The most common type of dandruff is usually flakes of dead skin from a dry scalp, sometimes along with some flakes of dried sebum. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, as it affects roughly half of the population. The dead skin is going to leave your scalp, whether you want it to or not. Various forms of dermatitis and other skin conditions can cause dandruff as well, and the treatments are more specific.
I’m only concerned with treating common dandruff (and not any other type) when it’s excessive, which can be accomplished much the same way as treating cradle cap on babies.
One Common Dandruff Treatment
The simplest way to combat dandruff is to keep the scalp moist. Ironically, the shampoo we’re using to clean our hair can remove the natural oils that keep the skin of the scalp moist. For some people, hair conditioner can help offset that effect. For others, we need a little more help.
Writing from experience, using baby oil to remove dandruff is an extremely effective treatment for some people. Until I started using this treatment, I always had issues with excessive dandruff. My younger son’s dandruff is more visible than my own because he has dark brown hair while I have graying blond hair. Jon treats his dandruff problem the same way I do.
The procedure is simple, but much easier with a partner:
- Massage baby oil into your hair and scalp until your hair is fairly wet.
- Remove patches of dry skin and sebum by massaging, not by scraping.
- Let the baby oil soak for a few minutes.
- Wash your hair and scalp with a mild shampoo.
- Let your hair dry and comb out any remaining flakes.
- Wait at least a day before repeating.
This procedure helps to keep my dandruff in check when it gets out of hand. It isn’t a cure because there isn’t a cure. A dry scalp condition can reappear after disappearing and can be caused by more things than I can possibly list.
The “No Poo” Movement
There are those who believe that using any kind of shampoo strips away the natural oils (sebum) from the scalp, causing the scalp to produce even more of it. Some dandruff is only dried and flaking sebum, as opposed to dry skin. This effect can be reversed by using no shampoo at all, but the time it takes varies from person to person. Proponents of the “no poo” movement swear it works for them.
I wash my hair with shampoo because my hair gets dirty, not because I like using shampoo. It gets dirty faster when I’m in the tropics than anywhere else (with less dandruff). If I could get away with not shampooing my hair, I would certainly skip it.
Testosterone and Estrogen
Testosterone has been shown to stimulate secretion of sebum, and estrogen has been shown to inhibit secretion. With older men, like me, the testosterone levels tend to decrease with each passing year. I’m still producing a lot of oil, so I must not be as old as I feel.
People with thin hair, like me again, tend to have more dandruff than people with coarse hair. I have never seen any dandruff in my wife’s hair, but I’m sure there has to be a little. Jon’s hair is thicker than mine, but not as coarse as hers. Most of the time, he has way more dandruff than I do.
Image by Hmochoa95, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons