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Losing sleep over dandruff?

Dr Apoorva Shah | July 12, 2005

One of the few occasions when black and white do not go together is when you see white flakes of dandruff on a black outfit.

The term 'dandruff' -- or pityriasis simplex, as it is medically referred to -- is the name given to an annoying condition characterised by an itchy and flaky scalp.

In today's stressful world, it is becoming an increasingly common ailment. Dandruff is no longer just a medical problem, it has a negative social connotation too.

Most of us fail to notice, or ignore, the onset of dandruff and are eventually are faced with a condition that becomes increasingly difficult to deal with.

The number of people suffering from dandruff is on the rise; 75 percent of the people visiting beauty salons, pharmacies and trichologists (specialists in the study of hair structure and diseases) suffer from it. 

Signs of dandruff

If you notice small, loose, whitish flakes (which is, in reality, dead skin) on your scalp or trapped in your hair strand, you have a dandruff problem. This could be accompanied by an itchy feeling.

The type of flakes, whether they are 'oily' or ' dry', hints at the cause of the problem.

How dandruff is formed

Surprisingly, despite its itchy and scaly character, dandruff is not the product of dry skin. Everyone generally sheds dead skin cells.

A person suffering from oily dandruff has overactive sebaceous glands. This causes the natural shedding process to speed up, resulting in a crusty scalp, oily hair and excessive flaking. This shedding is most severe in winter and mildest in summer.

In some people, this problem even occurs on the eyelashes. It has been observed that people with oily hair and skin have a greater tendency towards dandruff than people with normal hair and skin.

In the case of dry dandruff, the oil glands become plugged, resulting in dull, dry looking hair and flakes of dead skin.

Lifestyle habits leading to dandruff

Overactive sebaceous glands cause an increase in the natural skin shedding process, while clogged oil glands lead to the drying and flaking of the scalp. Researchers also suggest that dandruff may be triggered off by an excess of a yeast-like micro-organism normally found in small amounts on a healthy scalp.

Many factors can aggravate dandruff. These include:

i. Infrequent shampooing of hair, inadequate rinsing and excessive use of a hot hairdryer.

You could prevent dandruff by shampooing regularly with a mild shampoo.

Massage your scalp gently to loosen flakes and rinse your hair and scalp thoroughly.

ii. Do you follow the latest fads and fashion? Then you could aggravate a dandruff problem.

An excessive use of hairsprays and gels and improper use of hair colouring products can cause dandruff.

Tight fitting hats and scarves should be avoided as well.

iii. A combination of cold weather, low humidity and dry indoor heat could explain persistent dandruff.

iv. Poor diet, food allergies, hormonal imbalances and infections can all lead to dandruff.

v. There seems to be a tendency for it to run in families, which hints at a genetic disposition.

vi. Dandruff may become worse with stress, the root cause of most health problems.

How serious is my dandruff problem?

Your dandruff problem could be an irritant; you'll feel the odd itchiness and be embarrassed by the white flakes.

The problem becomes acute when the scalp reacts to the scales by secreting a fluid. This results in the scales sticking to the scalp, giving them a yellowish waxy appearance. The dandruff may then spread to the chest and the back.

Whichever phase you are in, if the flakes begin to be a worry, either physically or emotionally, it is time to consult a trichologist and get the problem treated.

How can I control dandruff?

There are various treatments you can opt for to treat an existing dandruff problem and methods to help prevent it from recurring.

~ Wash your hair twice a week with Arnica anti-dandruff shampoo and once a week with a scalp cleanser.

After a while, alternate the anti-dandruff shampoo with your normal shampoo.

~ Be careful not to overuse the anti-dandruff shampoo as this could lead to dry hair.

When should I visit a trichologist? 

~ If your scalp's dryness, redness, itching and flaking is persistent, extreme and does not disappear with the use of an anti-dandruff shampoo, you may not be suffering from dandruff.

You could have psoriasis or eczema, which require special treatment by a trichologist.

~ If you have an open wound on your scalp from repeated scratching, you could develop an infection. The warning signs of an infection are scalp pain, redness and fever

~ If the flaking skin is isolated in one area, then the condition may be a skin problem and not dandruff.

~ If you have scabs on your scalp.

Last but not the least, there is no reason why you should be embarrassed by a condition that is completely treatable. Of course, like most medical conditions, it is easy to treat dandruff in the early stages.

Dr Apoorva Shah, is a trichologist and chairman of the Richfeel Trichology Centre.

Share your comments

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Read what others have to say:

Number of User Comments: 9

Sub: sticky dandruff&hair loss

I have a lot of dandruff in my hair and my hair are falling rapidelly. There is a white layer on my scalp and when ...

Posted by kumar.t

Sub: hair loss

1 . i am suffering fm bald patches for last 2 years. i am taking homoeopathic medicine for it . i am worried @ my ...

Posted by p kumar

Sub: dandruff

Can you please suggest a good trichologist in Pune?

Posted by Pavan

Sub: Psoriasis

Can psoriasis be cured if the condition is Moderate psoriasis from past 3 years??

Posted by samz

Sub: becoming bald

Dear Madam, First of all thanks for your comments on dandruff its was good. My age is 29 i have a problem of hair fall ...

Posted by mahesh


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