As NaturAllistas, one thing we dread to see in our hair is the dandruff-like flakes that sometimes appear after styling. The good thing about flaking is that it’s avoidable and easy to get rid of – you just have to rewash your hair, add some oil to break the flakes down, or switch up your products. Unlike flaking, dandruff is a little more unpredictable and harder to manage. But, there’s an upside here! Like every other problem, knowing what the cause is will help to attack it. Reducing dandruff and getting rid of it all together is not a difficult issue to tackle if you know what causes dandruff and what reduces it’s chances of forming. Here, we’ll discuss what exactly dandruff is, what causes it, and what you can do about it.
Dandruff: What Is It?
If we want to get technical, dandruff is classified as a mild form of seborrheic dermatitis. Seborrheic dermatitis is a type of eczema that is normally found on the scalp or other parts of the body that produces a lot of oil on its surface.
Because dandruff is a mild form of eczema, it is understandable why dandruff can grow to something more than flakes on your scalp. For most people, it’s common to experience an extremely mild case of dandruff, where all we have to do is wash our hair or hydrate our scalp to get rid of it. However, for others, it is a skin condition that cannot be treated with a simple wash or oil treatment. Some may find their scalp is covered with flakes, chronically dry, or (on the flip side) irritated with a rash caused by the oil on the scalp. In this guide, when we talk about what dandruff is and it’s remedies, we’ll be referring to the latter group with more severe symptoms that aren’t as easily treated.
It is important to note that dandruff is typically associated with only a dry, itchy, flakey scalp. However, this is only half of what it can be. Dandruff (the more severe symptoms) as a whole is an itchy scalp that can have two end results. Understanding this can help you pinpoint exactly what is and isn’t dandruff and what you need to do to remedy it.
Dandruff: What Causes It?
Dandruff will result in an itchy scalp that will flake (if the itchiness is due to dryness) or become a rash (if the itchiness is due to excess oil).
In terms of environment, your scalp (and hair) can become severely dry if the air around you is dry and cold. When it comes to warmer weather, it is easier for your scalp to become oily. If you have dandruff, winter can produce an itchy, irritated flakey scalp. In the summer, your scalp will be equally as irritated, but instead of flakes you experience itchy rashes.
When it comes to the health of your hair and your routine, a flakey scalp can be the result of using drying products. Red, irritated rashes can indicate you’re using products that are too heavy for your scalp or irritating to your skin.
Drying products tend to have sulfates, alcohols, and excess oil in their ingredients. Things like sulfates and alcohol can completely strip the hair and scalp, making it so there is little oil left. Products with excess oil normally indicate that it isn’t balanced with enough moisture content, so using the product makes it difficult for moisture to penetrate the skin and hydrate the scalp. In this case, even moisture from the air could not aid in hydrating the scalp, along with products. Continuously using drying products can actually affect how your scalp produces oil in the future and cause the scalp to produce its oil at a lower rate than it normally would.
Irritating products may have an ingredient that you are sensitive to or is concentrated (and therefore burns/itches). It is important to check the labels of products for any ingredients you have known sensitivities toward. If the ingredient list doesn’t contain any ingredients that are known to be irritating, the irritation most likely is due to a sensitivity to an ingredient. If you can see ingredients that normally need to be diluted, like essential oils and raw butters.
Dandruff: How To Treat It?
Because flakes and dryness are the result of a lack of oil on the scalp or a lack of oil being produced by the scalp, restoring the scalp's oil and providing it with moisture will help with dryness.
Here are some ways to hydrate the scalp/keep it hydrated:
- Deep Conditioning: Even though deep conditioning is known for its benefit to the hair, it also works to nourish the scalp. This provides it with the adequate amounts of nutrients and hydration it needs in order to produce oil. Consistent deep conditioning can help regulate any issues your scalp may have at producing oil and has many benefits to your hair as well!
- Coconut Oil: Coconut Oil is a soothing ingredient that can help reduce dryness. Not only does it hydrate the skin, but it also has vitamins that will promote a healthy scalp environment which produces healthy, strong growth.
- Jamaican Black Castor Oil: Just like coconut oil, Jamaican Black Castor Oil is a rich ingredient that feeds the scalp and helps to hydrate the skin. Applying Jamaican Black Castor Oil a few times a week can help your scalp get to a regulated state, allowing it to remain hydrated. Because it is such a rich oil, Jamaican Black Castor Oil should be used sparingly; a little goes a long way. If over applied, Jamaican Black Castor Oil can become too heavy, weigh your hair down, and clog the pores of your scalp (known as ‘follicles').
We carry two JBCO Growth Serums that are formulated to nourish the scalp, promoting healthy growth and roots. We also offer a bundle that includes a JBCO Growth Serum with an Ice Cream Treatment! This makes the perfect duo that help to keep your scalp hydrated and healthy.
- Sulfate/Alcohol Free Shampoos: Like mentioned before, sulfate and alcohols will strip the scalp of its natural oil. Normally found in shampoo, avoiding these types of ingredients will reduce the chances of your scalp drying out.
Irritation and rashes are caused by excess oil on the scalp or excess oil being produced by the scalp. So making sure your scalp is cleansed and it’s oil is regulated will help to mitigate oiliness.
Here are some things that will reduce oiliness on the scalp:
- Deep Conditioning: Even though (like mentioned before) deep conditioning mostly serves to hydrate the scalp, it also can help get the scalp to a healthy state. A healthy scalp not only looks like a hydrated scalp, but also a scalp that knows when and when not to produce oil. If your scalp is producing so much oil that is causing rashes and itching, then deep conditioning can help to bring regulation to this process.
- Tea Tree Oil: Tea Tree Oil is an essential oil that has antibacterial and antifungal properties. This means when used effectively, it will help to fight any bacteria of fungal infections that could arise on the scalp. Bacteria and fungus thrive on the irritated, oily, exposed surface of the scalp and can worsen your dandruff symptoms. Tea Tree Oil will also aid in reducing inflammation or soothe irritating areas. Aside from its benefits at treating dandruff, it also stimulates the scalp, motivating increased blood flow that allows for growth.
Because Tea Tree Oil is an essential oil, it is extremely concentrated and should never be applied directly. Always use a carrier oil (like coconut oil, olive oil, raw JBCO) to dilute it before applying it to your scalp!
- Lemongrass Oil: Like Tea Tree Oil, Lemongrass is another antibacterial and antifungal essential oil that will aid in irritation. This is another oil that needs to be diluted in a neutral oil before applying to the skin!
- Lavender Oil: With its soothing properties, Lavender Oil also works to protect skin against any bacteria that may cause irritation on the scalp. Gentle and fragrant, it can help feed the scalp to provide nourishment for regulation and growth. Lavender Oil doesn’t have to be diluted and could be a good oil to use in combination with others.
- Increase Wash Frequency: If your scalp produces a lot of oil, increasing the amount of times you cleanse your hair can help reduce buildup and further irritation. When your scalp produces a lot of oil naturally, it is doing so to make sure your hair follicle has enough sebum (or oil) to remain healthy and continue to function. Plainly, for whatever reason, it is producing an excess of oil in fear it is not producing enough, leaving your hair and scalp dry. With increasing the amount of times you wash, the scalp will learn that it doesn’t have to produce as much oil as it once did (in excess amount) since it (and your hair) will be hydrated adequately.
- Take a look at your products: If your hair is fine, low porosity, or just doesn’t take to heavy products well, it will be easy for your scalp to become overloaded with product as well. Heavy products can cause the pores on your scalp to become blocked, clogging up any oil that is being produced. This creates bumpy, itchy rashes, as the oil is trapped under your skin and has no way to get out. Cutting out heavy products will help prevent any oil being trapped under the skin, allowing it to coat your scalp properly.
Here are some tips, tricks, and reminders that will help you in treating your dandruff...
- Most essential oils have therapeutic properties from their scents. They can be very relaxing to smell, causing a decrease in stress and anxiety. Combining different essential oils with one carrier can create a powerful blend that will help fight irritation and sooth you.
- Using deep conditioners with essential oils will help ensure that your scalp will be regulated as opposed to it receiving more moisture (on top of the excess oil). The essential oils in the deep conditioner will work with the hydration in the treatment to protect against any infections and settle down irritated spots. Our Original Dry Hair Solution Ice Cream Treatment is a good example of this. It contains lavender and tea tree essential oil and works to mitigate dryness while also purifying the scalp.
- Really take note of the condition of your hair, the quality of the products you use, and how your hair reacts to certain remedies you try. If you feel like you’ve tried everything and nothing is helping, it may be time to go see a dermatologist about your condition. As this may not be an option for some, it is important you are consistent with your efforts; it may take a little more time than expected for the dandruff and it’s symptoms to clear up!
- Try not to scratch! We know that this is easier said than done, but scratching will only irritate the skin even more. If your scalp is dry and flaking, you can encourage a rash to form if you scratch at the skin – tearing it. You also risk tearing the skin when you scratch an already present rash. Open wounds like these on the scalp, no matter how small, can lead to bacteria and fungi getting into your skin. This can turn into serious infections and will lead to worse symptoms than the itching. If you feel an itch coming on, using a soothing essential oil (like lavender oil) can help reduce the itch. A stimulating essential oil (like tea tree oil) can give you a tingling sensation that satisfies the itch. Heck, even patting your head is a better option than taking your nails to the scalp!
- In the case that you do have rashes or areas of the scalp with open wounds, do not use stimulating essential oils! This can lead to burning sensations that will be uncomfortable and cause more irritation. If using a soothing oil, you want to make sure it is well diluted, as any strong, concentrated ingredient can worsen irritation. If you feel more comfortable with doing so, using just a carrier oil (or carrier oils combined) will serve as a safe option. They are neutral and nourishing, so any wounds will be encouraged to heal and calm down.
We hope this guide helps identify ways to reduce the effects of dandruff for those experiencing the symptoms. Comment below if any of these tips were helpful!