Dandruff is the colloquial name for the disorder known as Pityriasis simplex capillitii. ‘Pityriasis’ means a disorder characterised by scaly skin that sheds easily. Whereas ‘capillitii’ refers to the infection.
What is the cause of Dandruff?
Dandruff is a disease clinically recognised as flaky scalp, the skin is scaly, irritable and flakes easily. It’s thought that over 11 million people suffer from Dandruff in the United Kingdom alone. There are multiple causes of Dandruff, including the following,
- Seborrheic Dermatitis, this is a disorder that can effect most areas of the skin including the ears, eyebrows and nose. In babies it is known as cradle cap and is very common. The cause of this is thought to be a fungus that lives naturally on our scalps. This is a called Malassezia, which is a type a fungus that feeds off the sebaceous oils produced on the scalp. In most people this thrives naturally, but in some it can grow out of control, causing skin to overproduce and flake off. Symptoms of this are greasy, red and flaky skin.
- Yeast Sensitivity. People with yeast sensitivity are prone to dandruff. It tends to worsen in the winter months and improve in summer. Typically in the summer UV rays increase which reduces yeast growth.
- Infection, such as Tinea Capitis. This is a fungus that is also referred to scalp ringworm. This presents itself as red/silver patches of inflamed skin that reddens and itches. The itching breaks the already distressed skin and causes it to flake.
- Weather, not only does weather effect yeast growth, but it’s thought that sudden temperature changes can make skin less adaptable and cause skin to crack.
- Lack of maintenance, includes lack of washing, overuse of harmful products and lack of brushing. Irregular use of shampoo can cause sebaceous oils and dead skin cells to build up on the scalp which feed the Malassezia and cause it to grow out of control and flake. However, overuse of harsh, chemical-laden products can also cause damage to the scalp, striping all natural oils causing dryness and irritability. Finally, regular hair brushing encourages healthy oil production and removes dead skin cells.
- Diet, plays a role in the health of the skin and hair. Multiple vitamins and minerals have been linked to a flaky scalp, these are, Vitamin A, B3, B3, B6, C, Biotin, Magnesium, Manganese, Selenium, Zinc and Essential Fatty Acids.
- Stress, increases the body’s inflammatory response and can effect the body’s natural production of oils. This can lead to increased itching and broken skin.
Risk Factors for Dandruff
Most risk factors can’t be avoided but can be managed. Firstly, as if the teenage years aren’t bad enough, dandruff is most likely to occur during adolescence. However, Dandruff is still present as you get older. Having naturally oily skin is also a common problem, as the natural Malassezia feeds off the oil. Excessive oil can lead to excessive skin and flaking. For a yet unknown reason disease that effects mental cognition also affects the scalp, causing Dandruff. One specific disorder it is prominent in is Parkinson’s disease. Finally, being male is also thought to increase your chances of suffering from Dandruff, this is believed to be linked to gender specific hormones.
Clinical Symptoms of Dandruff
Symptoms of Dandruff are very visual, they include:
- Redness and inflammation
- Dry, scaly skin
- Excessive itching
- Loose flakes of skin in hair or on shoulders.
What can we do to improve this?
The answer may come across as simple, but take care of yourself, your health and your head. Firstly, you may want to consider you diet.
As mentioned in the 'causes', the diet plays a large role in the development of a skin disorder. Vitamin A is considered to help skin health, production and mucous membranes according to the European Food Standards Agency (EFSA). B-vitamins (B2,B3,B6, B7-Biotin), all of the B vitamins are responsible for macronutrient metabolism which helps to feed our skin with all the nutrients it requires for protein development. Biotin (B7) is also associated with normal hair maintenance, this causes the efficient growth of the hair whilst contributing to the natural condition required for healthy follicles and natural oils. A predominant symptom of B-Vitamin Deficiency is flaky and scaly skin which shows how important B Vitamins are for the health of skin. Essential Fatty acids found in oily fish, avocado, nuts or omega 3 gel. It contains eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) an anti-inflammatory that is known to reduce inflammation, itching, redness and irritation of the scalp. Then there are Zinc, Selenium, Magnesium and Manganese. These are essential minerals found in the body and consumed only in the diet. Similar to Vitamin B deficiency a decrease in dietary intake of any one of these minerals leads to irritated and flaky skin. One supplement that is often advised for people suffering from Dandruff is Sea Kelp, this is because it is a nutritional powerhouse rich in 13 vitamins, 20 amino acids and 60 minerals, many of which help the symptoms of Dandruff.
- Regularly Brush your Hair
- Wash with non-harmful chemicals
- Keep Stress to a minimum, for tips on Stress click HERE
- Get sufficient treatment for any infections (Tinea Capitis) or ailments (Psoriasis)
Invest in your diet and health today and wave goodbye to your flaky scalp.
- Nordqvist.C. (2016). Dermatology Eczema / Psoriasis Dandruff: Why It Happens and How To Beat It. Available: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/152844.php.
- NHS. (2016). Dandruff. Available: http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/dandruff/Pages/Introduction.aspx.
- MayoClinic. (2016). Dandruff. Available: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/dandruff/symptoms-causes/dxc-20215281.
- Brewer, S.. (2002). Dandruff. In: Grapevine Publishing Services The Daily Telegraph Encyclopediaof Vitamins, Minerals and Herbal Supplements. . London: Grapevine Publishing. Pg.403-404.