Dandruff is restricted to the scalp, involving flaky or itchy skin without visible inflammation, stated Luis J. Borda and Tongyu C. Wikramanayake of PMC, a life science and biomedical journal portal. Although dandruff is known as a rare and mild scalp disorder in children, it is common in adolescence (post-pubescence) and adulthood, explained James R. Schwartz, Yvonne M. DeAngelis, and Thomas L. Dawson, Jr.
The exact cause of dandruff is unknown, said Yvette Brazier of Medical News Today, a news source on health and medicine. It is no way related to poor hygiene, but dandruff is more visible if you do not wash or brush your hair often. It can be embarrassing and hard to treat, but over-the-counter treatments can help alleviate dandruff. In severe cases, you may need to consult your doctor.
The Prevalence of Dandruff and Seborrheic Dermatitis (SD)
A study of 1,408 Caucasians, African Americans, and Chinese from Minnesota and Georgia in the US and Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou in China found that prevalence of noticeable dandruff and SD among adults was 81-95% in African-Americans, 66-82% in Caucasians, and 30-42% in Chinese, mentioned Schwartz and colleagues.
The US has higher shampoo frequencies and availability of effective over-the-counter and prescription anti-dandruff shampoos. However, the high prevalence of dandruff in the US might be attributed to a lower use of anti-dandruff products (10-20%) in the country than in China (40-52%). On the other hand, SD affects the scalp and other seborrheic areas of the body, which also causes one’s skin to flake or itch.
SD incidence among infants up to three months of age could be up to 42%, affecting the face, scalp (“cradle cap”), and diaper area. The incidence of SD among the general adult population was around 1% to 3%. The face (87.7%), scalp (70.3%), upper trunk (26.8%), lower extremities (2.3%), and upper extremities (1.3%) were the areas most affected by SD. In all age groups, SD was more prevalent in males (3.0%) than in females (2.65), suggesting that it might be associated with sex hormones such as androgens.
General Awareness About SD/Dandruff Among Dental Students
S. Suvitha and R. Abilasha of JPR Solutions, an online research platform, issued a questionnaire to focus on general awareness about dandruff among dental students. The authors gathered 100 subjects between the ages 18 and 23 for their study. Suvitha and Abilasha found that 44% of students had no idea about SD, 25% knew about it, and 31% do not know anything about it. 60% of students knew that dandruff occurs in any area other than the scalp. 66% of students suffered from dandruff, 38% said “no,” and 6% said “I don’t know.”
86% experienced hair fall due to dandruff. Only 9% and 5% of students said “no” and “I don’t know,” respectively. When asked if dandruff can be treated, more students (69%) believed that it can be treated compared to those who answered “no” (16%) and “I don’t know” (15%). When asked if the students had undergone anti-dandruff treatment, 64% said “no,” 21% said “I don’t know,” and 15% said “yes.”
61% of students preferred conventional natural methods due to the side effects of using anti-dandruff shampoos and other medications. 18% said they do not prefer such methods and 21% said they do not know. Interestingly, 44% admitted they do not know if anti-dandruff shampoos cause side effects. Only 37% and 19% of subjects answered “yes” and “no,” respectively.
When asked if seasonal changes influence dandruff, 52% answered “yes,” 12% answered “no,” and 36% answered “I don’t know.” Autumn and winter were the seasons most reported by the students.
What Are the Symptoms and Causes of Dandruff?
Flakes and an itchy, scaly scalp are the primary symptoms of dandruff, said Ashley Marcin of Healthline, a health news provider. Dandruff can get worse during the fall and winter seasons. Other culprits of dandruff are irritated and oily skin and Malassezia. Using different personal care products and even not shampooing enough can also cause dandruff.
People with dry skin are more prone to developing dandruff. Dandruff caused by dry skin tends to have “smaller, non-oily flakes.” People with existing skin conditions like psoriasis or eczema tend to have dandruff more frequently. Those with SD are also most likely to have dandruff. Not consuming enough zinc, B vitamins, and some types of fats may also increase your risk of having dandruff.
How Is Dandruff Treated?
1. Use Anti-Dandruff Shampoos
Over-the-counter shampoos that aid in alleviating dandruff can help. Getting the right one may involve some trial and error. Alternating two or more shampoo types can help in treatment sometimes. Be aware that a specific shampoo may be ineffective after a certain time period. Hence, it is recommended to switch to another one with a different ingredient.
Be careful when purchasing anti-dandruff shampoos. For example, shampoos that contain selenium sulfide can slow your skin cells from dying and minimize Malassezia, but it may also cause discoloration if your hair is of a lighter shade. Tea tree oil shampoos can be used an anti-fungal, an antibiotic, and an antiseptic, but some people are allergic to it.
Coal tar-based shampoos is a natural anti-fungal agent, though dyed or treated hair may become stained if you use them for a long time. Coal tar may also make your scalp more sensitive to sunlight and can be carcinogenic in high doses.
If you don’t know which shampoo to choose, feel free to consult your doctor for a recommendation. Strictly follow the instructions written on the container. Some shampoos should be left on your scalp for five minutes while others should be rinsed immediately. Once dandruff has been controlled, you may need to use the shampoo less frequently.
2. Stop Scratching and Don’t Use Too Many Products
It’s tempting to scratch your scalp, but try to avoid doing so as much as possible. Irritation from dandruff causes the itchy sensation; however, scratching your scalp will make your scalp itchier. Avoid using too many products in your hair as they can irritate your scalp and cause itchiness. Eliminate anything extra from your routine and slowly add those products back in to see which ones do not make your dandruff worse.
Stress can aggravate dandruff for some individuals. Although Malassezia is not introduced to your scalp due to stress, it can thrive if your immune system is suppressed— and this is what stress does to your body. You can take a walk or practice yoga. Jot down a list of stressful events and how these circumstances affect your dandruff to avoid potential triggers.
Seeing Your Doctor
Many cases of dandruff are treated with over-the-counter shampoos and lifestyle changes. You may have psoriasis, eczema, or a true fungal infection if your dandruff is stubborn and itchy. If the itchy sensation doesn’t go away or your scalp becomes red or swollen, consult your doctor.
Make an appointment if the shampoos were ineffective or when flaking spreads to your face or other parts of the body. Check in with your doctor if you have lice and nits in your hair or when itching interferes with your daily life.
Dandruff can be annoying but it is easily treated with over-the-counter shampoos. It may take some time before you find the right shampoo or treatment. However, severe cases of dandruff should be treated by a doctor.