White flakes spotted on black shirts are usually thought of as only plaguing teens in high school, but adults can struggle with this skin condition too. While we all want to look well-groomed, sometimes we have to look deeper than a bottle of Head and Shoulders to fix the problem.
What really causes dandruff, and what can you do about it?
Could It Be Dry Skin?
Many people assume that if you have a scaly and itchy scalp, it means you have dandruff. But there is another condition that can mirror the symptoms of dandruff - a dry scalp. It is important to know the difference between the two so you can be properly armed against both.
Dry scalp is the result of having too little moisture in the skin, and people who live in colder climates are more prone to seeing those pesky flakes. Additionally, older individuals are at risk for developing dry scalp. Another contributing factor to dry scalp is using products such as certain styling gels, hairsprays, or shampoos and conditioners, which can cause an allergic reaction, known as contact dermatitis.
Using products such as certain styling gels, hairsprays, or shampoos and conditioners can cause an allergic reaction, known as contact dermatitis.
The Causes and Symptoms of Dandruff
Normally our skin sheds as skin cells multiply, but when the process is sped up and skin cells are being shed more quickly, you get dandruff. Dandruff is mainly caused by seborrheic dermatitis, which consists of red oily skin and scaly patches that fall from the scalp. You can acquire seborrheic dermatitis anywhere you have glands, such as the eyebrows, armpits, or groin.
In some cases, dandruff is caused by a yeastlike fungus found on the scalp called malassezia, which is linked to other skin conditions such as eczema and acne. Signs to look for are itchiness, redness, and excessive oiliness.
Tips to Treat Dandruff
Contrary to the popular notion that dandruff is caused by poor hygiene, people who have the condition can prevent excess breakouts through simple measures such as washing their hair regularly. If someone has dandruff and mistakes it for dry scalp they may not shampoo enough, causing the condition to worsen.
Here are some tips to get rid of the unwanted waxy substance:
- Buy an over-the-counter dandruff-fighting kit. Dr. Carlos Wesley, hair loss specialist in New York City, explains that products with “tar, zinc pyrithione, or selenium sulfide often prove most beneficial." Nioxin Scalp Recovery Kit contains zinc pyrithione, as well as a medicated shampoo, conditioner, and soothing serum.
- Shampoo your hair often! Dandruff is caused by excessive oiliness, so not washing your hair regularly can exacerbate it.
- Try an at-home coconut oil mask once a week to soothe irritated skin.
- See your dermatologist if the dandruff will not go away after you’ve treated it at home. Sometimes your doctor will recommend a steroid cream or an anti-fungal remedy to apply topically to your scalp.
Could It Be Something Else?
It may not even be dandruff that is causing an irritated scalp. Some patients present symptoms similar to dandruff, but it’s actually dry skin which can be remedied by proper moisturization and hair care, as well as by consuming nutrient-dense foods.
Dry skin which can be remedied by proper moisturization and hair care, as well as by consuming nutrient-dense foods.
There may be a different underlying issue that can mimic dandruff such as psoriasis, a disease that causes scaly, red patches on skin. If the above tips do not work, call your dermatologist to see if it could be something else.
The only white flakes we want to see are the kind that stay outside, so whether you suspect you have dandruff or a different skin problem, there are plenty of options to treat your scalp issues!