Dandruff is one of the most common scalp problems, and is characterized by skin flaking and itching. The skin cells of the scalp die after a period of time, and then sloughed off and replaced by new cells, which is a normal phenomenon. Therefore, if you observe a small amount of white flakes or dead skin cells on the scalp, then it is completely normal.
But excessive flaking of the scalp is not normal, which can be caused by certain factors that can accelerate the rate of skin cell turnover. This results in excessive dandruff, which can become evident as a large amount of white flakes or dead skin cells on the scalp.
The excessive shedding of the skin cells can be triggered by a number of factors, of which the most important ones are, skin dryness, oily skin (caused by overactive sebaceous glands), frequent exposure to extreme cold and heat, sensitivity to certain hair care products, hormonal imbalance, poor diet, stress, and cold weather.
Moreover, certain individuals can have a genetic predisposition to this condition. Another important factor that can cause this scalp problem is an overgrowth of the fungus, malassezia. Though this fungus is normally found on the scalp, its overgrowth can cause dandruff. But what exactly causes the excessive growth of this yeast-like fungus is not known.
Sometimes, excessive shedding of the skin cells can also have an association with certain skin conditions, like scalp eczema, seborrheic dermatitis, and plaque psoriasis. Seborrheic dermatitis is the condition, where one can find greasy scales on the scalp, and oily and yellow-colored skin flakes. This condition is more common in individuals with some underlying chronic diseases and a suppressed immune system.
Plaque psoriasis, on the other hand, can stimulate an overproduction of the skin cells, which can cause a buildup of scaly plaques on the scalp that can closely resemble dandruff. Scalp eczema is more commonly found in infants, and is usually referred to as cradle crap. This condition is characterized by the appearance of dry flakes on the scalp, and severe itching.
Dandruff can be controlled or managed with the help of some medicated and over-the-counter anti-dandruff shampoos. Such shampoos usually contain ingredients, like salicylic acid, coal tar, zinc pyrithione, selenium sulfide, and ketoconazole. Such active ingredients help control skin flaking by removing the dead skin cells. They also help control the rate at which new cells are generated, besides checking the growth of fungi and bacteria on the scalp.
If such shampoos fail to contain the problem, then it is better to get the condition properly evaluated by a dermatologist. Dermatologists usually prescribe topical creams, such as steroid creams for a severe case of dandruff. Steroid creams can help treat the scaling, skin flaking, as well as the itching associated with this condition. But the long-term use of steroids can cause side effects, like thinning of the skin. So, these medications should be used only under the supervision of a dermatologist.
Certain natural or home remedies can also help alleviate this condition. With regular application, they can help reduce dandruff without being harsh on your scalp and hair. The following are some effective natural remedies for this condition:
- Give your hair and scalp a hot oil treatment prior to shampooing. Warm some coconut or almond oil, and massage the scalp with your fingers, just before going to bed. Next day, rub some lime juice on the scalp, keep it for a few minutes, and then wash your hair with a mild shampoo.
- Lemon or lime is an amazing natural remedy, which can be rubbed on the scalp before shampooing your hair, as mentioned already. Otherwise, you can mix a teaspoon of lemon juice in the water to be used as a last rinse.
- Soak some fenugreek seeds in water for the whole night, and then grind them to make a fine paste. Apply the paste thoroughly on the scalp, and leave for about half an hour, after which rinse it off with cold water.
- You can also use apple cider vinegar or any other cider vinegar. Just mix a small amount of cider vinegar to the water to be used as a final rinse. This will help restore the normal pH of the scalp, and unclog the skin pores and destroy the scalp bacteria.
- Gently apply aloe vera gel to the scalp and leave it for a few hours. Then rinse it off with clean water. Aloe vera can reduce dandruff, and make your hair soft and healthy.
- Tea tree oil, which is known to have antifungal properties, is another excellent remedy for this condition. Use this oil to massage your scalp, and then leave it for a few hours, before washing your hair.
- Massage the scalp with yogurt for about 15 to 20 minutes, and then rinse it off with cold water. Otherwise, you can mix some yogurt with green gram powder, and apply the paste on your scalp and hair.
Never use hot water to wash your hair, and do not forget to follow a healthy or balanced diet, and get some sun exposure everyday to get rid of this scalp problem. Sunlight has anti-inflammatory effect, which can help reduce scaly skin conditions like dandruff. But if the problem seems to be quite serious, and is not responding to any of the natural remedies and anti-dandruff shampoos, then it is better to visit a dermatologist to get the condition properly evaluated.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be treated as a substitute for professional medical advice.