Dandruff is a perfectly common condition, but it doesn’t make experiencing those little white flakes on your shoulders any less embarrassing. Even though we may know many people share our frustration with the dry flakes of skin falling onto our dark clothing in a business meeting or first date, it feels so personal in the moment, and it can be hard to ignore the way you feel.
Dandruff can be a tricky thing to deal with, as it has numerous causes. Along with the most common causes, dry skin and psoriasis, it is supposedly caused by not cleaning your scalp often enough, or cleaning it too often. To make this even more frustrating, some people say it can also be caused by simply shampooing with something your sensitive scalp doesn’t like. So how are you supposed to deal with it. And what exactly is dandruff, really?
What’s going on up there?
Part of the embarrassment of dandruff is the misunderstanding behind it; a lot of people believe that dandruff is caused by poor hygiene. But this isn’t scientifically sound. In fact, experts agree this is probably the last thing responsible for those flakes. Dandruff is a skin condition, first and foremost. It causes your scalp, and the scalps of 50% of the population, to flake off in tiny little pieces and usually comes with some itching. It’s closely linked to something called Malassezia. This is a fungus that everyone has (sorry) on their scalps and it feeds on the oils secreted by hair follicles. This can cause skin cells to shed and clump into those annoying flakes 1.
Surprisingly, dandruff doesn’t just happen on your scalp. In fact, you can get dandruff on your face. Plenty of people discover dandruff in their eyebrows, around their ears and even on their noses. Basically, if your skin produces oil, it’s at risk of producing dandruff 2.
Regardless of where you experience it, before you run to the store to purchase dandruff shampoo, make sure you are truly experiencing dandruff, and not something else. Beverly Hills dermatologist Stuart H Kaplan, M.D. recommends a medicated dandruff shampoo that contains ketoconazole, selenium sulfide or zinc. If you don’t see any improvement after two weeks of using the ‘poo, you may want to consult a physician. You could have psoriasis or another skin inflammation.
The Causes of Dandruff.
Some studies have found diet can impact your risk for dandruff, claiming people who eat lots of salt, too much sugar or foods rich in spice can experience more dandruff than a person with a healthier diet. Excessive alcohol use can also lead to flaking skin. However, with a significant number of dandruff sufferers claiming it seems to get better as they age, the jury was out as to whether it really is caused by what you’re eating or if it’s just something we all have to experience. That is until 2007.
In 2007, scientists found that the fungal yeast responsible for dandruff produces enzymes which break down oils produced by our sweat glands. This creates an acid which penetrates the top layer of our skin and triggers cells to be created faster…