A dry, itchy, flaky scalp is no one's idea of a good time. But if you're someone who deals with dandruff on a regular basis, some comforting news is that you're not alone.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, dandruff is one of the most common scalp conditions. "It's actually embedded into your DNA," says Dr. Rolanda Wilkerson, principle scientist for Head & Shoulders. "Fifty percent of the population is predisposed to dandruff." However, that doesn't make managing an unbalanced scalp any less annoying.
Luckily, we tapped Dr. Wilkerson, along with none other than Bill Nye the Science Guy, who is currently partnering with Head & Shoulders, to share everything you need to know about dandruff, from how it starts, to how keep it under control.
What Causes Dandruff?
We'll let Nye take it from here.
"Dandruff can easily be explained by science! I call it the dandruff triangle – there are three sides, just like dandruff," he shares. "On one corner there is me (or you), then there is the oil in your skin, and lastly there is the ol' malassezia globosa fungus — yes, it's a fungus that lives on your head and in the little follicles or your hair. It takes in oil from your skin and makes your scalp shed its cells like crazy. That is dandruff. I'm not a fan."
Neither are we, Bill. Neither are we.
I Can Only Get Dandruff on My Scalp, Right?
"The scalp is most common, but anywhere you have body hair — even very light hair like forehead, eyebrows, ears, etc. — you can experience signs of dandruff," Dr. Wilkerson explains.
How Can You Spot the Difference Between Dry Skin and Dandruff?
In order to do this, you'll need to examine your flakes.
Typically, dandruff flakes are larger pieces of skin that appear oily and can sometimes have a yellow tint. Flakes caused by dryness are normally smaller and will appear more white. However, dryness can lead to dandruff, according to Dr. Wilkerson. So it's a good idea to use medicated products on wash day when you start noticing signs.
"An anti-dandruff shampoo, like Head & Shoulders Classic Clean, can work wonders in the way your scalp looks and feels, even if you don't feel you have full on dandruff," she shares.
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What Are Some Ways to Manage Dandruff?
"First and foremost, use an anti-dandruff shampoo," says Nye. Head & Shoulders is also his go-to. "I'm even confident enough to wear my snazzy black lab coat, because I'm flake-free."
Some other options include Nizoral Anti Dandruff Shampoo, as well as Head & Shoulder's Royal Oils Moisture Boost Scalp Care Shampoo, which is ideal for anyone with natural, afro-textured hair, as the formula is extra moisturizing. For those who are in the mood for luxury scalp care, you can go for Oribe's Serene Scalp Anti-Dandruff Shampoo.
Is It Possible to Get Rid of Dandruff Forever?
Well, we'll never say never, but it's extremely difficult to get rid of dandruff once and for all — especially if you're genetically pre-disposed.
"Dandruff is an ongoing condition, but it can be managed through the continued use of anti-dandruff shampoo," says Nye, who recommends making sure that your treatment products contain zinc pyrithione. "It fights the dandruff-causing fungus while cleaning your scalp, leaving your head clean and free of flakes."
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Does Using Manual Tools, Like an In-Shower Scalp Brush, Help to Relieve Flakes?
Eh, the answer to this one isn't exactly straightforward. However, so long as you don't overdo it (which can actually make things worse), these types of tools can definitely help to alleviate existing flakes on the scalp.
"It might be someone's first thought to scrub away the flakes, but gentleness is key," Dr. Wilkerson advises. "Using a very gentle in-shower scalp brush, or an exfoliating scrub, can help exfoliate and relieve flakes. However any harsh scrubbing — even scrubbing with your fingernails — can inflame the scalp and cause irritation to worsen."