Thanks to the zealous marketing ploys of shampoo manufacturers, dandruff is now seen as disease instead of the entirely natural process that it is.
Everyone gets a little dandruff sometimes. Your scalp, like the rest of your skin, is continually shedding old cells and replacing them with new ones. The life cycle of a skin cell is between two to four weeks, which means old, dead cells – dandruff – are always flaking off. Most of the time you don’t even notice them. In some cases, however, the body shed old skin cells faster than normal. That’s when you begin noticing little white flakes in your hair or on the shoulders of your blue blazer.
Doctors aren’t sure what causes this acceleration of flaking skin cells, although it may be related to overactive oil glands or possibly a mild fungal infection on the skin. Because the male hormone testosterone plays a role in oil production, dandruff tends to be more common in men than women. It isn’t dangerous and it isn’t a sign of illness. It can be unsightly, however, which is why people spend millions of dollars every year on products to get rid of the white flakes.
You can’t get rid of dandruff entirely, but there are ways to keep the unsightly flakes to a minimum.
Here’s what dermatologists advise
Try an oil treatment . When your skin is dry you produce more flaky skin cells than when it’s moist and lubricated. That’s why experts sometimes recommend massaging a little olive oil into your scalp and leaving it there for about half an hour before showering. The oil will help moisten the scalp and loosen old cells that are getting ready to flake off.
Lather up with a medicated shampoo . Washing your hair often is the best treatment for dandruff because it washes away old skin cells before they become noticeable. Doctors often recommend using medicated dandruff shampoos because they remove skin cells more efficiently than regular shampoos. Look for products containing salicylic acid, selenium, sulfur, or tar.
For dandruff shampoos to work most effectively, it’s important to give the medicated ingredients time to work. After lathering, allow the shampoo to stay in your hair for a few minutes before rinsing. This will allow the active ingredients to penetrate the upper layers of skin and will help remove old cells. Over the counter dandruff shampoos are gentle enough to use regularly, but you’ll probably only need to use them for a week or two to get dandruff under control.
Switch brands now and then . After a while your skin can become “immune” to the ingredients in a particular dandruff shampoo. Even if you have a favorite product, it’s a good idea to switch brands from time to time.
Go easy on the additives. A lot of hair-care products, like mousse, gel, and hair spray, can cause dandruff-like flaking. When you’re already having problems with dandruff, these extra flakes will only make the problem worse. It’s a good idea to use these products sparingly and not at all when your dandruff is heaviest.
Try the hat trick. Cold winter air can be extremely drying, which is why many people get more dandruff during the winter months. By wearing a hat you will help keep your skin cells moist and prevent some of the flaking.
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