What is dandruff and how to get rid of it?

Bajaj Finserv Health Team, Dermatologist
December 15, 2020

Ever came across the embarrassing situation of having those white flakes on your shirt/dress with people around? Or are you always conscious when wearing black? Dandruff is very common condition and known to all. Some people might have tried all kinds of anti-dandruff shampoos available in the market, yet keep getting it back, wondering about the reason and remedy both. We shall address few of the dandruff related common queries and natural remedies to get rid of the same.

Dandruff is a skin condition affecting the scalp which results in dry white flakes and sometimes itchiness. It doesn’t result from poor hygiene, but genetic and environmental factors do play a role. The main cause being skin cells growing and shedding too fast. A fungus called ‘malassezia’ is the culprit behind it that causes inflammation of the scalp making it red and itchy and causing increased rate of shedding of cells. There are certain factors that exacerbate this cause such as:

  • Dry skin: If your skin is dry due to certain conditions such as eczema or cold climates, it can lead to scalp dryness as well making it flaky and at times itchy.
  • Irregular with brushing of hair: This can lead to build-up of dead skin cells and increases the chances of dandruff.
  • Heat styling: Styling your hair with dry hot air can make the dandruff worse.
  • Hair washing too often or too less: Either of these cases can lead to dandruff. If you shampoo too often, it can dry out the scalp and cause dandruff. Conversely, if you shampoo it too less, there is would be built up of oils in the scalp that causes dandruff.
  • Stress: Surprised? Well yes, stress can exacerbate the dandruff and its best to reduce it.
  • Seborrheic dermatitis: This is a skin condition characterized by irritated and oily skin in which extra skin cells are produced which sheds off forming dandruff.
  • Lack of nutrients: Zinc, B-Vitamins and fats lack can increase the chances of dandruff.
  • Hair products with chemicals: Certain chemicals in shampoos or leave in gels/sprays can irritate the skin of the scalp and lead to dandruff.

Dandruff is a condition which doesn’t need a healthcare professional to diagnose and is easily noticeable. Dryness of the scalp, itchiness and white flakes are classic signs of dandruff. An itchier scalp can be the first sign of dandruff. It is best to treat this condition at the earliest to avoid complications.

This condition can affect anybody regardless of age or gender. A frequently asked question that arises is whether dandruff leads to more hair loss? The answer is- yes. This is dandruff related hair loss which occurs as the hair grown on an irritated and flaky scalp is weak and damaged more prone to breakage. If itchiness is accompanied with dandruff, the friction can lead to more damage of the cuticles and hence leading to hair fall.

Treating Dandruff:

The first and foremost remedy for dandruff that comes to the mind is anti-dandruff shampoo! There are various anti-dandruff shampoos available in the market which mostly contains one more of the following ingredients:

  1. Ketoconazole
  2. Salicylic acid
  3. Selenium sulfide
  4. Coal tar
  5. Tea tree oil

These shampoos may work for some and may not for some. At times it gives a temporary benefit and the dandruff returns. Thankfully, there are few natural remedies for rescue!

  • Neem leaves concoction: This is one of the most tried and tested remedy for lots of scalp problems and not just dandruff. Its anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory properties help cure dandruff in a very easy way. Just boil a handful of neem leaves with water, once the color changes to green, strain the water and bring it to room temperature. Rinse your hair with this 2-3 times a week and you shall notice a difference.
  • Curd mask: If you might have noticed, certain anti-dandruff shampoos dry up the hair. Curd is one good natural remedy that not just help treating dandruff but also softens the hair. Apply it for 30 minutes as a mask on your hair before wash.
  • Lemon juice: Let the acidic nature of lemon do its work! Apply juice extracted from lemon directly on the scalp for 2-3 minutes before wash or dilute it with water and use it for your last rinse.
  • Aloe Vera gel: It has anti-inflammatory properties with the benefit of hydration. Apply it for 30 minutes before the wash and see the effect.
  • Coconut oil massage: This hydrating oil has antimicrobial properties that helps curb the dryness of the scalp and thus prevents dandruff. Warm some coconut oil and massage it well on your scalp. Massage it well for at least 20 minutes as it increases the blood circulation on the scalp which help the oil penetration as well.
  • Tea-tree oil: The anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties of tea tree oil help in treating dandruff. You can add few drops in your regular shampoo or add in a carrier oil like coconut oil.

Apart from these natural remedies, there are few more things one can do for the dandruff:

  • Stress can also lead to dandruff as it lowers the immunity and body’s ability to fight off some of the fungal infections and skin conditions that contribute to dandruff. Try some relaxation techniques to relieve from stress.
  • Increase Omega 3 fatty acids in your diet as it reduces the inflammation and help relieve dandruff.
  • Probiotics help increase the immune system which help body fight the fungal infections that causes dandruff.
  • Use the right shampoo and other hair products which doesn’t irritate the scalp.
  • Always keep your scalp clean. Wash your hair once in 3-4 days at least.

If these home remedies doesn’t work for you, it is best to consult your doctor/dermatologist as there might be any underlying condition which may lead to dandruff and your doctor will help you find the right remedy.