There are bad hair days and then, as in the case of dandruff, there are really bad hair days. Dandruff can torment your scalp—making it itchy, irritable, and excessively flaky—and create some rather embarrassing social situations.
With dandruff sufferers, the scalp sheds dead skin cells at an accelerated rate, resulting in flakes or scales. Doctors haven’t nailed down what causes dandruff yet, but triggers such as diet, stress, cold weather, poor health, and excessive use of hair products can provoke it. The true culprit, however, may be the oil-eating fungus Malassezia. Although it also dwells on healthy heads, this fungus thrives in dandruff sufferers, feasting on the hair’s oil and dramatically increasing the skin cells’ turnover rate.
Natural remedies for dandruff abound. Experiment with the following options, and see what works for you.
Tea tree oil: Many all-natural dandruff shampoos contain tea tree oil, a potent antibiotic, antiseptic, and antifungal agent.
Zinc: This important mineral, found in some dandruff shampoos, helps regulate oil glands, promotes healing, and supports the immune system.
Omega-3 fatty acids: Found primarily in coldwater fish (such as salmon and herring), and walnuts, as well as oils of canola, soybean, flax, and hempseed, omega 3s support normal skin functioning and may protect against dandruff.
B vitamins: Just as important for healthy hair as omega 3s, you can find these vitamins in dark leafy greens, whole grains, soybeans, avocados, bananas, and, of course, supplements.
Eastern treatments: Dandruff responds well to acupuncture and acupressure, as well as yoga headstands, all of which improve circulation.
Calm your mind. In some people, depression and anxiety may be linked to dandruff flare-ups. Even if you’re not depressed or anxious, chronic stress is never great for your skin, and dandruff is a skin problem. If you’ve noticed a link between your mood and your dandruff outbreaks, these steps may help:
- Find healthy ways to release your stress. Meditate, work out, and don’t hesitate to get help from a therapist if your stress or moods get intense.
- Use a UV light during the winter if you have seasonal depression.
- If you’re considering taking supplements, such as St. John’s wort, tell your doctor so he can check on side effects. Do that even if the product is “natural.”
All of these dandruff remedies will make dandruff go away, but aloe vera doubles as an itch-fighter. Stop yourself from scratching by massaging aloe vera into your scalp before shampooing.