There is a dinner tonight and you wearing your favorite black suit. As you are adjusting your tie in the mirror you suddenly notice white colored flakes on your shoulders. Congratulations, you just have been diagnosed with DANDRUFF.

The cell cycle is approximately of 30 days, after that the skin cell is shed off from the body. This is a very controlled process. However when this process goes out of control, the cells are shed at a faster rate forming those very troublesome flakes, which is known as DANDRUFF (cell cycle of 2-7 days), a form of dermatitis in which the shedding of dead skin cells from the scalp flake and fall off at faster than normal rate. Although a small amount of flaking and shedding of the skin cells is normal and common, approx. 1/3 of the population show prolonged history of dandruff.
Dandruff has been shown to be the result of the following three factors

  1. The metabolic by-products of the fungus, Malassezia .
  2. Excessive secretion of Sebum.
  3. Individual susceptibility.

The root cause is a fungus called Malassezia furfur (pityrosporum ovale), which a normal inhabitant of the scalp but when there is an overgrowth of this fungus, it leads to dandruff. Further research now says about a new pathogen, though from the same family, called Malassezia globosa.

Figure 1 Skin scrap of Malassezia furfur.
The triglycerides present in the sebum are metabolized by this fungus resulting in the formation of Oleic acid, a lipid by-product. Oleic acid, on the other hand, acts on Stratum corneum, the outermost layer of skin, disturbing its homeostasis, leading to its shedding.

Precipitating Factors for Dandruff
Though Malassezia is the main cause, dandruff has been link to a lot of factors though there is no conclusive evidence for any of the following causing dandruff

  • Stress
  • Hormonal fluctuations
  • Cold weather (winter)
  • Poor personal hygiene
  • Vitamin B deficiency
  • Yeast infection
  • Hair curlers and blow dryers
  • Use of hair sprays, gels and hair coloring chemicals,
  • Excessive consumption of oily and sweet foodstuffs.


Shampoos: The most popular is Nizoral, which contains an ingredient called Ketoconazole (discovered by Dr. Paul Janssen in Belgium). Ketoconazole is an antifungal, which inhibits the growth of Malassezia.

Other options are

-Head & Shoulders: Selenium sulphide
-Pantene Pro-V: zinc pyrithione.
These ingredients slow the growth and formation of the top skin layer (epidermis) on the scalp.
-Neutrogena: Coal Tar
Coal Tar reduces the growth of skin cells on top of the scalp. Use this as the last resort
One problem with dandruff is that they can build up resistance, short term, against a shampoo, hence it is advisable to use a couple of them

Home remedies:

- Onions: Onions are high in sulfur. Cut a fresh onion in half and rub it on the scalp. Wash your hair once a week with sulfur based soap.

- Apple Cider Vinegar: Apple Cider Vinegar can decrease dandruff by balancing the skin’s PH. Use 1/4 cup of vinegar to 1/4 cup of water. Apply to the hair and massage it into the scalp, leave it in for 5 to 10 minutes then rinse. Do not try this method if your scalp is irritated

- Aloe Vera: About 10-15 minutes before you wash your hair, rub a lot of aloe vera gel into your scalp. Leave it on for 10 minutes, and then shampoo.

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