|Dandruff: Causes and Treatments|
|Written by Dr Jenny Schmidt-White|
Target the specific cause of your dandruff.
Dandruff, or pityriasis simplex capillitii, is characterized by scalp itchiness and the shedding of dead skin cells in visible white or yellowish clumps from the scalp. It is a common complaint affecting approximately half the population. Individuals affected with dandruff have a more rapid turnover rate of skin cells on the scalp. Dandruff can be exacerbated by extreme temperature changes, dry climates, and hair products and detergents.
Three Main Causes of Dandruff
There are three known causes of dandruff: malassezia fungi, sebaceous (or oil) gland secretions, and individual sensitivity. Let’s look at each in detail:
Treatment and Prevention
Probably the most common dandruff treatment is the use of medicated over-the-counter shampoos that contain specific ingredients to combat the cause of the individual’s dandruff. These shampoos contain ingredients like zinc pyrithione, which slows the turnover rate of skin cells and disrupts the fungal cycle, selenium sulfide, which has anti-seborrheaic properties, or ketoconazole, an anti-fungal which disrupts the cell membranes and growth of malassezia fungi.
Naturopathic medicine can also help to treat the underlying causes of dandruff. Hormone levels can be tested, and imbalances corrected to address over-secretion of scalp oils. Another approach is nutritional assessment, with dietary recommendations typically including foods high in zinc and selenium such as sesame seeds and pumpkin seeds, wheat germ, dark chocolate, wild salmon, lamb and oats. Correction of poor immune function can also help prevent the overgrowth of malassezia on the scalp.
Other preventative options include topical application of organic coconut oil, which contains anti-fungal medium-chain fatty acids, and washing hair with cool to warm water. Dandruff is a common problem that can be helped with the use of therapeutic shampoos as well as addressing individual susceptibility. Consult your healthcare provider for personalized treatment advice.