The doctor is in: Ditch the dandruff | The Financial Express

The doctor is in: Ditch the dandruff

Is dandruff harmful? Why does it happen? We give you ways to control it

lifestyle, lifestyle news
People with dandruff can apply oil to their hair as it helps in healing the dry scalp and helps in skin nourishment. (IE)

By Dr DM Mahajan

What is dandruff and why does it happen?

Dandruff is a skin condition that sheds off the dry skin from the scalp and makes the scalp skin dry and flaky. These flakes can usually be found on collar area, scalp hair or shoulders of a person. Dandruff is not a serious skin problem, but it does make the skin itchy and extremely dry. Dandruff becomes a common issue among the people during winters as people tend to use hot water to wash their hair which makes the scalp extremely dry and scaly. Dandruff can be developed by several causes including oiliness of skin, repercussion of some unsuitable hair products and other underlying skin conditions like dermatitis, eczema. It can also be developed due to a yeast like fungus known as malassezia which feeds on oily scalps. This fungus consumes the oil from the hair and produces small bits of dead skin cells which forms dandruff. The dandruff worsens if a person does not maintain basic hygiene of scalp and takes unusual stress.

Do shampoos work or do we need medication?

In the case of mild dandruff, it is recommended to use mild or non-medicated shampoos and wash hair twice or thrice a week to clear off the skin flakes as soon as they develop on scalp. Continuous washing of the skin helps in reducing dead skin cells from the upper most layer of the skin. Frequent washing of the hair also minimises the oil in the skin which helps in elimination of dandruff from the scalp. Medicated shampoos can be used to treat serious dandruff conditions which cannot be eliminated just by shampooing the hair. Depending upon the skin, people can choose from the medicated shampoos available in the market. Medicated shampoos include zinc shampoos, tar-based shampoos, selenium sulphide shampoos, salicylic acid shampoos, etc, which can treat the dandruff. These shampoos can be used according to the skin type of a person. If these medicated shampoos fail to treat the dandruff, it is advisable to visit a dermatologist. These medications might include chewable medicines or some anti-fungal creams that can be applied overnight and washed the next day.

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Can dandruff cause any problems to the scalp?

Dandruff can be treated effectively by taking good care of the scalp skin by washing it regularly and using required medicated shampoos to treat the dandruff. Dandruff does not harm the scalp but it does make it extremely dry and itchy. Due to itchy skin, some people often scratch their scalps aggressively that can damage their scalp skin and lead to loss of hair.

Dandruff cannot directly cause a serious problem to the scalp, but it can aggravate the severity of the skin if comes along with some other skin condition like eczema or dermatitis. It causes inflammation on the skin. Continuous inflammation on the skin has a damaging effect on hair follicles and can have a harmful impact on the hair growth. This might lead to thinning of hair and hair loss. It is also said that dandruff can trigger the acne and skin problems as it is clogs the pores on the skin. Clogging of pores can accumulate oil and dirt in the pores and lead to skin breakouts.

How can we prevent dandruff?

Dandruff cannot be eliminated completely but it can be controlled and prevented. To prevent dandruff, it is important to wash and clean the hair on regular basis. Regular cleansing of hair limits the development of new flakes of dandruff on the scalp and makes it less oily. Dandruff causes the scalp skin to dry up and shed off. Hence, it is important to consume a lot of liquids, water and vital nutrients to restore the hydration into the dry skin. It is also advisable to follow a diet rich in zinc, vitamins and essential fats which help in treating the dandruff.

People can also apply some home-based ingredients like tea tree oil, aloe vera, apple cider vinegar, baking soda, omega-3s, etc, to treat dandruff issues naturally at home. Also, it is suggested to take use of various medicated shampoos available in the market which are specially designed to treat dandruff problems. If the severity of the dandruff increases, a person should consult a dermatologist.

Should people with dandruff oil their hair?

People with dandruff can apply oil to their hair as it helps in healing the dry scalp and helps in skin nourishment. As dandruff makes the scalp dry and itchy, the oil-secreting glands of the scalp produce very minimal natural oil. Hence, application of oil helps the gland to secrete natural oil which nourishes the skin of the scalp.

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But using excessive hair oil and leaving it for multiple hours can aggravate the dandruff problem as it can invite the growth of the yeast like fungus called malassezia which feeds on oily scalps and increases the dandruff problem. Hence, it is okay to apply oil on dandruff prone hair, but excessive oiling could be a problem. Some anti-dandruff hair oils like tea tree oil and coconut oil are also known to be a good remedy to minimise dandruff but they should be used in moderation and required concentration. Oiling can be done once in a while but should not be the first solution used to treat dandruff.

Dr DM Mahajan is a dermatologist at Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, New Delhi

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First published on: 22-01-2023 at 00:50 IST