Don't toss out all those dark suits just yet. There's a better way to deal with dandruff. As a matter of fact, you may be able simply to wash it away with our home remedies.
You may not realize it, but you are constantly shedding dead skin cells from all over your body. It's the skin's natural way to rejuvenate itself. In fact, you get a whole new suit of skin about every 27 or 28 days. The old stuff just sort of flakes away. You just don't tend to notice the tiny skin cells dropping off your arms, your legs, and even your scalp.
Dandruff results from the same shedding of skin cells. But if the shedding process is normal, what happens to make dandruff so embarrassingly noticeable?
Scientists have discovered that dandruff occurs when a yeast-like fungus called malassezia goes wild on your scalp. The microscopic malassezia fungus, a normal inhabitant on a healthy human head, feeds on the fatty oils secreted by hair follicles in the scalp. But sometimes, for reasons that are as yet unclear, the fungus grows out of control, causing irritation that actually speeds up cell turnover on the scalp. As a result, the normal process of cell turnover, which usually takes a month, may take less than two weeks when out-of-control malassezia has irritated the scalp. So many dead cells are shed at the same time that, when they mix with the oil from the hair follicles, they tend to form greasy clumps big enough to be clearly visible to the naked eye. The oil also makes the clumps more likely to get stuck in your hair (and on your shoulders), rather than floating quickly away.
By reading our home remedies, you'll find a helpful strategy to get rid of those unsightly flakes once and for all.
This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.
What easier way to get rid of dandruff than to wash it down the drain? Getting rid of excess oils (which may contribute to the overgrowth of malassezia in the first place) and flakes through daily shampooing may be the easiest way to tame your mane.
If your regular shampoo isn't doing the trick, even with daily washing, it's time to switch to an anti-dandruff shampoo. Check the ingredients in over-the-counter dandruff shampoos, and look for one that contains zinc pyrithione, which can reduce the fungus; selenium sulfide, which can limit cell turnover and possibly even decrease the amount of fungus; salicylic acid, which works as a sort of scrub to slough off dead skin; or ketoconazole, which works against a broad array of fungi.
Your favorite dandruff shampoo may stop working after a while, and those little flakes may return. Don't blame the shampoo. You simply may have built up a resistance to its active ingredient. To prevent this, try rotating three brands of dandruff shampoo (each with a different formulation), using each for a month. In other words, use one shampoo for a month, then switch to a second brand for a month, then to a third brand for a month, then back to the original shampoo for a month, and so on.
The first lathering and rinsing gets rid of the loose flakes and the oily buildup on your hair and scalp. It sort of clears the area so the second lathering can get to work. Leave the second lathering of shampoo on your hair at least five minutes before rinsing it off. That gives the shampoo a chance to penetrate the skin cells and do what it's supposed to do.
If the anti-dandruff shampoos aren't working, it's time to bring out the big guns, namely the tar shampoos, which have been a proven remedy for more than 200 years. The tar decreases cell turnover quite effectively, though there are some drawbacks. Tar shampoos have a strong odor, may stain the shaft of lighter-colored hair (it can take weeks of using a milder shampoo to get rid of the discoloration), and may irritate the skin.
If you decide to go with a tar shampoo, rinse your hair with lemon juice, a conditioner, or creme rinse to get rid of any lingering odor from the shampoo. Using a hair conditioner after washing with any anti-dandruff shampoo is a good idea anyway, because the medicated shampoos tend to stiffen hair and make it less manageable. Many of them also dry the scalp, which can add to flaking; a conditioner can help seal in nourishing moisture.
There are some people who just shouldn't use a tar shampoo. Why? Because they're so sensitive. Rather, their scalp is, and a tar shampoo can irritate and inflame their hair follicles, causing a condition called folliculitis. The cure? Switch to a milder shampoo.
Try to resist the temptation to go after those itchy patches like a dog chasing fleas. You may end up with wounds to your scalp caused by your fingernails. If you break the skin on your scalp, discontinue use of medicated shampoo for a while. Switch to a mild shampoo, such as a baby shampoo, and use it daily until the scratches are healed.
After exercise or strenuous work that makes you perspire, shower and shampoo as soon as possible. Sweat irritates the scalp and speeds up the flaking of skin cells.
Although you needn't give up the various mousses, sprays, and gels that hold your hairstyle in place, try to use them less often. These hair products can contribute to oily buildup.
Dandruff can be an embarrassing problem, but you can shake those pesky flakes for good by following our home remedies.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Timothy Gower is a freelance writer and editor whose work has appeared in many publications, including Reader's Digest, Prevention, Men's Health, Better Homes and Gardens, The New York Times , and The Los Angeles Times . The author of four books, Gower is also a contributing editor for Health magazine.
Alice Lesch Kelly is a health writer based in Boston. Her work has been published in magazines such as Shape, Fit Pregnancy, Woman's Day, Reader's Digest, Eating Well , and Health . She is the co-author of three books on women's health.
Linnea Lundgren has more than 12 years experience researching, writing, and editing for newspapers and magazines. She is the author of four books, including Living Well With Allergies .
Michele Price Mann is a freelance writer who has written for such publications as Weight Watchers and Southern Living magazines. Formerly assistant health and fitness editor at Cooking Light magazine, her professional passion is learning and writing about health.
ABOUT THE CONSULTANTS
Ivan Oransky, M.D. , is the deputy editor of The Scientist . He is author or co-author of four books, including The Common Symptom Answer Guide , and has written for publications including the Boston Globe , The Lancet , and USA Today . He holds appointments as a clinical assistant professor of medicine and as adjunct professor of journalism at New York University.
David J. Hufford, Ph.D. , is university professor and chair of the Medical Humanities Department at Pennsylvania State University's College of Medicine. He also is a professor in the departments of Neural and Behavioral Sciences and Family and Community Medicine. Dr. Hufford serves on the editorial boards of several journals, including Alternative Therapies in Health & Medicine and Explore .