Dandruff 101: What Is It, How To Prevent It And Most Importantly, How To Get Rid Of It

June 10, 2015 by Lisa Fogarty
shefinds | beauty

When it comes to dandruff, if you have to ask what it is, chances are you’re the luckiest girl on earth. Perhaps you’ve never had the misfortune of discovering a flaky white mess on your scalp and throughout your hair. In a split second, you’ll wish you kept a spare hat on your person at all times.

What Is Dandruff?

But what, exactly, is this hair nightmare we call dandruff? Quite simply, “dandruff is a general term for flaking of the skin on your scalp,” explains Rebecca Kazin, MD, of the Washington Institute of Dermatologic Laser Surgery and the Johns Hopkins Department of Dermatology. “Some people also note itching and redness.”

What Causes Dandruff?

There are a few things that cause dandruff, but Matrix celebrity stylist George Papanikolas identified two of the most common: dry skin and not shampooing often enough. “In rare cases, dandruff can also be the result of sensitivity to certain hair care products; in this case you should contact your dermatologist, as it may be dermatitis,” Papanikolas says.

The list if possible culprits doesn’t end there, however. Kazan cites three more possible reasons you might be experiencing what feels like excessive dandruff:

– Eczema or psoriasis. Skin conditions like eczema or psoriasis can cause a build up of dry flaky skin.

Malassezia. This yeast-like fungus lives on the scalps of most adults, but for some reason, it only irritates the scalp of some. The irritation, in turn, causes more skin cells to grow and the extra skin cells die and fall off, making them appear white and flaky in your hair or on your clothes. Why malassezia irritates some scalps and not others isn’t known.

Sensitivity to hair care products. This is also often known as contact or irritant dermatitis. “Sometimes sensitivities to certain ingredients in hair care products or hair dyes, especially paraphenylenediamine, can cause a red, itchy, scaly scalp. Shampooing too often or using too many styling products also may irritate your scalp, causing dandruff,” Kazan explains.

How Do You Prevent Dandruff?

According to Papanikolas, the three best ways to prevent dandruff are shampooing the hair and scalp every other day, avoiding sharing unsanitized brushes and styling tools, which can transfer fungus and reducing the use of styling products, which can contribute to oily build-up.

How Do You Get Rid Of Dandruff?

You didn’t think we’d leave you hanging and not provide solutions for your dandruff problem, did you? If you’re experiencing a lot of dandruff, Papanikolas recommends shampooing more often as this usually solves the problem. He also suggests using shampoo specially designed to treat dandruff. His recommendation? MATRIX Biolage ScalpSync Shampoo & Conditioner, which has anti-bacterial and calming properties of mint leaf, which cleanses oil from the scalp and helps target dandruff. As an added measure of protection, Papanikolas also suggests purchasing and using hair care products that contain pyrithione zinc, salicylic acid, tar, selenium sulfide, and ketoconazole to help keep dandruff at bay.

If these at-home solutions still leave you with annoying, white flakes in your hair and on your scalp, Mizani Artist Evie Johnson of E&E Hair Salon in UperMarlboro, MD, suggests consulting with a hair expert who can treat your dandruff. “I recommend a visit to a salon that provides the 3-Step Anti Dandruff Hair Care System by Mizani. The Mizani Scalp Care products contains corrective and soothing ingredients such as pyrithione zinc, peppermint oil and cucumber extract, that simultaneously remove dead cells from the scalp while also gently and effectively lifting scales, flakes and product build-up. Mizani’s Scalp Care system combines potent salicylic acid with powerful pyrithione zinc (ZPT), two clinically effective active ingredients proven to kill fungus and eliminate the recurrence of scalp flaking, scaling, and itching. These products can also be used at home.”

Have you successfully conquered dandruff? Share your experience in the comments!

For more fantastic hair tips, check out 6 foods that are ruining your skin and hair and how to protect your hair from the sun.



Lisa Fogarty is a lifestyle writer and reporter based in New York who covers health, wellness, relationships, sex, beauty, and parenting.

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