Dandruff is one of the most common problems people experience with their skin and hair, but a lot of people still feel more than a little sensitive talking about it. Good news for you and your closet: Those little white flakes aren't about to plague your black jackets forever.
First off, it's important to understand what dandruff is and what causes it. "Dandruff can refer to any condition that causes a dry, flaky scalp, but people with dandruff most commonly have a condition known as seborrheic dermatitis," says dermatologic surgeon and RealSelf contributor Sejal Shah, M.D. There's no definitive cause for seborrheic dermatitis, but it can be triggered by stress, the weather, Malassezia yeast or even your genes. Sensitivity to shampoo or hair dyes, not shampooing enough and skin conditions like psoriasis are other potential culprits for flakes.
You've probably seen about a million "hair hacks" that claim to get rid of dandruff, but as with any other skin condition, it's best to listen to the pros. These are the routes experts recommend for taking care of this annoying issue.
1. If you have apple cider vinegar in your pantry, just use that.
Yep, your solution could be sitting right in your cupboard. "The vinegar has a certain level of acid content that decreases itching and flaking and calms down the reaction to Malassezia yeast," says dermatologist Lavanya Krishnan, M.D. Mix equal parts apple cider vinegar with water and apply it to your scalp prior to shampooing. Allow it to sit for a few minutes before rinsing it out.
2. Same with baking soda - it's dandruff's worst enemy.
"In a scrub, baking soda has the ability to control excessively oily scalp skin and thus, control the excess oil production," explains Dr. Krishnan. Plus, it can soothe your irritated scalp skin, helping to calm down irritation caused by cleansing and styling products.
3. ...or you could be fancy about it and try oils.
Another reason to incorporate oils into your routine? "Oils can be very helpful for dandruff, as they can help moisturize the dry skin on the scalp," says Dr. Krishnan. She recommends picks like tea tree oil, which have additional anti-inflammatory effects that can further soothe any scalp discomfort.
4. But if nothing's working, ask your doc about steroids.
If you're heading to the dermatologist for a fix, he or she may prescribe a topical steroid or steroid shampoo. "The steroid reduces inflammation and can offer relief for individuals whose dandruff is accompanied by itchiness," says Dr. Shah.
5. No, it's not the prettiest word - but there's also the anti-fungal route.
An anti-fungal targets the yeast and also acts as an anti-inflammatory, says Dr. Shah. Depending on how your dermatologist advises applying it, these can be prescribed in topical or shampoo form.
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