What is Dandruff?
Dandruff refers to the excessive shedding of dead skin cells from the scalp. Although it is natural for the cells to die and flake off in little amounts, excessive flaking out is considered to be a disorder. The exceptionally large amount of flaking is due to chronic illness or as a result of some other triggers. Dandruff may also accompany redness and irritation. Usually, when the skin gets affected, it is considered to be a severe condition of dandruff. The flakes of dead skin cells may appear as lumps and crusts on the scalp.
It is believed that if a proper hygiene is maintained, individuals can easily get rid of dandruff. However, it is easier said than done. Most of the cases of dandruff are chronic and require medical intervention for complete removal of the condition.
Nearly 50% of the adult population is affected by dandruff once in life. Usually, dandruff is a result of the body’s metabolic reactions. When the formation of new cells is faster than the shedding off of the old cells, these may accumulate on the scalp as flakes. Dandruff is also considered to be a social problem and it is associated with the psychology as well.
Symptoms of Dandruff
The most common symptoms of dandruff are white flakes on the scalp, dry scalp and itchy scalp. The white flakes may accumulate due to over production of the scalp cells. Dry scalp may result due to dryness of the scalp which may occur due to some side effects of drugs and use of chemicals. Itch on the scalp may occur due to lack of hygiene, use of chemicals which react with the skin and due top use of allergic drugs etc.
Diagnosis of Dandruff
The diagnosis of dandruff is based on the symptoms of the disorder. The doctor usually refers to the symptoms to diagnose dandruff. Unusually high rates of flaking off of the scalp cells may be the best symptom for diagnosing dandruff. These flakes are readily seen on the hair and clothing of the dandruff affected individual.
Causes of Dandruff
The most common reason for dandruff is a rapid production of the cells of scalp. As mentioned earlier, these cells die and are shed off from the scalp which leads to dandruff. It is found that the dead cells may take 2-7 days to mature and shed off in case of an individual with dandruff in comparison to one month of a person who doesn’t have the disorder.
Dandruff is found to occur mainly due to three factors which are:
1. Metabolic bye products of the microorganisms living on the skin.
2. Sebam or sebaceous secretion known as skin oil; and
3. Individual susceptibility.
Some of the researchers have also termed fungal attacks as a major reason for dandruff. While some of the fungi are found on the skins of both healthy people and dandruff affected people, it is found that a special type of fungus named Malassezia globosa, is the responsible agent. The metabolic reaction of this fungus results in the formation of oleic acids which penetrates the top layer of epidermis which may result in an inflammation of the scalp skin cells.
Dandruff can also be manifestation of an allergic reaction due to hair gels, shampoos or other chemicals used for the treatment of dandruff, such as ketoconazole etc.
Types of Dandruff
There are basically two types of dandruff depending upon the nature of the dead scalp scales. The oily dandruff flakes, known as seborrhic scale, attach themselves to the nails when they are scratched off. Sometimes, these flakes are yellow in color. The dandruff caused due to this type of flakes is known as Seborrhea Dermatitis.
The dry dandruff flakes are grayish white in color. These are medically termed as pitriasic scale. The dry flakes tend to fall like snow from the scalp when they are scratched. The dandruff caused due to dry flakes is known as Pityriasis-capitis.
Treatment of Dandruff
There are many OTC drugs and shampoos available for treating mild dandruff. It is enough to use the regular anti-dandruff shampoos for treating the mild to moderate cases of dandruff. However, it is advisable to try several shampoos before zeroing on any one which suits the best for the individual. Some of the most common types of shampoos that are used to treat dandruff include the following;
1. Coal-tar preparations – The best examples of this category’s shampoos are Neutrogena T/Gel and Tegrin.
2. Selenium sulfide shampoos include Selsun and Exsel etc.
3. Ketoconazole (Nizoral A-D) available as a 1% over-the-counter shampoo and a 2% prescription-strength shampoo.
4. Pyrithione zinc – Some of the best examples of shampoos containing pyrothione zinc are Suave Dandruff Control, Pert Plus Dandruff Control and Head & Shoulders etc.
5. Salicylic acid and sulfur containing shampoos include the T-Sal, lonil T and Sebulex.
It should be borne in mind that after using a hard shampoo to treat dandruff, it is important to use another conditioning shampoo. This will provide the moisturizing effects for the scalp which mey be left dry due to the use of chemical based shampoos.
Moreover, people may also have to alter the shampoos for getting the best results. It has been observed that many shampoos lose their effectiveness over time. So, a need may arise to shift on to a different shampoo to get rid of the dandruff. However, if you find that after using the shampoos, the effectiveness is increasingly getting reduced, it might be a proper time to consult with the doctor.
Most doctors usually recommend a mild shampoo daily, which should be used to rub the scalp. The leather should usually be kept for five minutes to get the best results. The dandruff sufferers should also follow the recommended technique for washing off the shampoo after use. The shampoo needs to be completely cleaned as any left residue may lead to severe skin problems. Moreover, the hair should be brushed from the scalp outwards with a steady and firm stroke. This helps in carrying off the oil from the scalp along the hair strands, which need the oil to stay healthy and shiny.
The stubborn forms of dandruff are usually the matter of concern as they are hard to treat. The most common example of this type of dandruff is seborrheic dermatitis, which is more of a skin problem than being a form of dandruff. It should be immediately brought into attention of the doctors. Early medication is believed to be more helpful in treating the stubborn kinds of dandruff.
Living with Dandruff
Living with dandruff is not a very tough situation if the condition is taken care of. Individuals affected with dandruff should understand the basic reasons to live well with the disorder. Firstly, lots of fresh fruits and vegetables should be included in the daily diet of the dandruff affected individuals. This will help keep the metabolism in favor of the person who is trying to get rid of dandruff.
Apart from using the above mentioned treatments, it is necessary to keep an eye on the condition. Proper hygiene and supportive care can diminish the disorder to a large extent. Individuals suffering from dandruff should take care not to use chemicals which are allergic to their skin or those which entails an adverse effect to the scalp or the skin.
Prevention of Dandruff
Firstly, as dry skin may lead to excessive shedding of the flakes, care should be taken to keep the skin conditions as oily as possible. Cleanliness and hygiene holds the key of treating this condition. A well balanced and healthy diet is also a very good way to prevent dandruff. Chemical treatments and use of allergic materials should be avoided to prevent dandruff from occurring.
Persons should also try to diminish the levels of stress to get rid of dandruff. It is found that increased stress levels may lead to increase of dandruff. Looking carefully into these aspects an individual may stay away from dandruff forever.