable for oily and fungal dandruff. It also reduces scaling, redness, and itching. Oh, and did we mention how easy it is to add it to your hair care routine?
All you have to do is mix it with your shampoo, scrub it on your scalp, and rinse. Be careful not to do this every time you wash your hair, instead, do it once a week. Only increase this frequency if you have a very oily scalp.
Neem juice hair mask
Neem is a well-known ayurvedic remedy to treat infections and increase immunity. Speaking in terms of modern science, it is one of the most popular ingredients in anti-dandruff shampoos. Because of its antibacterial and antifungal properties, it has been an age-old natural remedy to a fungus-infected scalp.
Here are steps to follow to make a fungi-defeating neem hair mask at home: -
- Soak some neem leaves in water.
- After a couple of hours, put them in a blender and crush them to make a fine juice.
- Add honey to this neem juice. Mix well.
- Apply the mixture to your scalp liberally. Make sure to not miss any spots.
- Leave this hair mask on for about 30 minutes.
- Wash off with a mild shampoo, or just water (if it suits your scalp).
When to see a doctor?
Dandruff is not contagious and tends to be relatively harmless. It can, however, be irritating and embarrassing. Still, most cases of mild dandruff can be controlled through appropriate preventions, over-the-counter treatments, and home remedies.
There are some cases where dandruff can get serious and indicate an underlying medical condition. Some signs to look for before consulting professional help are: -
- Dandruff flakes that do not budge even after countless home remedies and over-the-counter products.
- Dandruff that is causing excessive itching, rashes, and redness.
- Persistent skin scaling.
- You are experiencing major distress due to your dandruff.
After a proper check-up and diagnosis, your dermatologist will be able to prescribe you with appropriate treatment for your condition. Treatments usually consist of cause-specific anti-dandruff shampoos that are prescribed to you for a particular period along with precautions.