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What Is Dandruff?

Dandruff is caused by a common skin condition that occurs on the scalp. Find out what helps reduce dandruff flare-ups from embarrassing you any further.
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Gross…  Yuck…  Eewww…

Yup, it’s dandruff, those oily, whitish flakes that drop out from your hair, land on your shoulders and make your scalp itch. It’s an embarrassing sight - this very common scalp condition that affects nearly everyone at one time or another. It's discomfiting when you feel the urge to scratch your scalp and you’re in a public place or in the company of friends. Dandruff can strip away your self-confidence and inhibit your outgoing nature. Learn more about dandruff and its treatment so that it doesn’t get in the way of having a healthy scalp, a shiny mane of hair and the lifestyle that you choose to live.

What Dandruff Is
Dandruff is the mild version of seborrheic dermatitis, a relapsing skin condition that's not contagious. It occurs in the scalp as white to yellowish flaky scales that shed off as newer scales are formed. Dandruff is thought to be a product of excessive scalp oil production and an overgrowth of the malassezia yeast, which causes irritation. Unlike true seborrheic dermatitis, there is no inflammation in dandruff and the scaling does not cross beyond the hairline.

What Causes It
Malassezia, a type of yeast fungus, is a normal organism that thrives unnoticed on the surface of the scalp. However, certain conditions can trigger an overgrowth of the yeast, which then feeds on the oil in the scalp. Skin cells grow beyond their normal quantity and push the older cells off the surface. These older skin cells mix with the oil, giving them the whitish, flaky appearance that is commonly known as dandruff.

The following conditions can activate the overgrowth of Malassezia:

  • Excessive oil on the scalp – the yeast feeds on the oil and too much of it can lead to a profusion of malassezia 
  • Hormonal changes – after puberty, physical and physiological changes take place, which is why dandruff occurs during early adulthood
  • Stress – stress impacts on a person’s overall health status, including scalp health
  • Illnesses and neurological disorders – including HIV infections and Parkinson’s disease
  • A compromised immune system – due to infections or just stress
  • Inadequate shampooing – causes oil build-up on the scalp, leading to dandruff
  • Hypersensitivity to Malassezia – an allergic reaction to the yeast overload on the scalp

Predisposing Factors
While almost anybody can have dandruff, there are some people who appear more at risk to having it than others. Here are certain factors that may account for an increased susceptibility:

  • Age – Dandruff is most common in the early twenties and can continue towards middle age, with periods of flare-ups and remissions.
  • Gender – Men are more prone to dandruff than women, which some researchers attribute to the role that male hormones may play in dandruff vulnerability.
  • Diet – A diet that's deficient in zinc, vitamin B complex and certain fats and too much sugar and yeast can predispose a person to dandruff.
  • Lack of Scalp and Hair Hygiene – Not enough cleansing through shampooing can result in oil accumulating on the scalp; it becomes a breeding ground for the malassezia yeast and causes dandruff.

Treatment and Remedies for Dandruff
Dandruff can often be treated without having to consult a doctor. It responds to frequent cleansing using shampoos that contain anti-dandruff ingredients. Several natural homeopathic remedies can treat your dandruff and make it stay away. Look for these ingredients on the labels of the shampoos that you intend to buy. Buy only reputable brands to ensure that the ingredients are in the proper amounts. Some of them can be very powerful and an overdose can damage your scalp or hair instead of treating your dandruff. These shampoos are sold in online stores as well as in physical stores. Here are some of the natural components you should look for in anti-dandruff shampoos.

  • Salicylic Acid – Taken from the bark of the willow tree, this phytohormone helps remove dandruff and the itchiness it causes. However, salicylic acid has a drying effect.
  • Aloe Vera – The gel from the aloe vera plant is effective for treating dandruff and moisturizing the scalp and hair. Blended with salicylic acid and other natural herbs, the aloe vera shampoo is a powerful home remedy.
  • Tea Tree Oil – The tea tree oil from the Malaleuca tree is a very powerful antiseptic and has fungicidal properties. It's a very potent treatment for dandruff but care should be taken not to ingest it because of possible allergic reactions.
  • Selenium Sulfide – This is natural component is found in the earth’s crust along with other substances. A known anti-infective, it works to kill the dandruff-causing yeast in the scalp and protect the cell membranes. Selenium sulfide is a common ingredient of anti-dandruff shampoos due to its proven effectiveness.
  • Allantoin – A white odorless powder, allantoin is a safe, synthetic compound that's also present in the comfrey plant. It promotes cell renewal, has a keratolytic effect on the skin surface and has a soothing and moisturizing action. It helps in the treatment of dandruff by helping in the absorption of nutrients through the skin.
  • Biotin, other B vitamins, Vitamins A and D – Biotin helps in the metabolism of protein, carbohydrates and fats which is important in maintaining healthy skin and hair. Taken with the other vitamins and minerals, it's another effective option for dandruff remedy. Vitamin B6, or pyridoxine, is found in grains; a deficiency of this vitamin can cause dandruff. Overall, vitamin deficiency has a negative effect on health, including skin and hair.
  • Apple Cider Vinegar – It supports the equilibrium of acid and alkaline in the scalp and has antifungal properties that counteract the overgrowth of the malassezia yeast and clog the pores of the hair follicles.
  • Grapefruit Seed Extract – Grapefruit seed extract is a useful natural remedy for dandruff because of its antifungal effects. It can be used directly or blended into shampoos. Take extra precaution to prevent a concentrated form of grapefruit seed extract from getting into your eyes.

Several natural and organic substances have been found to treat mild to severe dandruff. When an acute eruption has been controlled, regular use once or twice a week of anti-dandruff shampoos can prevent dandruff recurrence.

A Holistic Approach to Dandruff Treatment and Control
Dandruff can be treated and controlled without

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