Dandruff is an extremely common, non-infectious scalp condition. It is characterized by a chronic production of visible white flakes that can be highly embarrassing for the sufferer. It rarely has any serious implications on the health of the sufferer.
Causes of Dandruff
Dandruff can be caused by a lot of different factors. Some of the most common ones are as follows:
- Dry skin: This is probably the most common cause of dandruff. If the white flakes tend to be dry (that is not oily or sticky) and if you are showing symptoms of dry skin on other parts of the body, chances are that your dandruff is being caused by dry skin. Such people see an increase in the frequency and the quantity of dandruff over winter.
- Allergic reaction to hair products: If you have changed your shampoo recently and are suffering from dandruff, you need to revert back to your old product as the new brand may be irritating your scalp. Sometimes shampooing way to often may inflame or dry out your skin as well!
- Lack of proper hygiene: Just like all other parts of the skin, the scalp periodically sheds its old and dead skin cells as well. However, the hair cover does not allow us to get rid of the shed skin cells as easily. Washing the hair and scalp with shampoo and brushing our hair regularly helps remove these dead skin cells in our head. Not doing that often enough will result in dandruff.
- Oily and irritated skin: People suffering from seborrhoeic dermatitis will suffer from dandruff as well. Sufferers will have red and greasy patches of skin covered with white or yellow scales in different parts of the body, such as around the breastbone, sides of the nose, back of the ears, around the eyebrows and last but not the least on the scalp as well.
- Malassezia: This is a benign yeast that tends to live on the scalp of most individuals. However, in certain rare circumstances, it may irritate the scalp, causing dandruff.
- Other skin conditions: People who suffer from psoriasis or eczema tend to suffer from dandruff as well!
- Lack of proper nutrition: People who do not consume enough zinc, B vitamins, Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acidsare prone to suffering from dandruff.
- Stress: As per research studies there is a strong a strong link between stress and dandruff.
- Reaction to other serious illnesses: People recovering from heart attacks or strokes tend to have weaker immune systems and that may manifest in the form of dandruff. People suffering from Parkinson’s disease are more prone to seborrheic dermatitis as well. A study showed that over 10% of people suffering from HIV tend to suffer from dandruff.
Home Remedies for Dandruff
Just because it is not a serious affliction does not mean that you should just shrug and get used to these visible and embarrassing flakes. Dandruff can be easily tamed by applying any of the following home remedies.
- Tea Tree Oil
recent study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology showed that tea tree oil can be highly effective for treating dandruff, especially if it is caused by a yeast infection. This is because tea tree oil has highly potent anti-microbial properties. There are a few different methods of using tea tree oil to treat your dandruff:
- Shampoo: There are several different shampoos available in the market that uses tea tree oil as one of its ingredients. Feel free to use any one of them! If by any chance you cannot find a tea tree oil shampoo, then take the amount of shampoo you would normally use and add a few drops of tea tree oil to it before using it!
- Massage: You can combine tea tree oil with apple cider vinegar (ACV) to create a potent anti-dandruff concoction and massage your hair with it. ACV is known for its anti-microbial properties as well, but more importantly, it lowers the pH level of your scalp, making it more acidic. A slightly acidic pH level is fantastic for your skin, but makes the environment incredibly hostile for the yeast. Following is how you would apply this treatment:
- Simply take two tablespoons of ACV and mix it with two tablespoons of water.
- Add about 20 drops of tea tree oil to it. Mix it thoroughly and then gently massage your scalp. You should feel a minor stinging sensation, which you can ignore.
- Let it sit on your scalp for a few minutes and then wash it off.
For best results, this should be done for about three times every week.
If by any chance you cannot get hold of ACV (readily available at your local health food store and also all over the internet) then you can use white vinegar instead.
- Spray: Take one cup of lukewarm water and add a tablespoon of tea tree oil to it. Pour the mixture into a spray bottle and shake it thoroughly. You can then spray this mixture all over your hair. Take special care to ensure that the mixture reaches your scalp. Use a towel to get rid of the excess moisture, but otherwise let your hair dry naturally.
Some people may be allergic to tea tree oil. To find out whether you are allergic to it or not, simply take a little bit of tea tree oil and apply it to some clear blemish-free part of your skin. Most people perform this test on their elbow. You should feel a small stinging sensation, which should go away within a minute. If you feel a burning sensation instead that does not show any sign of going down, then you are allergic to tea tree oil and this treatment is not for you.
Also do note that no one should ingest tea tree oil under any circumstance.
- Apple Cider Vinegar or Synthetic White Vinegar
Besides increasing the potency of the tea tree oil treatment, vinegar (white or ACV) is an effective treatment for dandruff in its own right, especially those that are caused by yeast or fungal infection. The use of vinegar, especially ACV to treat dandruff is championed by none other than Dr. Mehmet Oz, the celebrity physician from the United States of America.
You can mix vinegar with water in a 1:1 ratio and can either massage your scalp with it, or use a spray bottle to spritz it. If you want to use apple cider vinegar, try to procure a bottle of organic ACV that has the “mother of vinegar” still in it!
There is plenty of anecdotal evidence that states spending some time out in the sun can help get rid of dandruff. This is because limited exposure to sunlight can improve the overall health of the skin. However, make sure not to overdo it because over-exposure to the sun can leave you vulnerable to a wide variety of skin ailments such as a sunburn or even melanoma (skin cancer).
Lemons are acidic in nature; hence it reduces the pH level of your skin, making the environment hostile for the yeast or fungus that is causing your affliction. It is also known to have some anti-microbial properties as well. There are a couple of ways you can apply this treatment:
- Take two tablespoon of fresh-squeezed lemon juice and deeply massage your scalp with it. Leave it on for about five minutes. Now take a cup of water and add one teaspoon of lemon juice to it. Now use this water to wash of the lemon juice from your hair. Let your hair dry naturally and then shampoo it afterwards.
- If you believe that you are suffering from dry skin as well as a fungal infection, then you mix the juice from half a lemon to a quarter cup of plain yogurt. Mix it thoroughly and massage your scalp with it. Not only is yogurt a natural conditioner, but the probiotic bacteria present in it is purported to be great for your skin as well!
- Fenugreek Seeds
Fenugreek, a staple in Indian cuisine, has anti-fungal properties that can clear out the fungal or the yeast infection that is causing your dandruff. Its anti-inflammatory and emollient (soothing) properties can help deal with dry scalp and seborrheic dermatitis as well. Following is how you can use fenugreek seeds to treat your dandruff:
- Soak about three tablespoons of fenugreek seeds overnight.
- Use a pestle and mortar and grind them into a fine paste the following morning. Feel free to add a tablespoon of plain yogurt to it. (optional)
- Uniformly apply the paste on your scalp and leave it one for about 45 minutes.
- Rinse it off with some plain water. Shampoo your hair afterwards.
For best results, use this treatment at least three times every week.
- Herbal Treatments
There are several herbs in nature, such as bay, Canadian barberry, neem and rosemary that can be used to treat dandruff.
- Bay leaves: Bay leaves are an emollient that can treat your dry scalp as well as symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis. It also has anti-fungal properties that can help get rid of a yeast or fungal infection as well. Following is how you can use bay leaves to get rid of your dandruff:
- Take a liter of boiling water and add a handful of crushed bay leaves to it. Cover it and let it stand for about 20 minutes.
- Strain the liquid and use it to rinse your scalp and let it dry naturally.
- Rinse your head again with some fresh water as it will get rid of the bits of bay leaves that may be stuck in your hair.
- Canadian barberry: Canadian barberry has anti-fungal properties. Following is how you can use this herb to treat dandruff caused by yeast or fungal infection:
- Take a cup of water and add two tablespoon of Canadian barberry root to it and boil the mixture.
- Once boiled, wait for it to cool down.
- Shampoo your hair and then rinse your scalp with this water.
- Neem: The smell of neem leaves can be a bit overwhelming, but its strong anti-fungal and emollient properties makes it a highly effective treatment for dandruff. Following is how you can use neem leaves to treat your dandruff:
- Using neem leaves and water: Take a cup of boiling water and add a couple of handfuls of neem leaves to it. Let it sit overnight. The following morning, strain the liquid and use it to rinse your hair.
- Creating a paste using neem leaves: Take a handful of neem leaves, add a few drops of water to it and put it in a blender to create smooth paste. Apply this paste to your scalp and leave it on for about an hour. Rinse it off with water afterwards.
- Rosemary: Rosemary is yet another herb with strong anti-fungal properties that can help get rid of your dandruff. Following is how you can use rosemary to get rid of your dandruff:
- Add one tablespoon of chopped rosemary to one cup of boiling water.
- Let the liquid cool down and then strain it and rinse your hair with it.
- Brush your Hair
One of the most common causes of dandruff is the build-up of dead skin cells from your scalp. Applying firm brush strokes regularly will allow you to get rid of most of it and uniformly distribute the rest, thus saving you from embarrassment during the day!
- Change Your Styling Products
If you are not a chronic sufferer and only just started noticing these flakes out of the blue, chances are that it may be an allergic to any of your styling products. If you have been trying out a new product, then immediately discontinue its use! Even if you have not changed your brands, allergies can develop at any stage without any warning. Try switching your products in that case.
People suffering from seborrheic dermatitis should not be using styling products like hair gel, mousse, etc. as they make your scalp oilier!
- Change Your Diet
As mentioned earlier, certain dietary deficiencies may cause someone to suffer from dandruff. Hence it only makes sense that one should remedy the situation by consuming more of these. Following are some additions one should make to their diet to bring their dandruff under control:
- Get more zinc: Foods that are rich in zinc include dairy products (milk, yogurt, cheese etc.), eggs, oysters, poultry (turkey, chicken etc.), pork, red meat (beef, mutton etc.) and shellfish, among others.
- Consume more Vitamin B: Cheese, clams, oysters, mussels, liver, fish, beef and eggs some examples of foods that are rich in B vitamins.
- Increase you intake of Omega-3 fatty acids: You can increase your intake of Omega-3 fatty acids my consuming more fresh water fish (such as wild salmon, sardines, anchovies, etc.), flaxseeds, hempseeds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, Brazil nuts, sesame seeds, avocado and some leafy green vegetables (such as kale, spinach, purslane etc.)
- Have more Omega-6 fatty acids: Some foods that are a rich source of Omega-6 fatty acids are pine nuts, pistachios, raw sunflower seeds, flaxseed, hempseed, grape seeds and pumpkin seeds.
There is a lot of scientific data that says that cutting down on your sugar intake can stop your scalp from flaking. This is because sugar has inflammatory properties and if people take too much of it, it can lead to insulin spikes which would increase the output of oil. This can trigger symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis.
- Coconut oil
Coconut oil is a natural moisturizer and it can help alleviate symptoms of dandruff if it is caused by a dry scalp. It also has anti-fungal properties, which can help deal with dandruff being caused by yeast or a fungal infection. Following is how you can use coconut oil to treat your dandruff:
- Take about five tablespoons of coconut oil and deeply massage your scalp. You should do this right before you go to bed.
- Shampoo your hair the following morning.
Coconut oil is great for your hair even when you are not suffering from dandruff, hence you should make it a part of your daily beauty regimen!
Coconut oil should be available at your local health store and is available all over the internet as well. However, if you still cannot find it, you can warm up some extra virgin olive oil and use that instead!
- Aloe Vera
This is an alternative to coconut oil, as it will treat your dandruff exactly the same way that coconut oil would, as it has similar emollient and anti-fungal properties. However, unlike coconut oil, it is not advisable that you to apply it and sleep overnight as it can be a bit sticky and can get your hair in a serious tangle. The general consensus is that you should apply it to you scalp for about 45 minutes and then shampoo your hair immediately afterwards.
The best way to go about this is to get hold of some aloe leaves, chop off the rinds, take the leaf apart and then scrape and use the natural aloe right from the leaf. If you cannot find an aloe plant, then get yourself a bottle of organic aloe gel from your local health store.
- Baking soda
Sodium bicarbonate (more commonly known as baking soda) is a mild exfoliator, which can help get rid of the flakes caused by the dead skin cells. It also reduces the oiliness of the scalp, thus helping those suffering from seborrheic dermatitis. Following is how you can use baking soda to treat your dandruff:
- Rinse your scalp with some lukewarm water.
- Take a handful of baking soda and gently massage your scalp and then wait for a few minutes.
- Rinse your scalp thoroughly with lukewarm water.
You should not use shampoo while applying this treatment and should be applied twice a week.
Mouthwash has potent anti-fungal properties that can help treat your dandruff, especially if it is caused by a fungal or yeast infection. Following is how you can use your mouthwash to treat your dandruff:
- Shampoo your hair.
- Mix water and mouthwash in a 2:1 ratio and rinse your hair with it.
- Let it sit for about thirty minutes, then rinse your scalp with water.
Shampooing your hair regularly helps you get rid of the dead skins shed by your scalp. But besides that there are several different kinds of shampoo (like the tea tree oil shampoo mentioned in the previous section) that can help you deal with cases of dandruff caused by conditions other than poor hygiene. Some examples are:
- Shampoo with a coal tar base: Coal tar slows down the decay of the skin cells in your scalp, thus reducing flaking. It also helps treat dandruff caused by psoriasis and seborrheic dermatitis.
- Shampoo with ketoconazole: This helps treat dandruff caused by a yeast or a fungal infection.
- Shampoo with selenium sulfide: They reduce flaking by slowing down cell death. It also helps get rid of a yeast or a fungal infection.
- Shampoo with salicylic acid: This is the most common type of anti-dandruff shampoo that is available in the market. It can treat the yeast or fungal infection and can help deal with seborrheic dermatitis as well. However, it does tend to dry out your scalp, hence it is recommended that you use it with a conditioner. Alternately, you can also grind up couple of aspirin tablets and add that to your regular shampoo and use it as well. This is because salicylic acid is renowned for it anti-inflammatory properties as well, hence it is one of the main ingredients of aspirin.
- Shampoo with zinc pyrithione: Probably the most versatile among all the various types of anti-dandruff shampoos available in the market. Not only does it help get rid of the existing flakes; it also helps reduce dandruff caused by seborrheic dermatitis, or by yeast or fungal infection.