The Dry & Itchy Scalp Condition Called Dandruff

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Many salon patrons suffer from the dry, itchy scalp condition known as dandruff. In fact, it’s estimated that of the 36% of the population suffer from it, with half of the cases ranging from moderate to severe. The treatment of dandruff has long been a part of salon servicing in the ethnic salon trade. It is now, however, an issue of increasing importance due to new research and a plethora of new product entries that address dry scalp conditions. This post will discuss what dandruff is, describe its symptoms and outline treatments for it. 

Defining Dandruff 

Dandruff is a chronic, non-inflammatory condition characterized by excessive scaling of scalp tissue. The rate at which the skin cells shed with dandruff is approximately twice that of the normal, healthy scalp. Generally, dandruff is a stable condition that does not change from week to week. It tends to be seasonal, most severe in the winter and mildest in the summer. Considered by many health professionals as a trivial medical problem, dandruff is a rather normal physiological phenomenon much like the growth of hair and nails. Its real distinction is that it is visible on the scalp and throughout the hair, and therefore has a negative cosmetic appeal. Dandruff normally appears at puberty, peaks in early adulthood, stabilizes in middle age and trails off in advanced years. The specific cause of dandruff is unknown. Dandruff is not a disease. It is not caused, as theorized, by microorganisms present on the scalp, and is not caused by poor hygiene. It is also not to be confused with more serious conditions such as psoriasis or seborrhea. For these conditions, other areas of the body are affected along with the scalp; stress is an influencing factor; inflammation is present and the number of flakes is as much as three times greater than with dandruff. 

Symptoms of Dandruff 

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Probably the most notable symptom of dandruff is the shedding of large, irregular-shaped skin cells from the scalp. (Normal shedding occurs from a scalp surface comprised of 25-35 closely arranged, relatively uniform shaped normal skin cells per square millimeter. However, with dandruff, there are fewer than 10 normal cells, irregularly shaped, per square millimeter). Dandruff tends to be uniform and well-distributed over the surface of the scalp. In other words, it usually is not localized in one or two patches. The characteristic flakes frequently cluster around the base of the hairshaft, and appear white because of air in the deep cracks between the skin cell fragments. Normal brushing and combing tends to dislodge some flakes from the scalp, making the condition more noticeable. Itching often accompanies dandruff and excessive scalp dryness may also be prevalent. 

Dandruff Treatments

There are no known cures for dandruff; only treatments designed to control the condition. The  most common are:

Hair Removal 

The total removal of hair eliminates the dandruff condition. For those sufferers , this measure would not be an acceptable solution. 

Home Remedies 

“Oiling” the scalp with oil-based hair dressings has been long used as a means of treating the dryness and itchiness associated with dandruff. This process lubricates the scalp and is thereby thought to help relieve itchiness, dryness and assist in dislodging loose scales from the scalp. 

Detergent/Frequent Shampooing

Cleansing the hair and scalp often with non-medicated shampoos, is effective for many. Vigorously and meticulously massaging the scalp while shampooing (every 1-3 days) may also help control excess scaling. Detergents found in shampoos (such as sodium lauryl sulfate and quaternary ammonium compounds such as benzalkonium chloride) may help to break up scales into smaller, less visible particles. And, it is theorized that detergent residue left on the scalp after shampooing may cause subsequent shedding of dandruff scales in smaller flakes. Shampooings on such a regular basis is likely to be unacceptable to those who chemically relax and/or heat style their hair.

Cytostatic Agents 

Cytostatic agents are ingredients in many dandruff shampoos and preparations that dramatically reduce the rate of scalp skin-cell shedding (i.e. epidermal turnover), it is considered the most direct approach to controlling dandruff. Selenium sulfide and zinc pyrithione are two of the most popular cytostatic agents and are classified as Category I miscellaneous external drug products by the FDA. AT non-prescription levels, both are considered safe and effective.