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Essentially, dandruff occurs when the scalp sheds itself of dead skin cells. Sometimes, the cells go into overproduction and shed at twice the normal rate, which presents a problem for the scalp. When the scalp produces excess oil, the oil makes the dead cells stick together and form white clumps i.e. dandruff. Scientists have linked the Malassezia fungi to dandruff and other conditions such as atopic eczema, seborrheic dermatitis, and folliculitis. The fungus is attracted to oil and oil production multiplies the Malassezia fungus.
Although dandruff does not cause any health problems, it can be quite annoying for people that suffer from it. Oftentimes, the white flakes fall on clothes and food while leaving its residue behind. People that suffer from dandruff may notice that during certain seasons, the scalp becomes drier than normal and dandruff is more pronounced.
People with seborrheic dermatitis have scalps that are red, itchy, and either overly dry or greasy. Dead skin cells collect on the scalp and leave a thick, yellowish crust. This crust can also travel to the ears and nose. The main difference between seborrheic dermatitis and dandruff is the thick, yellowish crust that forms around the scalp. Dandruff only results in whitish flakes.
Many people believe that dandruff is a sign of dry scalp, but that’s only partly true. Dandruff occurs when the scalp becomes too oily, and the oil production occurs to combat dryness. In the wintertime, people spend more time indoors and crank up the heat. This leads to dry, warm air that affects the skin.
A scalp that is too dry will produce more oil to overcompensate thus leading to dandruff flakes. Additionally, external factors like stress make the scalp more susceptible to oil production. Therefore, people with dandruff need to use special products to treat the scalp, preventing dead skin cells from flaking or the scalp from getting too dry. Excessively blow drying should be avoided whenever possible. Many people have success with using tea tree oil daily, massaging into the scalp or by the using a shampoo containing tea tree oil. For people with sensitive skin, coconut oil may be a better option as coconut oil does contain some antimicrobial properties. As with many health conditions, cutting down on stress, increasing water intake and eating healthier foods tend to have a positive effect on dandruff.