There are different reasons why people have a dry and flaky scalp. But we can all agree that it can be a pesky problem, no matter the season.
How do you get rid of dandruff?
Here are some tips on how to address your head case.
According to Hair specialists The Cut, Dr. Jessica Weiser of New York Dermatology Group explains that “dandruff, which presents itself as white flakes, is a mild and common form of seborrheic dermatitis. You can get it behind the ears, eyebrows, or even in folds of the face. It can be red, flaky, itchy, or a combination of all those factors. (It’s different from psoriasis, which also can look like flakes — but those will appear like “thicker pink or red plaques” with “silver-white scales” on close examination. Go to a dermatologist if you aren’t sure.)
Much like olive-oil bread, dandruff is created by the mixture of oil and yeast. We all have some yeast on our bodies, explains Dr. Joshua Zeichner, director of cosmetic and clinical research at Mount Sinai Hospital’s Department of Dermatology, and the amount varies depending on a blend of genetics and external and internal factors. “Yeast levels rise when there is more oil on skin.”
1. Eating Well
According to Dr. Macrene Alexiades-Armenakas, a New York–based dermatologist, poor nutrition can lead to dandruff. “High-carb foods can result in the buildup of glycogen in the skin, which yeast feeds on.” Dr. Zeichner agrees: “Although there’s little data, the same foods that promote acne may exacerbate dandruff.” Sugary foods and dairy stimulate the sebaceous glands, which produce more oil on the skin. So unfortunately, you might need to try laying off the carbs and sugars if you’re prone to dandruff.
2. Try Exfoliating Your Scalp
Yes, this is a thing. Much like exfoliating your skin, exfoliating your scalp gently lifts the top layer of dry skin. Scalp exfoliators typically remove dead skin with either small amounts of salicylic acid (more commonly found in acne products), or granules that dissolve. Dr. Weiser explains that the latter are “very helpful at breaking down the dead skin cells that accumulate on the scalp and lead to flaking.”
3. Or Try a Hot-Oil Mask
“Oil-based treatments can help to balance some of the scalp’s excessive oil production,” says Dr. Weiser. “Applying oils to the scalp will help draw oils from it and remove them. It’s the classic law of attraction, where like substances attract each other.” You can try heating up the only oil celebrities are unafraid of, coconut oil, in a microwave and gently applying it to your head. Be careful not to make the oil too hot, as doing so increases the risk of burning your scalp.
4. Use Apple-Cider Vinegar Sparingly
Dr. Internet suggests using apple-cider vinegar as a home remedy for many things and a base for many products, among them a toner, a hot-water salve, and a treatment for dandruff. Dermatologists are a bit divided on this. Dr. Zeichner says it could potentially help: “Apple-cider vinegar has anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties to lower levels of yeast on the skin and calm inflammation.” But Dr. Weiser simply says, “I do not generally support the use of apple-cider vinegar for dandruff,” as there are more effective remedies available. Don’t go overboard with making your hair smell like salad dressing.
5. Don’t Scratch
It’s the white bear problem, but try not to think about scratching. It’s so itchy, I know, but scratching can exacerbate inflammation and irritation. Particularly if you have long, sharp nails, scratching can cause open scalp wounds which lead to infections. Dr. Weiser suggests doing a gentle massage only, saying that it “allows ingredients to penetrate the scalp.”