Do your shoulders look as if you’ve been in a snowstorm? Are you blinded by a blizzard every time you comb your hair? Dandruff isn’t a serious health problem, but it can certainly be embarrassing. To control those flakes, use the right shampoo. You can also whip up a homemade scalp rinse that will tackle the yeast behind many cases of dandruff and help to stop the dreaded itching.
• Look for shampoos that contain selenium sulphide, zinc pyrithione or tar. The first two ingredients slow down the rate at which the cells on your scalp multiply. They are used in shampoos such as Head and Shoulders. Tar based formulas, such as Polytar and T Gel retard cell growth. These shampoos are all more effective than products that are formulated with sulphur or salicylic acid, which simply loosen flakes so they can be washed away.
• If your dandruff doesn’t respond to a shampoo like Head and Shoulders, try one that contains ketoconazole, such as Nizoral. Ketoconazole is an antifungal medication that will kill the yeast that may be causing your dandruff.
• If your dandruff shampoo stops working after a few months, your scalp has probably got used to the active ingredient and started to ignore it. Just switch to a shampoo made with a different active ingredient. You may need to switch back in another few months.
• Leave dandruff shampoo on your scalp for at least 10 minutes before you rinse to let it do its work. For a serious case of dandruff, it is worth taking a bit more time. Leather up, put a shower cap on your head and leave the shampoo on for an hour.
People continually shed outer layers of dead skin. When those skin cells flake off the scalp at turbo speed, you have a case of dandruff. The condition has many possible causes. Stress is one. Others include overactive oil glands and seborrhoeic dermatitis- an itchy, scaly rash that can affect the face and chest affect the face as well as the scalp. There’s evidence to suggest that dandruff is often caused by an overgrowth of a common yeast, called Pityrosporum orbiculare. The yeast feeds on skin oils- which may explain why people who have oily scalps are more susceptible to dandruff.
Rely on rinses:
• Make a dandruff rinse using the herb goldenseal. It contains berberine, which has strong antibacterial and antifungal properties. Pour a cup of boiling water over 2 teaspoon of chopped root. Steep, strain and let it cool. Use this as a rinse after you’ve shampooed, or any time during the day. If you can’t find goldenseal root, add a few drops of goldenseal tincture to a little shampoo.
• Brew up a fragrant rosemary rinse. Like goldenseal, rosemary fights bacteria and fungi. And rosemary is a lot easier to find. To make the rinse, pour 1 cup of boiling water over 1 teaspoon of chopped rosemary. Let it sit for a few minutes, then strain. Use the infusion as a rinse once a day. If you find that the rinse irritates your skin, try a different remedy.
• Another herbal anti-dandruff rinse is made with bay leaves. Add a handful of crushed bay leaves to a litre of very hot (just boiled) water. Cover and let steep for 20 minutes. Strain, allow to cool and apply. You can leave it in your hair for hour or so before rinsing.
• Cider vinegar, which kills a variety of fungi and bacteria, is frequently recommended as a home remedy for dandruff. Mix 1 part water with 1 part apple cider vinegar. Apply as a rinse after you shampoo.
Try tea tree:
• Tea tree oil has strong anti-fungal properties. Dilute 7 drops of tea tree oil in 1 tablespoon of carrier oil (such as olive or grape seed oil) and apply to your scalp. Leave it overnight. Or add a few drops to your normal shampoo. Several shampoos are now available with tea tree oil already in them.
A cultured cure:
• It’s not pretty, but it may work: Spread live yogurt on your scalp and leave it there for half an hour, then rinse. Yogurt contains ‘friendly’ bacteria that keep yeast in check. That’s why it’s also a traditional remedy for yeast infections.
Call the doctor?
Normally, a mild case of dandruff will respond to self- treatment, so give home remedies or over the counter dandruff shampoos about two weeks to work. Consult your doctor if there’s no improvement or if you have severe itching along with a red, irritated scalp. You also need a doctor’s advice if you notice thick scaling, yellowish crusting or red patches along your neckline. These symptoms suggest seborrhoeic dermatitis, a condition that requires medical advice and treatment.