Fact: The only thing that's as challenging as a hair growth journey is a dandruff-fighting journey. From the pesky white flakes seeking shelter on your scalp (which, embarrassingly, end up landing on your clothing) to the dry patches and scabbing caused by uncontrollable scratching, dealing with dandruff and a dry scalp can be downright frustrating. As annoying as dandruff is, it's actually a normal scalp condition that many people experience—in fact, 50 million Americans suffer from dandruff. And, thankfully, there are scalp-salvaging solutions to ease your anxieties.
I spoke with trichologist and stylist Bridgette Hill of Paul Labrecque Salon and Skincare Spa in Palm Beach about all things scalp care and the best remedies to rid your scalp of dandruff. Before we go any further, it's worth addressing: what exactly even is dandruff? "The technical term for dandruff is pityriasis capitis and it is triggered by the buildup of a yeast on the scalp called malassezia,"explains Hill.
The onset of dandruff actually derives from internal factors, like hormonal imbalances, excessively oily skin, or diet, and external factors, like a lack of scalp cleansing or environmental climate changes, says Hill. Whether you're dealing with a mild or heavy case of the flakes, here are four options for providing your scalp with some instant relief.
Try a Pre-Cleansing Scalp Solution
A big misconception is that applying oil directly to the scalp relieves dandruff. As mentioned above, dandruff is actually accumulated by a buildup of excessive oil and sebum. To soothe the scalp, incorporate a pre-cleansing regimen into your wash day routine. Bridgette suggests applying a water-based purifying tonic such as Design Essential's Detoxifying Scalp Tonic ($9) directly to your scalp prior to wash day.
"I even encourage clients to sleep in their pre-cleanse treatment the night before, just to get the residual dead skin cells lifted so when you go through your cleansing routine you have a fresh clean base," says Hill. Starting on dry hair, evenly section your strands and apply the pre-cleanse treatment directly to your scalp. Warning: make sure to avoid distributing the treatment directly onto your hair as it can be very drying. "For precise application, use a narrow tip nozzle on your applicator bottle to apply the treatment," Hill advises. Trust me, a pre-cleansing treatment will do the work to relieve your scalp of dandruff, discomfort, and redness.
Refine Your Cleansing Routine
It's essential to tailor your haircare routine with targeted products, like shampoos and conditioners, that combat dandruff head-on. When you're searching for a dandruff-fighting shampoo, be sure to look for a formula containing zinc pyrithione or salicylic acid. These ingredients work overtime to kill off the extra fungus and buildup on the scalp without causing further irritation. "Depending on the severity of your dandruff buildup, I encourage clients to shampoo more frequently to see best results, explains Hill. "Curly to tightly coiled hair would benefit from cleansing every seven to 10 days, and loosely curled to straight textures would benefit from cleansing two to three times per week."
Balance Your Diet
Your diet and stress levels are critical when it comes to reducing inflammation within your body, which can be the culprit of dandruff, as Hill notes: "Reduce your consumption of foods that are high in sugar, processed meats, and excessive amounts of alcohol. These foods all contain high yeast contents and therefore contribute to the build up of dandruff on the scalp." Increase your your daily water intake and swap out the greasy fats for more green vegetables, proteins, and whole grains.
Visit a Dermatologist
For extreme cases of dandruff, find a trusted dermatologist to further assist you. There are some serious cases of scalp dandruff that require a medical prescription of a topical steroid or salicylic acid treatment to calm and soothe the irritation or redness.
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