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Dandruff is one of the common complaints that we come across in our daily practice. It leads to dry and flaky skin and makes your scalp itchy. We are sure that every person suffers from this condition at some point in their life. The symptoms are usually itchy, flaky scalp and dry flakes that often fall on your shoulders, face and back.
Causes of Dandruff
Though causes of dandruff are not yet confirmed but there are theories and factors that experts have spoken extensively related to the possible causes. Let us understand them in details:
Microbial Theory + AJY
Microbial theory is the most widely accepted theory. It states that dandruff is caused due to a microbe, Malassezia Globosa, which is a naturally occurring microbe in everyone’s scalp. The organism is known to feed on sebum (natural scalp oils) which helps the hair and scalp skin to stay well-moisturised.
Once the sebum breaks down, a by-product named oleic acid is produced which most people are sensitive to. This sensitivity leads to irritated and inflamed scalp. The inflammation in turn signals the brain to let the skin cells shed at a faster rate. This shedding is what we call a dandruff.
The Corneocyte Theory
The stratum corneum (SC) which is the outermost layer of epidermis, functions as a barrier against water loss and entry of microorganisms and other environmental agents The SC consists of several layers of “corneocytes”, encased in lipid lamellae, held together by specialized intercellular cell adhesion structures called corneodesmosomes. changes in the lamellar lipid composition, corneocyte size or shape, corneodesmosome number and SC thickness leads to changes in the epidermal permeability barrier function. Sebum normally influences this intercellular organisation to aid desquamation. But in dandruff, altered corneodesmosomal hydrolysis disrupts lipid organization and disturbs the desquamation process, leading to aberrant barrier function.Consistent with this, dandruff patients have more reactive (higher itch perception or flaking) than controls to topical applications of histamine or oleic acid to the scalp. These observations indicate that disrupted epidermal barrier function contributes to the aggravation of dandruff.
Apart from the theories mentioned above, the following theories are known to worsen the dandruff:
Dry skin can cause the scalp to become itchy and flaky. These dry flakes occur commonly during winters and in places where there is cold weather throughout the year.
Irritated and oily Scalp
If you have an irritated and oily scalp along with itchy, red rashes on your eyebrows, eyelids , around nose or centre of chest then chances are that you are suffering from a condition called seborrheic dermatitis which is an exaggerated version of dandruff. This condition causes the scalp to become greasy and leads to white flakes and yellow scales around the eyebrows, eyelids and around the nose.
If you don’t clean your scalp regularly then the dirt, dust and oils that get accumulated due to air pollution and natural secretion of oils can lead to dandruff. One needs to shampoo regularly to keep their scalp clean and dandruff free.
For individuals suffering from dandruff, it is best to consult their respective doctors to choose a shampoo that suits them best. A pH balanced , sulfate free shampoo works best in maintaining scalp health and hygiene.
Stress is another leading cause of dandruff as it impairs the immune system and gives the microbe, Malassezia Globosa,a chance to thrive. It also leads to a vicious cycle of itch and scratch where the more you scratch your scalp, it becomes itchier.
Treatment for Dandruff
pH Balanced Shampoos
Look for shampoos which are pH balanced that will help maintain a healthy scalp. You can look for the following ingredients:
Ketoconazole: This is an effective anti-fungal medication.
Salicylic acids: This helps to keep the scalp free of dead skin cells. This is especially helpful in flaky scalp
Selenium sulfide: This treats dandruff by reducing the production of sebum in the scalp
Tea-tree oil: This is an antifungal, antibiotic, and antiseptic agent
Like most of the conditions, a healthy and balanced diet with fats, fibres, Vitamin B and zinc can keep dandruff at bay.
Consult your dermatologist
If basic home care treatments, do not help you to ward off dandruff then you must visit your dermatologist who will then examine your scalp and skin condition to guide you for an appropriate anti-dandruff treatment.
Monday - Saturday: 10:00 AM - 7:00 PM Sunday: Closed
Dandruff is due to overcolonisation of the scalp by Malassezia species which is a part of the normal flora. The increased oil or sebum causes more proliferation of the fungus and causing flaking. This is the most accepted theory as most of the patients also report oily scalp or oily skin on the face.
There is hyperproliferation or increased shedding of corneocytes and malassezia secondarily infects the scales