Don t toss out all those dark suits. There's a better way to deal with dandruff. As a matter of fact, you may be able to simply wash it away. If you are like most people, you have always thought of those unsightly flakes as dry skin. In reality, though, dandruff is usually a condition of oily skin and an oily scalp.
The process that causes dandruff the shedding of dead skin cells is a natural one that goes on continually all over your body. In fact, you get a whole new suit of skin about every 27 or 28 days.
The old stuff just sort of flakes away. You simply may not notice the tiny skin cells dropping off your arms and legs.
You happen to see the skin cells that make up dandruff because your hair traps them before they can float off unnoticed. Then the oil from your hair and scalp clumps up the cells until they turn into those visible flakes that decorate your shoulders. Naturally, they are even more noticeable on first dates, job interviews, and other important occasions.
According to Joseph P. Bark, M.D., chairman of dermatology at St. Joseph Hospital in Lexington, Kentucky, you should be glad your scalp flakes away. If you didn't lose that skin progressively, everybody would be carrying their scalp around in a wheelbarrow, he says. It would be tremendously thick.
Unfortunately, few of us are brave enough to shrug off dandruff, even if it reflects a normal and
necessary process. Fortunately, you can take steps to sweep those flakes away once and for all.
Shampoo each day to keep it away.
What easier way to get rid of dandruff than to wash it down the drain? Often, this is all that's required, says Andrew Lazar, M.D., assistant professor of clinical dermatology at Northwestern University School of Medicine in Chicago. Getting rid of excess oils and flakes through daily shampooing may be the easiest way to tame your mane.
If your regular shampoo isn't doing the trick, even with daily washing, its time to switch to an antidandruff shampoo. Check the ingredients for over-the-counter shampoos, says Fredric Haberman, M.D., author of The Doctor's Beauty Hotline. Look for a dandruff shampoo that
contains zinc pyrithione, selenium sulfide, sulfur, or salicylic acid.
Switch, and switch again.
Your favorite dandruff shampoo may stop working after a while. To your dismay, those little white flakes may take up residence on your shoulders again. It's not the fault of the shampoo, says Haberman. You simply may build up a resistance to the shampoo's active ingredient. Haberman recommends rotating threebrands of dandruff shampoo (each with a different formulation), using each for a month. In other words, use one shampoo for a month, then switch to a second brand for a month, then to a third brand for a month, then back to the original shampoo for a month, and so on.
The first lathering and rinsing gets rid of the loose flakes and the oily buildup on your hair and scalp. It sort of clears the area so the second lathering can get to work. Leave the second lathering of shampoo on your hair at least five minutes before rinsing it off, advises Haberman. That gives the shampoo a chance to penetrate the skin cells and do what it's supposed to do.
If the antidandruff shampoos aren't working, it's time to bring out the big guns, namely the tar shampoos. Tar shampoos have been a proven remedy for more than 200 years, says Bark. The tar decreases cell turnover quite effectively. However, there are some drawbacks. Tar shampoos have a strong odor, may stain the shaft of lighter-colored hair (it can take weeks of using a milder shampoo to get rid of the discoloration), and may irritate the skin.
If you decide to go with a tar shampoo, rinse your hair with lemon juice, a conditioner, or creme rinse to get rid of any odor lingering from the shampoo, according to Paul S. Russell, M.D., clinical professor of dermatology at Oregon Health Sciences University in Portland. Russell says that using a conditioner after washing with an anti dandruff shampoo is a good idea anyway, because the medicated shampoos tend to stiffen hair and make it less manageable.
Be sensitive to your sensitivity.
There are some people who just plain shouldn't use a tar shampoo. Why? Because they're so sensitive. Rather, their scalp is. Bark says the shampoo can irritate and inflame the hair follicles of some people and can cause a condition called folliculitis. The cure? Switch to a milder shampoo.
Stop those itchy fingers.
Try to resist the temptation to go after those itchy patches like a dog chasing fleas. You may end up with wounds to your scalp caused by your fingernails. If you break the skin on your scalp, discontinue use of medicated shampoo for a while. Switch to a mild shampoo, such as a baby shampoo, advises Russell, and use it daily until the scratches are healed.
Shower away sweat.
After exercise or strenuous work that makes you perspire, shower and shampoo as soon as possible. Sweat irritates the scalp and speeds up the flaking of skin cells, says Lazar.
Go easy on the sticky stuff.
Although you needn't give up the various mousses, sprays, and gels that hold your hairstyle in place, try to use them less often, says Lazar. These hair products can contribute to oily buildup.
Be kind to yourself.
People who are under a great deal of stress seem to have more dandruff, observes Haberman. He says that stress somehow contributes to the proliferation of skin cells. Although there is no known diet connection to dandruff, poor diet can stress you out and contribute to any dermatitis condition, says Haberman. Adopting a healthier lifestyle and finding ways to relax or let off steam can make a difference.