Not to scare you or anything… But dandruff is actually a disease. Yup – it’s been around forever, despite all the treatment options. So, what gives? Dermatologist Dr Nomphelo Gantso gets to the bottom of this prickly problem once and for all.
First off, what really causes dandruff? “The exact cause of dandruff, also known as scurf, or Pityriasis simplex capillitii, is unknown,” says Dr Gantso. But there are a couple of factors that can contribute to it. Here, some of the culprits you should look out for…
Dandruff Can Be Caused By Not Brushing Enough!?
Say what? Seriously – people who don’t comb or brush their hair regularly have a slightly higher risk of having dandruff. Why? Because they’re not aiding the shedding of skin that combing or brushing provides. [Sheepishly reaches for brush.]
People who are sensitive to yeast have a slightly higher risk of developing dandruff, so it’s logical to assume that yeast may play a part. Yeast-sensitive people who get dandruff often find that it gets better during the warmer months and worse in winter. UVA light from the sun counteracts the yeast. Some say that during winter the skin is drier (oh hey cold air and overheated rooms aka exposure to extreme temps), making dandruff more likely. So, it’s not that easy to tell whether it’s yeast or just dry skin.
And Then There’s Dry Skin…
People with dry skin tend to get dandruff more often. Cold winter air, combined with overheated rooms, is a common cause of itchy, flaking skin. If this is you, you’ll notice that your flakes are small and non-oily. Try Hope’s Relief Shampoo (For Itchy Flaky Scalps), R200 at Faithful To Nature
This condition is characterised by irritated, oily skin – and if you suffer from it, you’ll be prone to dandruff too. Seborrheic dermatitis affects many areas of the skin, including the backs of the ears, the breastbone, eyebrows and the sides of the nose – not just the scalp. You’ll notice red, greasy skin covered with flaky white or yellow scales. A great product to try: Dr. Konopka’s Hair Serum – Anti-Dandruff, R100 at Faithful To Nature
Certain Skin Conditions
People with psoriasis, eczema and certain other skin disorders tend to get dandruff more frequently than other people.
A Bad Reaction To Products
Some people react to certain haircare products with a red, itchy, scaling scalp. Shampooing too often may cause dandruff as it can irritate the scalp.
Malassezia is a fungus that lives on everybody’s scalp. Generally, it causes no problems at all, but it can grow out of control. Essentially, it feeds on the oils our hair follicles secrete. When this happens, the scalp can become irritated and produce extra skin cells. These extra cells die and fall off, mix with the oil from our hair and scalp, and turn into what we see as dandruff.
Here’s Exactly How To Treat It
Two factors should be considered when you treat dandruff: your age and the severity of the condition. Remember, your aim is to stop the dandruff by slowing down the reproduction of skin cells, or counteract the yeast production that might be the cause. So it’s best to try out shampoos and scalp preparations that are available over-the-counter (there’s no prescription needed at most stores and pharmacies). It’s important to remember that seborrheic dermatitis can be controlled, but not cured with these products. A good shampoo to try: Organics 2 in 1 Shampoo and Conditioner Anti-Dandruff, R70 at Dischem
Before using an anti-fungal shampoo, see if you can remove any scaly or crusty patches on your scalp. Note: do this with care. If you do manage to remove them, the shampoo will be more effective.