Dandruff or Seborrheic capitis is caused by a tiny organism of Malassezia species, most commonly Malassezia globosa. This organism lives on everyone's scalp and feeds on the natural oil that our scalp produces, called sebum. When Malassezia breaks down sebum, it creates a substance called Oleic Acid. Our skin has a protective layer called keratinocytes that protect us from bacteria, viruses, and fungi. But when there is too much oil on the scalp, Malassezia sticks to it and causes our skin to become inflamed, which leads to the shedding of the keratinocytes. This shedding causes the dry, irritated, or flaky scalp that we call dandruff.
While the underlying cause of dandruff remains constant, various factors can aggravate the condition, making it appear more severe. These factors may worsen it:
Dry Skin or Eczema: If you have dry skin or eczema, your scalp may also become dry, itchy, and flaky, worsening dandruff. These flakes are usually smaller and less oily.
Over/Under Shampooing: If you do not wash your hair frequently, oils and skin cells can accumulate on your scalp, resulting in dandruff. On the other hand, shampooing too often can also dehydrate the scalp and exacerbate dandruff.
Heat and Dry Air: Dry air and heat can dehydrate your scalp and exacerbate dandruff.
Air Pollution: Chemicals in the air can irritate your scalp and skin, leading to dandruff exacerbation.
Poor Diet: A diet lacking essential nutrients like zinc, vitamin B, and fats can increase the chances of developing dandruff.
The typical symptoms of dandruff include an itchy scalp and the presence of dead skin flakes on the scalp. The flakes can vary in size and appearance, from small and white to larger, greasy, and yellow, and may become lodged in the hair and collect on the shoulders.
Studies have found that hair growing on an irritated scalp with dandruff tends to produce more damaged hair than a healthy scalp. The weakened cuticles provide less protection to the hair fibres as they grow, making them more prone to breakage. Itching, one of the primary symptoms of dandruff, can further harm the scalp and lead to hair breakage.
A range of antifungal agents, such as Ketoconazole, Zinc pyrithione, and Selenium sulfide, can be used to treat dandruff.
Ketoconazole works by inhibiting the growth of Malassezia, a fungus that causes dandruff. It effectively manages moderate to severe dandruff, as it helps alleviate symptoms such as scaling, itching, and inflammation. Additionally, this ingredient can prevent dandruff relapse and helps treat seborrheic dermatitis.
Zinc pyrithione is a common ingredient used to manage dandruff. It has antibacterial and antifungal properties that help reduce the growth of yeast and bacteria on the scalp. In addition, zinc pyrithione also controls the oiliness of the scalp.
Selenium sulfide is also an effective ingredient used to treat dandruff. It is an antifungal agent that reduces yeast growth and other fungi on the scalp.