People may have a tendency to take dandruff and scalp problems lightly. Yet, they can cause a lot of headaches.
Dandruff: is it a common problem?
Dandruff, those small dry greyish-white skin flakes are more of a cosmetic concern. From a health perspective, theses flakes aren't really a problem. They usually appear at adolescence, between the ages of 10 and 20. The problem often lasts until adulthood, affecting more than 40% of people over 30.
These tiny flakes detach from the scalp diffusely or in patches. They are often more noticeable after the hair has been brushed or combed.
Oftentimes, dandruff is accompanied by other symptoms on the scalp:
- skin irritation
- dry skin
It may also be explained by other skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis.
Dandruff is sometimes exacerbated by a combination of factors, including:
- an oily scalp (sebum)
- dry skin (e.g., very dry environment)
- excessive heat or sweating
- the use of irritating hair products
- excessive hair treatments.
Why does dandruff occur?
The formation of dandruff can most often be explained by the presence of a microscopic fungus called malassezia globosa. This micro-organism is found on the scalp of all human beings and it causes dandruff in nearly half of them.
Dandruff can also be a manifestation of a mild form of seborrheic dermatitis, which is a medical condition affecting areas of the body that are oily, like the scalp, forehead, eyebrows, lashes, nostrils, auditory canals, anterior chest, and pubis, for example. It can affect individuals of all ages (babies, children, adolescents, and adults). In babies, it is commonly called "cradle cap".
What should you do if you have dandruff?
Some measures can help you control a dandruff problem. Here are a few:
- Abstain from using irritating hair products (e.g. shampoos, gels or hair spray with a very strong fragrance).
- Wash hair with a mild shampoo, ideally one that is formulated to help with a problem scalp, at least 3 times a week. Several products are made for daily use.
- Avoid scratching your scalp.
- Give preference to a cool and adequately moist environment (use a humidifier if needed).
How to get the most out of a dandruff shampoo
There are several shampoos available on the Canadian market that contain effective active agents against scalp problems such as dandruff, redness, dryness, and itching. They generally have an antifungal (against fungus), anti-inflammatory or keratolytic action (that dissolves the stratum corneum or outermost layer of the epidermis).
These products must be used regularly for several weeks to obtain an optimal effect. It is important to apply a generous amount of the product, massage it into the scalp, and leave it in for a few minutes before rinsing thoroughly. The manufacturer's instructions should be followed closely for increased efficiency and safe use.
The choice of conditioner is also very important. Typical conditioners sometimes have the effect of eliminating the active ingredient found in a dandruff shampoo. Using a conditioner from the same line (or brand name) as the shampoo, maximizes its effect.
Speak to your pharmacist for additional information about dandruff and the products available.