What Causes Dandruff and How to Get Rid of It
Dandruff is flaky, itchy, and embarrassing. No good. And for too many guys, it’s a constant problem.
Is getting dandruff normal? Well, it turns out that being male is a risk factor. Some researchers even believe that male hormones are partially responsible for it.
So with dandruff being so common amongst men, it isn’t something you should be ashamed of. Millions of guys develop these unfortunate flakes from time to time. It’s just part of life.
Dandruff isn’t serious, contagious, or bad for your health. But it can be embarrassing, chronic, and annoying.
Fortunately, you can learn how to manage dandruff and solve this common issue. Even if your current battle with hair flakes is frustrating you, these effective methods will help you treat the root causes of dandruff.
Where Does Dandruff Come From?
In most cases, dandruff is caused by the excessive buildup around your hair follicles of a common yeast-like fungus called Malassezia globosa.
Another common yeast that can bring on dandruff is pityrosporum orbiuclare. Since it feeds on skin oils, it tends to cause dandruff in guys with oily scalps.
Even though one or both of these are found on most people’s scalps, they don’t always cause dandruff. Why not?
The problems start when fungal growth becomes excessive. The fungus feeds off of sebum, your skin’s natural oil. It’s the same oil your scalp secretes to keep your hair shiny and healthy.
But when you have too much hair and scalp oil - and too many fungi feeding on that oil - you get dandruff.
Some of the byproducts that these fungal friends excrete can irritate your scalp. It doesn’t happen to everyone, but for guys with sensitive skin the results can be dryness, itch, and that telltale flaking you associate with dandruff.
Dry or Oily Scalp
If your skin is naturally dry or sensitive, you may struggle with regular bouts of dandruff. A lack of moisture can lead to an imbalance in your scalp’s microbiome that makes these flakes more likely to occur.
Oily skin is another common culprit. Since the fungi that cause most dandruff feed on sebum, your oily scalp is smorgasbord for them. And the result is dandruff.
In some cases, guys with oily skin can develop an especially severe form of dandruff called seborrheic dermatitis. If your scalp is red, greasy, and covered in white or yellow flakes, this is probably what you’re dealing with. The condition can cause similar problems elsewhere on your body - wherever there are lots of oil secreting glands.
Bad Hair Care Habits
Washing your hair too often strips away natural oils and leaves your hair dehydrated. But the opposite isn’t better. Not washing your hair enough allows for excessive oil accumulation. That is a risk factor for dandruff since the yeast and fungi that cause flakes are hungry for your scalp oil.
Shampoo is great because it removes dirt and oil from your hair and scalp. But your scalp needs some natural oil to keep it moisturized, itch-free, and healthy.
So shampooing - especially with a harsh product - is a double edged sword. You stay clean and reduce oil, but you also strip away the moisture your scalp needs to stay flake-free.
Showering with scalding hot water is hard on your hair, scalp, and skin too. While it won’t cause dandruff on its own, it can worsen the problems that come along with dandruff including dehydration and irritation.
Cold, dry air cannot cause dandruff by itself. That’s because dandruff is usually instigated by fungal growth on your scalp.
However, several factors converge to aggravate dandruff problems in men during the winter. The dry conditions sap your scalp of moisture. So does indoor heating - which keeps you warm but dries out the air.
Even if you use a humidifier at home to improve conditions, you’re still going to have to deal with dry air for several months - and a potentially related dandruff problem.
How to Manage Dandruff
First, understand your hair and scalp. If dryness is your issue, focus on hydrating your hair and scalp and preventing dehydration throughout the day.
It also helps to identify the best - and worst - ingredients in most common dandruff shampoos. That way you can make a smart choice about which products you choose.
Avoid These Common Dandruff Shampoo Ingredients
Some brands make dandruff shampoo with harsh ingredients that we do not use or recommend, since “synthetic cosmetics lead to various side effects such as toxicity to the eye, over drying of hair and deposition of salt on the hair shaft.”
Selenium Sulfide: While this ingredient can reduce scalp itching and slow the growth of dandruff-causing yeast, it comes at a significant cost. Research shows that selenium sulfide’s “side effects include skin irritation, dry skin, oily or dry hair or temporary hair loss.” Another study noted that “excessive oiliness after use of this agent has been reported in many patients as adverse drug effect.”
Zinc Pyrithione: This antimicrobial and anti-fungal agent helps control acne, but also stings the eyes, mouth, and nose and can cause reactions of burning and redness.
Salicylic Acid: An ingredient common in acne controlling products, salicylic acid appears in some anti-dandruff shampoos too. It works by eliminating dead skin cell buildup. However, it can also exacerbate a dry skin problem, produce a burning sensation, and cause redness.
Coal Tar: Though widely used to treat dandruff, “the staining properties, odor and mess in using tar” make it a subpar choice for your hair.
The Best Natural Dandruff Shampoo Ingredients
Before you go the scorched earth route, opt for a gentler product that is still effective. These are some of the most effective natural ingredients that fight dandruff.
Jojoba Oil: Rebuilds your scalp’s natural protective cushion to prevent an overgrowth in dandruff causing bacteria. Helps dissolve build-up that can cause flakes and dandruff. Studies show that it is antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, moisturizing, and hair strengthening.
Ziziphus Joazeiro Bark Extract: This vitamin rich ingredient offers antibacterial and anti fungal properties that calm and relieve the scalp from irritation, itching, and flaking related to dandruff. It’s derived from the Ziziphus Joazeiro tree - native to Brazil - which has been researched for its many health and cosmetic benefits and found to be a “huge remedy for the dandruff sufferer.”
Aloe Vera: Restores moisture and critical nutrients to your hair and scalp after other ingredients have cleansed.
Tea Tree Oil: Fights fungus and bacteria while soothing the scalp to discourage an outbreak of dandruff.
Hair Care Tips for Guys with Dandruff
For the best results, massage your scalp as you work the shampoo through your hair. Wait 2-3 minutes before rinsing thoroughly - leaving residue in your hair won't help your dandruff problem.
Shampoo Less Often
If you wash your hair daily, try switching to every other day or even less. Shampoo - even a gentle formula - removes some of the natural oils on your hair and scalp that help seal in moisture.
If dryness is your main concern, over-washing will only worsen things. We recommend you use shampoo 3-4 times each week depending on your needs.
Use a hydrating conditioner with nutrients that soothe the scalp and promote healthy hair growth. This will prevent the excessive dryness and irritation that put you at risk for out of control dandruff.
If you have severely dry skin you may want to use conditioner daily but shampoo only every few days. Find what works for you and then stick to that hair care routine.
Newsflash: Hair conditioner is not just for men with long hair. Even if you’re rocking short hair, you will have healthier, better looking hair if you use conditioner. It keeps your scalp healthy and reduces the chance of flakes appearing.
Make sure to choose a conditioner with ingredients that promote scalp moisture, lock in hydration, and rebalance your skin after using hair products. These include borage oil (which contains omega-6 fatty acids), avocado oil, aloe, and peppermint.
What About Beard Dandruff?
Dandruff can ravage your facial hair too. An itchy, flaky beard is problematic, but you can use the same dandruff shampoo on your face as you do on your head.
Another excellent way to control dryness and flakes is with beard oil. Ours is made with jojoba and argan oils - they hydrate the skin, give your facial hair a healthy shine, and prevent dryness and flakes.
Prevent and Manage Dandruff with a Smart Hair Care Routine
Dandruff sucks. But it doesn’t have to be a recurring nightmare for you. Use these tips, prevent flakes with a good hair care routine that includes natural dandruff shampoo, and avoid the bad habits that can lead to a dandruff problem. That way you’ll always be proud of your luscious locks and won’t have to worry about unwanted flakes.