We all know the iconic scene in The Breakfast Club when Ally Sheedy’s quirky character shakes her hair and flakes come pouring down, turning her pencil sketch into a winter wonderland. That’s dandruff, baby. It looks cool in the movie, but not in reality.
“Dandruff is a condition that occurs from overgrowth of a fungus that we all naturally have called malessezia furfur and is often accompanied by oily scalp. The result is irritation, which causes excess scaling of the skin,” says Jeannette Graf, Assistant Clinical Professor of Dermatology at Mount Sinai Medical Center.
Especially in the winter, it’s not uncommon for your scalp to shed. That doesn’t automatically mean you have dandruff. Dry air and heaters can dehydrate your head just like it does skin. While both dandruff and dry scalp can leave you feeling tight and itchy, there’s a difference between them and each requires its own treatment. Help to the rescue!
Ask yourself how big the flakes are
“Flakes in dandruff are medium- to large-sized and usually appear white and oily. Flakes from a dry scalp are smaller and not as noticeable,” says celebrity hair stylist Chaz Dean and founder of Wen Hair & Body Care. Another thing to consider is your lifestyle. Stress, over-washing hair with shampoos containing sodium laureth sulfates, the use of styling products with silicone and alcohol and even blasting hair with high heat from the blow dryer can all trigger dryness.
Pay attention to the ingredients…and how you apply them
Fight dandruff with products specifically made to treat the condition. They should contain either salicylic acid or zinc pyrithione. Redken’s Dandruff Control line fits the bill. To improve dry scalp, look for shampoos, conditioners and treatments with non-greasy moisturizers and essential oils such as shea oil or butter. One to try: Rene Furterer Karite Intense Nourishing Oil. Getting the right ingredients is the first step, but equally important is how you apply them. “Lightly massage your scalp with the pads of your fingers—never scratch with your fingernails,” says Caroline Brooks, head of Leonor Greyl USA. She adds, “Rinse out the product slowly and thoroughly with lukewarm water to ensure nothing is left on the scalp.”
Try DIY remedies
Feeling dry? Massage olive oil or regular (high cholesterol) mayonnaise as a conditioning treatment for 30 minutes before washing out. P.S. if your scalp feels tight, it’s likely your skin does too. Your body is telling you it’s thirsty so drink more water and add more water-based food like fruits and veggies to your diet. Dealing with dandruff? Crush an aspirin in olive oil and massage into scalp.
What's your secret weapon for dealing with dandruff?