No one wants to have white flakes on their shoulders, but how do you get rid of dandruff and what causes those pesky flakes?

Woman looking in the mirror and scratching her head

It's annoying and unattractive but dandruff can be beaten.

What is dandruff?

Dandruff happens when the skin cells on your scalp renew twice as fast as they are supposed to. This means that more dead cells are shed and your scalp becomes scaly, which often builds up into clumps. This is often quite noticeable and can be hard to disguise, not to mention embarrassing. Your scalp may itch and be red or inflamed, and it can also feel tight.

Dandruff is also believed to be caused by an overgrowth of a fungus commonly found on the skin and scalp, called Pityrosporum ovale. The condition may be worse in the winter because UVA light from the sun works against the fungus. Too much sebum, which is the natural oil that’s secreted from glands in the skin, also fuels the growth of this fungus. This may be why dandruff often starts in puberty because of all the hormone changes, or if you happen to have an oily scalp.

Why have I got dandruff?

A common myth is that you may have it because of poor hygiene, but you can tell anyone who asks you to go and wash your hair that they don’t know what they’re talking about! It’s also a myth that using styling products causes dandruff, and you definitely can’t catch it off anyone. You’re more likely to get dandruff between the ages of 20 to 30 and you’ve also got a higher chance of having it if you’re a bloke – but you can’t help that! So how do you get rid of it?

Dandruff treatments

If you want to help prevent dandruff or improve the condition of your scalp the natural way, try and cut down on salty, sugary and spicy foods, alcohol and cigarettes, and increase your intake of vitamin B, B6, E, selenium and zinc. You may also want to stay away from colouring or bleaching your hair as the chemicals could irritate your scalp.

If you need a fast fix, then try these over-the-counter remedies:

  • Anti-dandruff shampoos should be used two to three times a week. Massage your scalp with the shampoo and make sure you don’t scratch it, however tempting it may be. Sometimes you may have to leave the shampoo in for a couple of minutes, but always check the label first;
  • Anti-fungal shampoos contain a chemical that works well to get rid of dandruff, but they also need to be used a few times a week and can take up to six weeks to work. Whatever shampoo you use, make sure you brush your hair gently and make sure you’ve rinsed everything off your hair before you get out of the shower.

Anti-dandruff shampoo isn’t working…

If your dandruff doesn’t shift after using special shampoos, or if it gets worse or affects other parts of your skin, it may help to go and see your doctor (GP). It could be that you need to take prescribed medication, or be referred to a skin specialist, especially if you have a more serious skin condition such as Seborrhoeic eczema or Seborrhoeic dermatitis. This is a more severe form of dandruff that will also affect the skin around your eyebrows, nose, ears, face and forehead. Psoriasis can also affect the scalp.


Next Steps

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hair| hygiene


Updated on 29-Sep-2015

Picture of woman scratching her head by Shutterstock.