Dandruff is a chronic condition that can almost always be controlled,
but it may take a little patience and persistence. In general, mild
scaling can often be helped by daily cleansing with a gentle shampoo to
reduce oiliness and cell buildup.
When regular shampoos fail, OTC dandruff shampoos may succeed. But
dandruff shampoos aren't all alike, and you may need to experiment until
you find one that works best for you. Dandruff shampoos are classified
according to their active ingredient:
shampoos (Suave Dandruff Control Shampoo, Head & Shoulders).
These contain the antibacterial and antifungal agent zinc pyrithione,
which has been shown to reduce the fungus that causes dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis.
shampoos (Neutrogena T/Gel, Tegrin).
Coal tar, a byproduct of the coal manufacturing process, helps
conditions such as dandruff, seborrheic dermatitis and psoriasis by
slowing cell turnover. But coal tar has an "earthy" smell, can give
light-colored hair an orange tint and may make treated skin more
sensitive to sunlight.
containing salicylic acid (Ionil T).
These "scalp scrubs" help eliminate scale, but they may leave your
scalp dry, leading to more flaking. Using a conditioner after
shampooing can help counter dryness.
sulfide shampoos (Selsun, Exsel).
These shampoos help prevent cell turnover and may also reduce the
number of malassezia. Because they can discolor blonde, gray or
chemically colored hair, be sure to use them only as directed and to
rinse well after shampooing.
The newest addition to the dandruff armamentarium, ketoconazole is a
broad-spectrum antifungal agent that may work when other shampoos
fail. It's available over the counter as well as by prescription.
Try using one of these shampoos daily until your dandruff is controlled,
then cut back to two or three times a week. If one type of shampoo works
for a time and then seems to lose its effectiveness, try alternating
between two types of dandruff shampoos. Be sure to leave the shampoo on
for at least 5 minutes — this allows the ingredients time to work. Some
experts suggest lathering twice for best results.
If you've shampooed faithfully for several weeks and there's still a
dusting of dandruff on your shoulders, talk to your doctor or
dermatologist. You may need a prescription-strength shampoo or more
aggressive treatment with a steroid lotion.
You can't prevent dandruff, but you can take steps to reduce your risk:
Learn to manage
Stress affects your overall health, making you susceptible to a
number of conditions and diseases. It can even help trigger dandruff
or exacerbate existing symptoms.
If you tend to have an oily scalp, daily shampooing to remove the
excess oil may help stave off dandruff.
Cut back on
Hair sprays, styling gels, mousses and hair waxes can all build up
on your hair and scalp, making them oilier. Some people may even
develop allergies to various hair care products.
Eat a healthy
For overall good health, include plenty of fresh fruits and
vegetables and whole grains and small amounts of lean protein in
Get a little
Sunlight may be good for dandruff. But because exposure to
ultraviolet light damages your skin and increases your risk of skin
cancer, don't sunbathe. Instead, just spend a little time outdoors.
And be sure to wear sunscreen on your face and body.