DANDRUFF OR DRY SCALP. WHAT ARE YOU TREATING?
Dandruff or dry scalp? These two skin conditions affect more than half of the population. Is dandruff the same as having a dry scalp? As a woman, I love my hair and I go the extra mile to see that it looks presentable. It is interesting to know that men are the same. They worry about the health and appearance of their hair just as much as women do. Men and women alike suffer from these skin conditions and cosmetic companies are well aware of this struggle. They manufacture tons of products promising the effectiveness in treating either disease. Some of these products are very effective. But other times, all our efforts are futile. This may happen because we are using the products wrongly. To treat dandruff or dry scalp effectively, we need to understand the problem.
The skin is the largest organ of the body. It is divided into three primary layers. The epidermis, the dermis and the hypodermis (dermis meaning skin).The epidermis is the outermost layer of skin which provides a waterproof barrier and creates our skin tone. The dermis, beneath the epidermis, contains tough connective tissue, hair follicles, and sweat glands. Fat and connective tissue makes up the hypodermis. The outer layer, the epidermis consists of four or five layers. The four layers are basale layer, spinosum layer, granulosum layer, and corneum layer. Lucidum layer is the fifth layer of epidermis; present only in areas of thick skin such as the soles of our feet and the palms of our hands.
Every 28-30 days, we undergo a process of desquamation (skin regeneration). This process happens in the epidermis (our outer layer of skin). The outermost layer, stratum corneum contains the dry, dead skin. In a healthy individual, the cells from the basal layer move to the top within 14 days and within the next 14 days slowly shed off one layer at a time. This process may happen in the shower with warm or hot water encouraging the topmost layer of dead skin cells to shed. In pathologic desquamation, the corneum layer becomes thicker (hyperkeratosis), giving a “dry” or scaly appearance to the skin, and instead of detaching as single cells, corneocytes (cells from the corneum layer) are shed in clusters, forming visible scales. A major cause of hyperkeratosis is seborrheic dermatitis.
Dandruff Vs Dry Scalp
Dry scalp: When we notice a dry, flaky scalp, we are quick to call it dandruff. However, this may have nothing to do with dandruff. You have a dry scalp when your skin has too little moisture. Extreme weather conditions can make your scalp dehydrated and cause a dry skin. The skin on your scalp becomes irritated and flakes off. If your scalp is dry, the skin on other parts of your body, like your arms and legs, could be dry as well. Contact dermatitis (a reaction to a product you may have used such as shampoo) and dry weather are triggers of this skin condition. Symptoms include “small”, dry, white flakes, itchy scalp and dryness on other parts of the body.
Dandruff: Is a non-inflammatory form of seborrheic dermatitis with increased scalp scaling. It is associated with the fungi Malassezia spp. This fungi normally lives on your scalp. Yet some people have too much of it, and it causes skin cells to multiply more quickly than usual. The fungi feeds on lipids (fat) and are found most commonly in patients with high levels of sebaceous secretions or sebum. Certain glands in our body secrete a lubricating oily matter (sebum) into the hair follicles to lubricate our skin and hair. For those with an overly active sebaceous gland, they have an overproduction of these oils and suffer from skin conditions like dandruff and acne vulgaris. Symptoms of dandruff include oily, “large flakes” that are yellow or white, an itchy, oily, red scalp. Unlike dry scalp, dandruff is limited to the scalp.
How to treat Dry scalp
Staying hydrated is key to maintaining healthy skin, especially during extreme weather conditions. In the cold seasons, the dry air may cause your scalp to be dehydrated and cause dry skin, but also the hot weather may cause you to perspire more and make you dehydrated quicker. Drinking water regularly can help your body replenish any lost moisture and improve the health of your skin.
Change your shampoo
Do not treat a dry scalp with anti-dandruff shampoos or conditioners. These products are made to reduce oils and moisture as seen in people with dandruff. Choose the right shampoo and conditioner for you. Use a mild shampoo made specifically to help dry hair because it will have fewer drying detergents. Switching to a nourishing shampoo and conditioner that cleans hair without stripping the scalp’s natural moisture will help eliminate dry scalp symptoms over time.
Stay away from dry shampoo
Dry shampoo is simply a formulation of scented, dry powder that absorbs sebum and other oils from your roots. Your hair might smell nice for a short while, but when you get the chance, you should condition your scalp and hydrate.
Avoid using styling tools more than once or twice a week. Hair driers can dry out your scalp. Try to dry your hair naturally or if you must, use your blow drier at a lower heat setting.
Wash your hair effectively
Wash your hair less frequently with shampoos. Sometimes, all your hair needs is some conditioner. Shampoos strip out the moisture from your hair. Also be mindful of the temperature of water. Hot water has a drying effect on our skin.
A dry scalp can be a pain, but it is comforting to know that it is not so difficult to manage. Treating its symptoms is a simple matter of staying hydrated, taking a gentle approach to hair care and using a shampoo and conditioner that keeps your scalp clean, healthy and nourished.
How to treat Dandruff
Most dandruff shampoos contain medicine that kills the fungus on your scalp or removes flaky skin. Here are some examples of products you should look for:
Pyrithione zinc is an antifungal drug. It kills the fungus on your scalp that causes flaking. Pyrithione zinc shampoos are gentle enough for everyday use.
Ketoconazole is an anti-fungal. It also targets the fungi on the scalp.
Selenium sulfide reduces fungus and prevents too many skin cells from dying off. If you have blond or gray hair or you dye your hair, ask your doctor before using shampoo containing selenium sulfide. It can change your hair color.
Salicylic acid removes extra scale from your scalp before it can flake. In some people, salicylic acid can dry out the skin and cause more flaking.
Coal tar slows the growth and shedding of skin cells on the scalp. Tar-based shampoos can also change your hair color if you have blond or gray hair.
Sulfur a non-metallic element has both keratolytic and antimicrobial activity.
Corticosteroids work via their anti-inflammatory and antiproliferative effects
Tea tree oil and Peppermint oil have anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties. They soothe an itchy scalp, keep dandruff at bay and defend against head lice.
In general, with dandruff, washing your hair regularly with a good anti-dandruff shampoo and conditioner is the key to keeping your scalp and hair healthy and clear of visible flakes. But when you do get it treated, limit your shampoo use so as not to develop a dry scalp. For more stubborn dandruff, your doctor can prescribe a stronger shampoo or a steroid lotion.
Patients may feel embarrassed that their dandruff or dry scalp is viewed as a sign of poor grooming or uncleanliness by others but now you know the cause. With this knowledge, you are only one step away from fixing the problem. Hold your head high and defeat dandruff and dry scalp.