Mondays, the ending of Game of Thrones, fishy smells…. there are only a handful of things that we hate more than finding flakes in our hair. Dandruff has always seemed like a mystery, until now. Our pros decipher the real causes of dandruff and what you need to do to nip it in the bud for good.
What Exactly is Dandruff?
Your doctor may refer to your flake problem as seborrheic dermatitis or seborrhea, the medical terms for the condition. It is caused by a type of yeast (pityrosporum) that everyone has in their scalp. Simply having this type of yeast in your flora isn’t the problem, “In some instances, an overgrowth of this yeast may result in scaling, itching, redness, and irritation,” says Jessica J. Mercer MD. In addition to overgrowth, she warns that there are some medical conditions which suppress the immune system and may predispose a person to seborrheic dermatitis.
What Are the Causes of Dandruff?
“In those with a healthy immune system, there is speculation regarding an increased risk of seborrheic dermatitis due to a high glycemic diet,” explains Dr. Jessica. This type of diet is rich in sugars and simple carbohydrates. “High glycemic foods have been shown to be pro-inflammatory resulting in skin conditions including seborrheic dermatitis. Foods with a high yeast content, such as bread, beer, and wine, may also be contributing factors. Further, vegetable-based oils such as olive oil may provide an optimal environment for pityrosporum yeast to grow causing seborrheic dermatitis,” she continues. Janelle Vega, M.D, Co-founder of BIA Life can enlighten us with additional common causes of dandruff. “Psoriasis, which is an immune-mediated condition, creates a thickening of the superficial layer of skin on the scalp, resulting in scales,” our second pro says. “[Another] condition which commonly causes scaly scalp or dandruff is eczema. This is the same disorder that causes itchy patches all over the body and scaly red patches,” Dr. Janelle states. She also believes people with sensitive skin can react to products and ingredients in hair care products which can contribute to worsening of the eczema condition and in turn, result in more flakes.
How Should You Treat Dandruff?
As much as we hate saying it, staying away from sweet and carby treats may help your flake condition. Try an elimination diet. Start by removing the bad foods listed by Dr. Jessica from your diet and re-introducing them one by one to see if you notice any difference. “In treating this condition, a yeast-free, low glycemic index diet may be helpful. Treatments aimed at lowering the number of yeasts, including antifungal shampoo, creams or tablets, are the first line,” says Dr. Jessica Mercer. “Additional therapies to reduce inflammation such as steroidal solutions and creams may also be necessary. Alternative home therapies including tea tree oil and omega 3 fatty acid supplements have been used with some success,” she says. If the condition fails to improve, evaluation and treatment by a dermatologist should be your next obvious choice.