DANDRUFF: HAVE YOU GOT THE SCURF?

I have heard people joke about how ladies like to conceal how itchy their scalps are, and instead of going on to scratch, they would just tap the itchy area. However, as the itching gets worse, they would be forced to start slapping their heads like they are killing insects. I laugh when I hear these jokes, but I am a lady too, and I know what it feels like to have an itchy scalp. What many choose to ignore is that it is not only ladies that have itchy scalps. Men do too. Now, amidst a host of causes, dandruff is the chief cause of itchy scalps, and it does not affect women alone.

Dandruff is the shedding of dead skin cells from the scalp, and it is a common scalp condition that affects most people at the post-pubertal age, and of any gender and ethnicity. It often causes itching and its severity has been noted to fluctuate with season as it often worsens in dry season. Those affected by dandruff find that it can cause social or self-esteem problems. Most cases of dandruff can be easily treated with specialised shampoos. There is, however, no true cure as one cannot ask that the natural process of cell death and cell replacement (which is what brings about dandruff) be stopped.

The signs and symptoms of dandruff are an itchy scalp and flakiness. The affected skin area also becomes red and greasy and there is often a tingly feeling. The exact cause of dandruff, which is also called Scurf or Pityriasis simplex capilliti is unknown. Dandruff is caused by many things and not just a dirty scalp as many like to think. Many experts have even agreed that dandruff is not caused by poor hygiene, although it is a major cause. Causes of dandruff include dry skin, not cleaning or scrubbing enough, shampooing too often, eczema, sensitivity to hair care products, or a yeast-like fungus called Malassezia globosa.

As the epidermal layer is continually replaced, cells are pushed outward where they eventually die off and become flakes. For most people, these flakes are too small to be visible. However, certain conditions cause cell death and replacement to be unusually rapid, especially in the scalp. It has been hypothesized that for people with dandruff, skin cells may mature and be shed within two to seven days while for people without dandruff, it may take a month. The result is that dead skin cells are shed in large, oily clumps, which appear as white or greyish patches on the scalp.

If you have a mild case of dandruff, you could try washing your hair daily with a mild shampoo until the dandruff clears; shampoos with tea tree oil have been found to be particularly effective; try not to scratch your scalp when using shampoo as this could damage your scalp, and avoid using hair products such as gel and hairspray until the dandruff clears. If your dandruff is more severe, you will probably need to use anti-dandruff shampoo. Some of the most widely used anti-dandruff shampoos include Zinc pyrithione which kills the fungi, Salicylic acid which helps soften and shed the scalp cells, Selenium sulphide which helps slow down the production of skin cells, and ketoconazole shampoo which has a powerful antifungal effect. For those who prefer to go totally natural, organic shampoos without silicones have also been suggested. It has also been suggested that the scalp not be washed too frequently as over washing could also lead to rapid removal of skin cells. Rinsing the hair with vinegar and leaving it in for about two minutes has also been suggested.

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