Your direct connection to dermatologists, trichologists, hairstylists, and other beauty experts is the Hair Health Hotline. Each tale in this collection addresses a typical hair or scalp issue and provides science-based advice on how to take care of your strands.
Dandruff can be typically unpredictable and stick around despite your best efforts to break the relationship, much like a clingy, love-struck ex. And given that dandruff frequently causes noticeable flakes and an itchy, uncomfortable condition, it may be a difficult situation.
Naturally, if you’ve been having problems with dandruff on your scalp, that question is definitely on your mind right now. Caroline Robinson, M.D., F.A.A.D. is a founding dermatologist at Tone Dermatology and is presenting a four-pronged strategy to treat dandruff in order to assist you live a life free of flake.
A: THERE ARE SO MANY DANDRUFF PRODUCTS OUT THERE AND I’VE BEEN EXPERIENCING FLAKING. I WONDER HOW TO GET RID OF DANDRUFF. WHAT DO I DO FIRST? A: Changing to an over-the-counter anti-dandruff shampoo is frequently sufficient for folks to get rid of flaking. According to Dr. Robinson, a dermatologist may need to recommend a treatment strategy for others.
That might sound deceptively basic, but dandruff can be a challenging problem to understand. According to Dr. Robinson, it’s “one of the most poorly known scalp disorders and one of the trickiest things to treat.”
One thing, according to Dr. Robinson, is that “dandruff exists on a continuum.” “In dermatology, we distinguish between dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis, a more serious form of dandruff. Additionally, this variety of dandruff has greater scaling. It may exhibit more acute symptoms, including increased redness and itching.”
WHAT CAUSES SEBORRHEIC DERMATITIS AND DANDRUFF? According to Dr. Robinson, there are three elements that affect seborrheic dermatitis and dandruff:
a surplus of sebum, or oil, produced naturally by your scalp. On your scalp, there is a fungus called Malassezia that exists naturally. The fatty acids from the aforementioned oils are broken down, and in persons who are prone to dandruff, the product of the broken-down fatty acid produces irritation. More skin cells are produced by your skin as a result. introduce flaking. Genetics. You are more likely to develop dandruff if your parents have it. According to Dr. Robinson, having a dry scalp can also cause flaking. She claims that there is no particular medical diagnosis for dry scalp. “I explain to them that seborrheic dermatitis and dandruff are more like oily flaking whereas dry scalp is more like dry flaking. That’s not a strict rule, but it just kind of aids in making the two distinctions and explains the subtle differences between dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis.”
HOW CAN DANDRUFF BE REMOVED? It might be challenging to distinguish between seborrheic dermatitis and flaking due to dry scalp. “It’s incredibly hard for the typical individual to identify the two,” says Dr. Robinson. “A skilled dermatologist can discern the difference between dry flakes related to dryness of the skin of the scalp versus flaking connected to seborrheic dermatitis.”
Fortunately, your strategy should remain the same no matter what is causing you to flake. According to Dr. Robinson, it is absolutely acceptable to test an anti-dandruff shampoo if your symptoms are minor. “After that, you can even switch to a shampoo that adds moisture to help with your discomfort. However, I would advise visiting a dermatologist to get that diagnosis if your symptoms were more severe.” More information about how to get rid of dandruff is provided below.
CHANGE TO A DANDRUFF-REDUCING SHAMPOO. Many shampoos on the market are marketed as having anti-dandruff ingredients, as you may have seen. The greatest place to start, according to Dr. Robinson, is with these. She explains that many anti-dandruff shampoos either directly reduce the quantity of yeast on the scalp, help break up the skin cells in flakes so the flakes can be removed more quickly, or help manage oil on the scalp.
According to Dr. Robinson, these shampoos contain chemicals including salicylic acid, pyrithione zinc, and selenium sulfide that are mentioned on the Food and Drug Administration’s monograph for the treatment of dandruff.
To determine which ingredient is best for your specific needs, some trial and error is required. According to Dr. Robinson, there is a widespread myth that your hair type affects how you treat dandruff. “And I do believe there is some historical context to that because, historically, it’s possible that some “formulas” for the active component in anti-dandruff shampoos were a little bit harsher for some hair types. However, many solutions nowadays are actually created to work with all types of hair.”
Giving each element a chance is a good idea in light of this. According to Dr. Robinson, some people with dandruff have more flaking than others. “Some people have itchier skin, more redness, and more oil. And it will be useful to identify the elements that, rather than focusing on your hair type, function a little bit better for you depending on your symptoms.” For instance, she points out that pyrithione zinc has strong anti-inflammatory properties, making it quite helpful if you have a lot of redness and itching. Salicylic acid, on the other hand, stands out for its capacity to control oil production. In order to give the components in an anti-dandruff shampoo time to operate, it helps to keep it on for five minutes or somewhat less if you have sensitive skin before rinsing.
NEGLECT THE DO-IT-YOURSELF TREATMENTS. Dr. Robinson advises against trying a home treatment first before buying a shampoo to treat dandruff. The majority of natural treatments for dandruff and for the scalp in general, she adds, “simply do not have any proof to suggest that they are useful, despite what the internet claims.”
One common choice in particular has the potential to be disastrous. In fact, topical coconut oil has a high concentration of lauric acid, a fatty acid that aids the survival of yeast on the scalp, so Dr. Robinson believes it’s critical to bust this misconception straight away. “One thing I see a lot is the usage of a topical coconut oil on the scalp,” she says. “Therefore, “coconut oil” actually makes seborrheic dermatitis and dandruff much worse. Additionally, it makes dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis challenging to treat, even when using the right medication.”
Examine how frequently you wash your hair. So it’s important to wash your hair frequently enough to prevent oil buildup. According to Dr. Robinson, “a recurring theme that I observe that contributes to seborrheic dermatitis is washing frequency.” “Additionally, I believe that individuals with hair that is more tightly coiled have a tendency to wash less frequently for a variety of reasons. After I start the treatment, I frequently ask patients to raise their washing frequency to at least once per week so that I can determine whether other parameters need to be changed “for instance, the intensity of the therapy. (To learn more about how frequently you should wash your hair, go here.)
Dr. Robinson advises using an anti-dandruff shampoo every time you wash your hair if you’re just starting out. The best way to permanently get rid of dandruff will need ongoing therapy. As a chronic problem, dandruff will recur, according to Dr. Robinson. “Therefore, the recommended course of action is to gradually reduce “usage” once you have achieved symptom control. You are welcome to use any other wash. Then, rather of quitting abruptly, you might perhaps reduce your frequency to once a month and simply find the bare minimum that will help you stay clean for longer.”
NEVER BE AFRAID TO SPEAK WITH A DERMATOLOGIST. As previously stated, it’s better to visit a dermatologist right away rather than attempting to treat your dandruff on your own if you’re experiencing severe dandruff symptoms. The same holds true if you just experience minor symptoms and discover that anti-dandruff shampoos are ineffective. According to Dr. Robinson, if you are taking an over-the-counter anti-dandruff shampoo for symptoms that have just begun, you should start to feel better in two to three washes. And I strongly advise consulting a board-certified dermatologist for therapy if you don’t notice any change in your symptoms.
They could recommend a more potent remedy than what is available over-the-counter. According to Dr. Robinson, “We frequently prescribe something anti-inflammatory like a topical steroid or any topical anti-inflammatory, and then pair that with a prescription shampoo, which can be slightly more effective.”
They might also give you a diagnosis for something completely unrelated. According to Dr. Robinson, having an itchy or flaky scalp does not always indicate that you have a dry scalp or dandruff. “There are also additional conditions, such as psoriasis and allergic contact dermatitis, that can result in dryness and flaking on the scalp. So I do believe it’s crucial to identify the precise origin of the flakes, especially if you’ve been having it for a while.”
Although dandruff is a challenging problem, there are reliable treatment alternatives you can turn to. Your initial course of action should be to either try anti-dandruff shampoos or visit a doctor who can assist you come up with a treatment plan, depending on your symptoms.
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