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What is Dandruff?
Before we talk about how to get rid of dandruff, let's talk about what exactly it is. We all know the tell-tale signs of dandruff; those charming white flakes all over the shoulders, scratching your head and it looking like you've been caught in a snow storm – charming, right?
Dandruff is a skin disorder affecting up to 50 percent of the world population at some point in their life. It is linked with the proliferation of lipophilic yeasts of the genus Malassezia. (1) The American Osteopathic College of Dermatology tells us that dandruff is the shedding of excessive amounts of dead skin flakes from the scalp sometimes accompanied by a bit of itching, but typically no redness or scabbing.
Dandruff can get worse during the fall and winter because of the dry air while improving in the summer. It is caused by build-up of dead skin and in many more severe cases, a yeast-like organism aggravates it. While this germ is normally present on everyone’s scalp, it can produce some irritation if it grows heavily.
Other forms of Dandruff
When scaling of the scalp is accompanied by redness, or when the redness and flaking spreads to cause greasy scaling on the face, eyebrows or sides of the nose, it may be diagnosed as seborrheic dermatitisa and is related to severe dandruff conditions. (2) Lucky me, I develop seborrheic dermatitis when I eat grains, the picture below was during my last break out when I fell off the grain free wagon. Thankfully, getting back on track it clears up within about 2 weeks. From my own experience with myself and the kids I can say that dermatitis and dandruff are definitely tied in with our gut health and cleaning up our diet definitely improves our symptoms.
Have you heard of cradle cap? That is another name for dandruff that typically affects infants. But no need to worry. It’s normally harmless and will usually clear up around the age of 3. All of my kids have had cradle cap at one point or another when they were young and it looks similar to my picture above except it doesn't have the inflammation and pain that comes with dermatitis.
Why Do We Get Dandruff?
There are a number of theories on the causes of dandruff which include:
- Dry skin. The most popular cause of dandruff is, in fact, dry skin. Usually, symptoms and signs of dry skin on other parts of the body, such as your legs and arms, will exist. Dry Skin is a common symptom of Pyrrole disorder.
- Oily skin (seborrheic dermatitis). Believe it or not, oily skin is one of the most frequent causes of dandruff. It is marked by red, greasy skin covered with flaky white or yellow scales. Also known as seborrheic dermatitis, it may affect your scalp (see my picture above) and other areas rich in oil glands such as your eyebrows, sides of the nose and backs of the ears.
- In addition, the breastbone, the groin area and armpits may be affected. Not shampooing enough can create oily skin. While it is important to not shampoo too frequently so that you can have a healthier scalp and hair from the natural oils that your skin produces, if you don’t regularly wash your hair, oils and skin cells from your scalp can actually build up and cause dandruff. Washing every 2–3 days is ideal in most cases.
- Skin conditions. Those with eczema and psoriasis are often known to have dandruff since both of these conditions have characteristics of dry skin, often times severe and very irritating.
- Yeast-like fungus (Malassezia). While malassezia lives on the scalps of most adults, it may irritate the scalp. This irritation can cause more skin cells to grow and when that happens, the extra skin cells die and fall off, producing that white flakiness in your hair or on your clothes.
- Hair care products. Because most hair care products contain chemicals ingredients, it can cause your scalp to become red, itchy and scaly. Shampooing too often or using too many styling products also may irritate your scalp and can also cause dandruff. (3) Avoid shampoos as they contain salts and other chemicals that promote dandruff. Just use a mild, natural soap. Some specialist anti-dandruff shampoos are successful, but they are a harsh treatment on your skin and may make you more prone to infection again.
- Weakened immune system (from stress, sleep deprivation, fatigue or illness) or individual susceptibility.
- Picking and scratching that spreads the infection.
- Lack of sulfur.
- Lack of protein in the diet.
- Poor diet – high in sugar, carbohydrates and processed food.
HOw to get rid of Dandruff with Natural Remedies You Can Try at Home
Obviously, trying to pinpoint your dandruff triggers will help you treat it more effectively. If it's your diet then switching to a grain free, low sugar diet may help improve the condition. If you use a lot of hair products, trying other brands might help. Here is a list of natural remedies you can try to alleviate they symptoms of dandruff. (FYI this post contains some affiliate links – you can see my full disclosure here).
- Hydrate – Often the lack of enough water in our bodies causes dry skin, and this is one of the many reasons to drink water! It is very important to drink plenty of water daily to help your overall health as well as the dryness of your skin and scalp.
- Coconut Oil – Coconut oil contains medium-chain fatty acids, including lauric acid and capric acid, it has strong antiviral, antimicrobial and antifungal properties. These properties help target and kill the fungus and any viruses or bacteria that may exist.
- Essential Oils – There are essential oils that can really make a difference. Because some of these oils contain antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal properties, much like coconut oil, they can reduce inflammation and treat infections. You will need to choose pure oils such as lavender, wintergreen, thyme, lemongrass, cypress, oregano and tea tree, all of which help to fight fungus and yeast. A study was conducted of subjects between the ages of 20–60, all of whom had dandruff and reported that lemongrass essential oil significantly reduced their dandruff around day seven of use! (4) To use mix a few drops of essential oils with coconut oil and apply to your scalp – let sit for a few hours (or even overnight) and then wash out with a gentle shampoo.
- Apple Cider Vinegar – (ACV) is great for killing the fungus that causes dandruff. It is known to provide instant relief from itchiness and may be your answer for how to get rid of dandruff with just a few applications. Try combining equal parts ACV with water and massage onto the scalp. Let it sit for a few minutes and rinse. Repeat for 5–7 days and see if you notice a difference. If you experience any irritation, discontinue or use every other day for 7–10 days to see if there is some improvement.
- Probiotics – A good probiotic can help reduce dandruff by improving your overall gut health. Poor gut health impacts on all of the body systems including the skin. Water kefir is a rich source of good probiotic bacteria, it's cheap, quick and easy to make. You can drink it and also use as a rinse on your hair to help combat dandruff.
- Fenugreek – Fenugreek seeds contain protein and nicotinic which are extremely useful against hair fall, dandruff and help to treat variety of scalp issues like dryness of hair. It contains large amounts of lecithin as well which hydrates the hair and provides strength to the roots making the hair shiny. Fenugreek seeds are hailed for their anti fungal properties and are effective in battling dandruff caused by fungal infection on the scalp.
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Here's to your health,
Disclaimer: The information on this site has not been evaluated by the FDA or the TGA and is not to be taken as medical advice. I am not a doctor and only offer up the personal experience of my family. All material on this website is provided for information only and may not be construed as medical advice or instruction. No action or inaction should be taken based solely on the contents of this website, instead readers should consult with the appropriate health professional in any matter relating to their health and well-being. Readers who fail to consult with the appropriate health professional assume the risk of any injuries.