Overview of Dandruff
Would you rub an onion on your head to get rid of dandruff? How about a piece of
cheese? These efforts, while extreme, are actually methods people have used to rid
their scalps of the itchy, embarrassing flakes. Fortunately for the millions of
dandruff sufferers, there are much more effective and far less smelly ways of combating
the condition. Dandruff is a very common condition that affects the skin on the
scalp, and sometimes the skin beneath eyebrows or facial hair. Manifested as flaky,
dry, sometimes oily and most often itchy skin, dandruff affects close to 50% of
the population. Shedding of the outer layers of the scalp is natural. Most individuals
shed one layer of skin every 28 days. Dandruff suffers shed skin at a much faster,
oftentimes noticeable rate: one layer every 7-21 days.
For years scientists debated the cause of dandruff, for while the flakes appear
oily, the scalp feels dry and itchy, and the condition seemed to be caused by both
dry and oily skin simultaneously. Recently a new culprit has been identified, Malassezia,
a normally occurring yeast that seems to flourish on the scalps of those with dandruff.
Malassezia is a lipophilic yeast (which means it is a "fat-loving,"
or fat-eating yeast) found on the skin and body surfaces of humans and other animals.
The genus Malassezia is now thought to contain at least ten different species.
There is some controversy as to which specific species cause different skin diseases.
Colonization by Malassezia may occur in humans as early as the neonatal
period. The yeast is a member of the normal skin flora in as many as 90% of adults,
but may occasionally cause superficial and deep mycoses. A mycosis is a
disease of humans or animals caused by fungi (e.g., coccidioidomycosis, ringworm,
athlete's foot and histoplasmosis). Malassezia species have no known teleomorphic
phase—the sexual phase, or "perfect" stage, in a fungal life cycle.
It is still unclear what conditions cause the organism to multiply so quickly, but
when it does it can cause skin to shed rapidly, producing those signature white
flakes. In addition to dandruff, Malassezia can cause seborrhoeic dermatitis,
sebopsoriasis, pustular eruption on young babies, and atopic dermatitis just to
name a few. Some theorize that the overgrowth can result from overproduction of
oil due to stress or poor diet, while others believe the link may be genetic. It's
likely that both factors play a role.
Dandruff can usually be treated very effectively with over-the-counter products.
Most often people use shampoos as a method of dandruff management. There are a number
of shampoos available that contain antibacterial or antifungal ingredients such
as zinc pyrithione and seleneum sulfide. Salicylic acid can gently remove build-up
of scale from dandruff. A number of scientists believe that the active ingredients
actually kill off some of the yeast-fungus, thus slowing down the rate of skin cell
turnover. Most often patients see quick results after using one of these shampoos,
but in some extreme cases, doctors may need to prescribe a steroid lotion. If symptoms
do not begin to improve, or redness and/or bumps are observed, a doctor should be
seen in order to determine the nature of the condition.
Onions and cheese may influence dandruff flare-ups after all—not by rubbing
them on your head—but by eating them. Some research indicates that poor dietary
choices or food allergies may have an effect on the prevalence of Malassezia.
Foods high in yeast and sugar should be avoided, as both are believed to increase
Malassezia growth. Additional research indicates that people with dandruff
are often deficient in vitamin B6 as well as zinc. Research also shows that vitamin
D and omega-3 fatty acids have a strongly positive effect on skin health. A daily
supplement containing these nutrients may help to reduce the frequency and severity
Dry, itchy scalp
Severe flaking of skin in oily scales
Thick and crusty scalp or patchy scaling scalp
White or yellowish scales that are often attached to the hair shaft
Reddish-brown small bumps
Greasy red skin covered with flaky yellow or white scales
Topical over-the-counter medicated shampoos
and/or conditioners containing pyrithione
zinc, salicylic acid, ketoconazole,
tar or selenium sulfide
Topical over-the-counter medicated creams or ointments
containing pyrithione zinc or salicylic acid
Topical creams with hydrocortisone
Topical herbal remedies and treatments such as Scarborough Shampoo, ancient Egyptian
scalp remedy, sage, rosemary, selenium, tea-tree oil, warm vinegar, and apple cider
Changes to diet and lifestyle consuming foods high in biotin, zinc, sulfur, and
Finding Your Severe Dandruff Solution
No matter how mild or severe your dandruff, there are steps you can take to optimize the health of your scalp and skin and to minimize your symptoms. These suggestions can all be used in conjunction with other topical treatments, therapeutic shampoos, nutritional supplements including probiotics, and dietary guidance to gain relief from dandruff symptoms. At DermaHarmony, we understand that each one of us responds a little differently to both the conditions associated with dandruff and to different treatments, and we can help you find a solution that works well for you. Learn more about our programs or call us toll-free at 1-800-827-3730. Our Support Desk is open 9:00 a.m.–6:00 p.m. ET, Monday-Friday.
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||Healthy Diet Tips for Dandruff
When using diet to support the reversal of chronic skin conditions, most of the dietary recommendations are universal regardless of specific diagnosis. Potential removal of gluten and/or casein along with an anti-inflammatory plant-based, whole foods diet, and a mountain of persistence are starting points for recovery.
||Vitamin D-3 and the Skin
Although there is currently no proven cure for psoriasis, recent research indicates that there are numerous health benefits to vitamin D. Supplementation with D-3 provides relief from many inflammatory ailments and medical conditions. We believe these include psoriasis, dermatitis, dandruff, eczema, rosacea, and severe acne.
Salicylic Acid is a common and effective treatment for a wide variety of skin problems including acne, dandruff, psoriasis, seborrhea dermatitis, calluses, corns, and warts.
Ayurvedic Treatment for Dandruff
Ayurvedic medicine is a traditional system of healing native to India, and practiced in many other regions worldwide as part of an integrative approach to medical practice.
Systemic Approach to Dandruff
Dandruff is a very common condition from which as many as 50 out of 100 people suffer. Recent research shows there is no single cause, and results from treatments likewise vary from person to person. An overall systemic approach which relies on good hygiene, topical applications, and a healthy, deliberate diet is our recommendation for the treatment and control of dandruff.
Why Do Some People Have Dandruff?
It is difficult when surveying current dermatology literature to identify much of a clinical difference between severe dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis. Often the terms are used interchangeably.
Overview of Dandruff—Reference Documents
and Further Reading
Principal Author: K. Kastelein, Editor-in-Chief
Date of Publication: 09/01/2006