Dandruff, a condition characterized by flaking, itchy scalp, is one of the most common dermatological conditions. Fortunately, while the exact cause of dandruff is not known, there are some things you can do to reduce your risk of getting it, and effective treatments are available. So if it looks like a winter storm is following you – and only you – read on.
1. Eat a healthy, balanced diet.
As if you needed another reason to eat right, it turns out that a healthy diet may ward off the flakes. Make sure to get plenty of zinc, Omega-3 fatty acids, E and B-vitamins, and avoid excessive yeast and sugar. Research suggests that dandruff is at least in part caused by a fungus that thrives in yeasty, fatty, sugary environments. Though this does not necessarily directly affect the conditions of your skin, your overall health will help with how your body responds to the fungus causing the dandruff.
2. Don’t worry, be happy.
Stress challenges the body’s defenses and encourages all sorts of ailments, including dandruff, so relax now and don’t worry about wearing a black shirt tomorrow.
3. Limit your use of hair styling products.
Hairspray, mousse, and gel may contribute to dandruff in some people. They may also cause excessive drying of the skin, which can cause flaking – or trigger allergic reactions. If you notice dandruff soon after you begin to use a new product, chances are the product is to blame. The exception to this would be using a therapeutic styling gel or spray formulated with tea tree oil.
4. Wash your hair regularly
Dandruff seems to thrive in oily hair, so regular shampooing can help you fight it off. If you already have dandruff, washing your hair may help you keep the symptoms (the flakes) under control until it goes away. Massage your scalp so that you clean your skin, as well as your hair. This is one time when the “repeat” directions in “wash, rinse, and repeat” may be useful. The first washing breaks up the waxy sebum, and the second washing helps rinse it all away.
5. Use a shampoo designed to treat dandruff.
If dandruff persists despite regular shampooing, you may need something stronger. Try a shampoo with zinc (look at the label on the back); zinc helps fight off dandruff. There are a variety of anti-dandruff shampoos available at your pharmacy or grocery store, and they usually work. Be sure to follow the instructions carefully, and make a little extra time to shower, as most of these recommend that you leave them in for 5-10 minutes and lather twice.
6. Oil your hair with herbal oils or use special herbal gels.
Gels from India have been known to help. Do this on a regular basis, at least twice a week for improvements.
7. Be aware that there are different active ingredients in dandruff shampoos.
If one does not work for you try another. Ketoconazole (brand name Nizoral®) is extremely effective against certain types of dandruff that are caused by a fungus. 1% Ketoconazole is available without prescription in the US, 2% requires a prescription. The 2% is available without a prescription in Canada.
8. Be patient.
While anti-dandruff shampoos may produce results after a few uses, it can take a week or two to see the difference.
9. Switch it up
If one type of anti-dandruff shampoo doesn’t seem to work, or if it works for a time but then doesn’t, switch to a product with another active ingredient (the active ingredient will be labeled on the bottle).
10. See your doctor if the problem persists after more than a couple weeks of treatment.
There are prescription shampoos available, and prescription steroid creams may also help