If dandruff is the only thing standing between you and a closet full of basic black, you're not alone. Many people have this scalp disorder, which is marked by itching and excessive flaking of the scalp. Although dandruff isn't contagious (though it seems in the 1940's it was thought to be), it is SO embarrassing.
WHAT CAUSES DANDRUFF?
The horrible culprit is a yeast-like fungus called Malassezia which lives on the scalps of most healthy adults without causing problems. Unfortunately sometimes it grows out of control, feeding on the oils secreted by the hair follicles and causing irritation that leads to increased cell turnover, and the result is a large number of dead skin cells. As the cells fall off, they tend to clump together with oil from your hair and scalp, making them appear white, flaky and all too visible.
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Exactly what causes an overgrowth of these organisms isn't known, although increased oil production; hormonal fluctuations; stress; illness; a suppressed immune system; infrequent shampooing and extra sensitivity to the malassezia fungus may contribute to the development of dandruff.
WHAT TREATMENT IS THERE?
There are several dandruff shampoos on the market that will control flaking and itchiness. Dandruff shampoos are classified according to their active ingredient (see below) and you may need to experiment with different ones until you find one that works best for you.
To start, use daily until your dandruff is controlled, and then cut back to two or three times a week. Be sure to leave the shampoo on for at least five minutes — this allows the ingredients time to work.
If you've shampooed faithfully for several weeks and you are still encountering dandruff, talk to your doctor or dermatologist.
Zinc Pyrithione shampoos
These contain the antibacterial and antifungal agent zinc pyrithione, which has been shown to reduce the fungus that causes dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis.
Coal tar, a byproduct of the coal manufacturing process, helps conditions such as dandruff, seborrheic dermatitis and psoriasis by slowing cell turnover.
Salicylic Acid shampoos
These "scalp scrubs" help eliminate scale, but they may leave your scalp dry, leading to more flaking. Using a conditioner after shampooing can help counter dryness.
Selenium Sulfide shampoos
These shampoos help prevent cell turnover and may also reduce the number of malassezia. Because they can discolour blonde, gray or chemically coloured hair, be sure to use them only as directed and to rinse well after shampooing.
The newest addition to the dandruff armamentarium, ketoconazole is a broad-spectrum antifungal agent that may work when other shampoos fail. It's available over-the-counter as well as by prescription.
Herbal Essences No Flaking Way
This shampoo relieves scalp-related itching, irritation, redness or flaking associated with dandruff. Made with the active dandruff-fighting ingredient Pyrithione Zinc.
Head & Shoulders Classic Clean
With a HydraZinc formula, the shampoo and condition help to eliminate flakes and relieves scalp dryness, itch, and irritation. Gentle and pH balanced for everyday use - even on permed or colour-treated hair.
Neutrogena T-Gel Daily Control Dandruff Shampoo
Contains 1% Zinc Pyrithione for fast, effective dandruff relief. Three conditioning agents promote healthy-looking, soft, manageable hair.
Nizoral Anti-Dandruff Shampoo
This shampoo contains ketoconazole - an active ingredient clinically proven to get to the root of your dandruff problem. It actually kills the malassezia fungus that causes dandruff.