Got Dandruff? Itchy Scalp?

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Got Dandruff? Itchy Scalp?

Dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis cause itchy scalp. Here are some causes and treatments

Hair Raising Facts about Hair

Purveyor of Dandruff Remedies

Is your scalp itchy? Is it dry and flakey yet still paradoxically greasy? Do you shed a blizzard of flakes? Redness and tenderness to the scalp got you down? You very well may have dandruff, or seborrheic dermatitis as dermatologist lovely call it.

Luckily dandruff is easily controlled in most cases. And a wide spectrum of products works for most people. Before seeing your dermatologist, you should try over-the-counter products with selenium sulfide, zinc pyrithione, or salicylic acid. Some of my favorites are Head & Shoulders, Selsun Blue, Aveeno, and Tsal. There are some inexpensive coal tar derivative shampoos that work well also. However most carry that little label stating “this chemical is known to the State of California to cause cancer” since it is petroleum based product. I highly doubt your coal tar shampoo will give you cancer, but hey, there are perfectly other good options from which to choose. Ketoconazole is my all time favorite shampoo and seems to be the most effective at controlling dandruff. The weaker over-the-counter strength is actually more expensive than the stronger prescription strength for unclear reasons.  For those with a more natural mindset, tea tree oil and vinegar are popular and seem to work quite well also. Supplementing with vitamin B6, zinc, and biotin is worth a try in my opinion. If several of the above treatments fail to offer you adequate relief, see your dermatologist. We have many other tricks up our white sleeves.

Once upon a time, Listerine was heavily marketed as a scalp treatment for dandruff. 1926 advertisements from Lambert Pharmaceuticals of St. Louis, Missouri warn readers that “dandruff is a sign of a serious medical condition,” and “Dandruff is a germ disease that no intelligent person will tolerate.” So having dandruff meant not only were you seriously ill but a germ infected moron according to the Lambert posters. Several show a loving couple embracing with the words “Look out for Infectious Dandruff!” in bold horror show letting.

We get our word shampoo from colonial India of all places during the 1760’s. Champo is derived from the Hindi word for kneading and pressing which was often done with soapberry extracts. When English traders returned from India many brought the act of shampooing the hair with them. How well these early shampoos worked on dandruff is not known however. Many depictions of street urchins of the time period show scruffy hair with bald spots and plate-like flakes of dandruff.

For most of Western history soap was used to cleanse all parts of the body, including the hair. The pendulum of personal hygiene has swung wildly over the last few hundred years. Due to fears of cleanliness actually causing disease (ill humors would enter through your open pores so it was best to stay dirty), it took a coordinated marketing campaign on behalf of the soap makers to make bathing an acceptable habit for the common man. Drene was the first modern shampoo to be commercially sold in the 1930’s. Made by Proctor & Gamble in their Cincinnati factories, it was surfactant based rather soap based. This allowed hair to retain its luster and silky feel after a rinse. Drene even had its own 30 minute radio show, Drene Time, featuring swingy musicians and A-list actors of the day.

The cause of dandruff is believed to be a complicated tango between naturally occurring yeast, your skin oil, and the resultant inflammation. For unclear reasons, the yeast finds the composition of some individuals’ scalp oil to be tastier than the next person. The digestion of these oils generates fatty acids that penetrate the skin and stir up inflammation (hence the redness and flaking). But what comes first? The yeast or the unique blend of skin oil? It is a classic chicken or egg question playing out fight on your head.

The vast majority of people with dandruff are healthy with no other medical problems. In newborns we call it cradle cap and many grow out of it as their oil glands mature. But it has been known for decades that many neurodegenerative conditions, like Parkinson’s disease, go along with dandruff (especially facial dandruff, i.e. seborrhea). HIV can also cause difficult to treat cases. Changes in humidity, sleep deprivation, and stress often worsen dandruff as well. But rest assured, almost all dandruff sufferers are healthy, if not slightly annoyed by their scalp’s misbehavior.