Dandruff is a sign of different medical conditions that all cause the same thing; unsightly white flakes of dead skin that are often visible in your hair and on your cloths. Millions of people all around the world have had to deal with, or are continuing to deal with dandruff. While it is a widespread phenomena, it is neither lethal or contagious. The condition that is causing it may never be fully cured, but the dandruff itself can be effectively controlled with proper treatment.
The most popular method of reducing the unwanted flakes is to use the best dandruff shampoo that is designed to reduce or eliminate the cause of them all together. When trying to select a product, many people will ask, “What is the best shampoo for dandruff on the market today?” The answer depends entirely on what the source of the problem is. The first step in selecting the right treatment comes in having a diagnosis from your doctor or dermatologist. There is no universal treatment that works for everyone.
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What are the most common causes of dandruff?
The most common cause of dandruff is a condition called seborrheic dermatitis. It is also referred to as seborrheic psoriasis, sebhorrheic eczema, or cradle cap when it appears in young children or infants. The most typical sign that indicates this condition is red, oily skin that is covered with flaky scales that are white or yellow. It can appear on your scalp or other areas of your body that have a lot of oil glands, which include your eyebrows, sides of the nose, behind the ears, sometimes armpits, over the breastbone, and even the groin region. The exact cause is not clearly identifiable. Some leading theories indicate it is possibly an inflammatory reaction similar to psoriasis, that is triggered by seasonal climate changes or naturally present fungi in the oily secretions of the skin.
Malassezia is a yeast-like fungus that can also cause dandruff. It is one of the many naturally occurring fungi in and on your body and typically is confined to the scalp region. For some people the scalp has an abnormal reaction to it and this causes skin cells to overgrow and slough off. The cast off flakes of skin are typically white and seen easily in your hair and on your cloths. Some doctors believe that is a possible cause of seborrheic dermatitis when it occurs on the scalp.
Dermatitis is a type of condition that is classified as your body having a reaction to something. Often it is called contact dermatitis when it appears as a rash on open areas of the body. On the scalp it often presents as redness, itching, and scaling. What causes the reaction can be any number of things, in particular though it is caused by a sensitivity to an ingredient that is present in shampoo, dye, or styling products. It can also be brought on by simply over using such things.
Chronic skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis can produce patches of affected skin on the scalp as well. Both conditions cause a rapid buildup of dead skin that forms thick, rough, and scaly flakes. The sloughed scales on the scalp can end up in the hair and on the cloths, which makes it appear to be typical dandruff, as the patches on the scalp are not always visible.
As the skin of your entire body is constantly going through cycles of dying and renewing, if you are not brushing your hair or shampooing regularly, the build of normal dead skin can present as dandruff as well. Sometimes dandruff is simply dry skin that is the result of a dried out scalp. It is usually not the only part of the skin that shows signs of being dry, and the flakes caused by this are typically finer and drier than scales caused by other conditions.
Treatments for dandruff and itching scalp
For those who prefer a more holistic therapy that doesn’t involve a lot of complex chemicals or processes, home remedies may be preferred. One common home remedy that is done as a weekly treatment is using diluted vinegar. Other home treatments include using things like; baking soda, alone or as an additive, lemon juice mixtures, fenugreek paste, potent smelling neem leaves as a concentrate or paste, and even things like Listerine or simply getting more sun on your scalp. They all center around the concept of naturally combating the most common causes of dandruff, which are build up and fungi.
For those less apt to brew, paste, and spritz home made concoctions on their scalp, there are over the counter treatments that can be effective in controlling the symptoms. For itchiness that can occur with some types of dandruff, topical hydrocortisone solutions can help calm the irritation. Some companies even produce leave in treatments that use a combination of salicylic acid and natural extracts to eliminate flakes and sooth an irritated scalp. Most leave in or stand alone treatments tend to focus around treating dandruff when it is caused by mild irritation, dryness, and simple build up of dead skin.
When it comes to treating some of the major causes of dandruff, in particular the most common seborrheic dermatitis, using the best dandruff shampoo for what is causing your issues tend to work better than simple remedies. Just about all types of shampoos for treating dandruff are widely available and do not require a prescription. Each one works based off a main active ingredient and is often included in a formula that can target multiple sources of dandruff, such as dryness, irritation, and build up.
How do anti dandruff shampoos work?
The method of action for medicated anti dandruff shampoos depends on the active ingredient. Below is a list of common active ingredients that can be found in some of the best dandruff shampoos.
- Coal tar based shampoos work by slowing down the natural process of skin cells on the scalp dying and sloughing off.
- Salicylic acid is used in shampoos as a scrubbing agent that can eliminate flakes, but it also has a chance of drying out the scalp and causing even more flaking. It is best used in combination with a moisturizing conditioner to counteract the side effect.
- Selenium sulfide is another anti dandruff ingredient that slow down the rate at which the skin cells die off, it also can reduce the amount of Malassezia fungi that cause irritation and dandruff.
- Zinc pyrithione is an antibacterial and anti-fungal agent that can reduce the fungus population on your scalp that may be the source of dandruff producing seborrheic dermatitis.
- Tea tree oil is an extract of the Melaleuca alternifolia tree that is native to Austrailia. It has natural anti-fungal, antiseptic, and antibiotic properties that can reduce the amount of fungi causing seborrheic dermatitis.
- Ketoconazole is a broad-spectrum anti-fungal medication that is often successful when other treatments fail. It is available in both over the counter and prescription strength shampoo.
Another class of anti dandruff shampoo is organic source treatments. These shampoos often use tea tree oil with other natural ingredients, such as other essential oils and extracts. They also boast a lack of heavy chemicals, simulated fragrances and artificial ingredients. Though unlike tea tree oil, many of the ingredients included in organic treatments don’t have a lot of testing and research to support their effectiveness. Which means if they work, how they work is not always clear.
How to choose the best shampoo for dandruff?
When it comes to choosing the best dandruff shampoo for yourself it is important to keep a few key things in mind; what is causing it, what ingredient should you look for, and what type of hair you have. Anyone can see flakes and recognize it as being dandruff. What anyone can’t always see or know is what the cause for the dandruff is. Selecting the best shampoo for your dandruff revolves around treating it effectively while not causing other problems. Over using shampoos can lead to dandruff of a different nature and even damage hair. If you are confident you have identified the source, for yourself or with the help of a doctor, then it is time to begin treatment.
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The biggest source of dandruff is seborrheic dermatitis, which does not have an exact cause, though some believe it is related to fungi. It can also vary from person to person as to what is the exact triggering mechanism for it. Because it and a specific fungi that is naturally found in the scalp region of the body are the two leading reasons for dandruff, most anti dandruff shampoos center around having anti-fungal properties. Shampoos that contain zinc pyrithione, selenium sulfide, ketoconazole, and tea tree oil are the most common types that focus on the potential fungal problem. Most shampoos that contain anti-fungal ingredients come in a variety of formulas to suit all hair types, even color treated hair.
When dandruff is the result of buildup, shampoos that contain salicylic acid and coal tar tend to be the most helpful. Though, they both are ingredients that should not be used on a daily basis, because they can have negative side effects that lead to more irritation and dandruff. When selecting a shampoo that has either of these, look for added moisturizers or pair it with a moisture supportive conditioner. People who already have problems with dry hair should be especially careful with these shampoos. Consider instead herbal formulas that cleanse the scalp and replenish moisture.
For people who dislike using a lot of chemicals in their hair, organic anti dandruff shampoos are a decent alternative. Most use tea tree oil as their main anti dandruff ingredient, and it can be found as the only component or part of a mixture. Organic shampoos use a lot of essential oils and extracts to treat, cleanse, and moisturize. Ingredients in organic shampoos include sage, rosemary, jojoba, aloe vera, peppermint, coconut, and many others. Like any other anti dandruff shampoo, it is not uncommon to find many variations in formula to accommodate different hair types.
The best dandruff shampoo for you will be the one that targets the cause of your dandruff, does not damage your hair, and most importantly works. While you may study all the causes and narrow down the most likely suspects for yourself, even with a doctor’s input, it can be a matter of trial and error. With the many choices out there, finding the best shampoo for dandruff also takes time. It is easy to see noticeable results in your overall hair than in your scalp after just one use. Keep a log of any differences you notice and try using the shampoo for at least two weeks or a month. If you have not had any improvement, or very little, then it is likely best to try another. Even if a bottle or package claims it is the best dandruff shampoo, it may not be the best for you, because not everyone’s body reacts the same way.
Be on your way to dandruff free!
Dealing with dandruff can be vexing and time consuming. Starting the path to becoming flake free begins with taking a step towards knowledge. Understanding what causes it and identifying what the reason behind the unwanted flakes are the best first moves you can make. It then becomes a matter of choosing a type of anti dandruff shampoo that may work best for you. After that, it all comes down to diligence and patience.
Finding the best shampoo for dandruff that works for you can also be a journey to share with others. Hearing other people’s stories and sharing your own accounting of trials and errors can help you and others find support and encouragement. If you think something should have been included in the list of treatments, or if you’d like to expand on different home remedies or medicated treatments you have found effective, please feel free to leave a comment below.
Mary Ware says
Hello Maja! Great post on the hair dandruff. I always appreciate your insightful stuff. Personally I use the GKhair anti-dandruff shampoo to control my hair dandruff and it works really very well. Just love it. 🙂 <3
Maja T. says
Hi Mary, thanks for your comment. Yes I have heard about this shampoo before but didn`t test it yet. It`s sulfate-free and color safe right?
Mary Ware says
Hi Maja! Welcome! Yes it is sulfate free and color safe shampoo. I am using this shampoo for the past couple of years and I am quite satisfied with the results I got.
Maja T. says
Ok thanks 🙂 Will give it a try and post a detailed review on the site.
Mary Ware says
Sounds good! It would prove to be a good addition to your blog audience.
SUNNY IS MINE says
hi maja, i had a terrible dandruff when i´m an elementary student. like, if you see my hair from above, it´s literally covered in dandruff. then i used Selsun, and my hair was completely dandruff-free and super healthy.
but when i moved to germany, no shampoo seems to work for me. even Selsun! all shampoo only worked for a month. after a month, the dandruff will come back and i can´t use that shampoo anymore… i have tried the body shop shampoo and lush shampoo and it didn´t work. i´ve tried dove, clear, selsun, h&s, avera, pantene, lóreal, garnier, even medicated shampoo… still didn´t work 🙁 do you have any advice for me? thanks!
Maja T. says
Hi, it`s a very interesting case. I can`t tell for sure what could be the cause, if the shampoos worked before or worked for a month and than stopped, maybe your dandruff comes from a deeper problem.
Be sure to eat healthy. The starting point for long term control of your dandruff is your diet. Foods rich in zinc and vitamin B6 are particularly important. Maybe you changed your eating habbits when you moved.
Stress, is also believed to contribute to dandruff. Learn to control your stress. Work through what is troubling you. A regular routine that includes exercise, meditation or yoga can help reduce stress and contribute to your overall health.
I can recommend Pura d`or shampoo, Maple Holistics, or Nizoral. Other commercial shampoos like pantene, lóreal, garnier don`t work best.
Austin Chue says
Hi Maja, I am an elementary student and I have tried many kinds of anti-dandruff shampoo such as heads and shoulders, Silkpro, pantene, clear and etc. I think perhaps the chemicals are too harsh for me. I used them daily but I still have dandruff and itchy dry scalp, when I just rub my hair, many tiny flakes will fall like snow.I do not know which shampoo works for me? I have not tried organic products before maybe it helps me, I do not know. Do you have any advice for me? Thank you.
Maja T. says
Hi Austine, daily use is not necessary, washing your hair every 2-3days is enough. Probably you are right and he chemicals in those shampoos are too hars for you. If an organic shampoos doesn`t help you, ask your doctor for a medical opinion, since dandruff can also be caused by stress.