Dandruff is a chronic condition, which means that if you have it you will have to deal with it at times throughout your life. That’s the bad news. The good news is that treating it is pretty simple, and the treatment – anti-dandruff shampoo – is both easy to get your hands on and works quickly.
After making its name in the world of shaving products, grooming brand Harry’s has now turned its attention to anti-dandruff products, launching a range of shampoos, scalp creams and scrubs to help prevent and treat the condition.
We spoke to US-based dermatologist and Harry’s ambassador Dr Carlos A Charles about dandruff, what causes it and how best to go about treating it.
What is dandruff and what causes it?
Dandruff is a dry, itchy, red, flaky scalp. It’s very common. It’s a chronic condition, so it’s something that comes and goes. We see it in what dermatologists call sebaceous type people who produce a lot of oil. It’s caused by a whole host of factors – stress can really trigger it and certain people tend to have flare-ups at certain times of the year – which cause the scalp to produce excess oil. That excess oil sets up an environment where different yeasts go after this oil, or sebum, which produces inflammation in the scalp, which leads to the production of skin cells and flaking, redness and itching.
Is it more common in people who have dry skin and suffer from conditions like eczema?
It’s not really linked to eczema and dry skin, it’s something we often see as a one-off. Someone’s skin can be great but they have dandruff.
How can you prevent it?
Prevention is always the best way to go. The Harry’s product line has a couple of things to help in this regard. The scalp cream is emollient and soothing and keeps the dryness in check, and the scalp scrub that you can use once a week can help exfoliate the scalp and promote scalp health. It’s preventative in that respect.
How can you treat it?
The tried-and-tested zinc pyrithione, an ingredient in shampoos, acts like an anti-fungal treatment for dandruff. The Harry’s line also has natural ingredients like jujube bark extract, which acts as an anti-inflammatory. The different products have a different range of strengths too, for mild or intense dandruff.
How can you tell how bad your dandruff is?
Mild can be something like a few flakes in your hair a few hours after washing it, or a little bit of redness. Then in the middle you have more flakes and you’re itching, in which case you need something to go after the cause of the dandruff – zinc pyrithione goes after the organisms that cause the dandruff. Then the intense stuff – I’ve seen guys who come in and their hair is full of flakes, they feel like they need to wash it a few times a day. That’s when you need the heavier guns, the extra-strength anti-dandruff shampoo.
How long does it take to go away with treatment?
Within the first week of using them you should see a significant improvement, but I want to emphasise that dandruff is all about maintenance. Symptoms are going to go away quickly, but you need to make sure you continue to use the products on a regular basis.
If anti-dandruff shampoo doesn’t work should people see a dermatologist?
There are other conditions like psoriasis that mimic dandruff, where the lesions on the scalp may not go away with these topical products. So if you’re using these things but you’re still uncomfortable, or maybe you’re even having some bleeding, it might be time to have a professional take a look.
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Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.