It is generally accepted that dandruff is a cosmetic defect, but we rarely think about what is the real reason for its appearance. What is it - a disease or the consequences of improper selection of shampoo? We are answering this and other questions together with the chief dermatologist of the Children-Butterflies Foundation, Margarita Gecht.
Understanding the terminology
Dandruff is not a medical term. The word "dandruff" came to us from the Latin language and literally translates as "bran". But the process itself that causes them to appear is called seborrheic dermatitis, or seborrhea. It turns out that dandruff is not a cosmetic defect, but a form of chronic inflammatory disease of the scalp.
Our skin has sebaceous glands that form its protective layer. They are the ones that produce sebum - "sebum". It prevents it from overheating, drying out and inhibits the penetration of harmful bacteria. For various reasons, the intensity of the production of "sebum" can increase or decrease, which often leads to unpleasant consequences, the main of which is seborrheic dermatitis.
So what's the reason?
Seborrhea develops due to a fungal infection caused by a yeast-like fungus of the genus Malassezia. Fortunately, it is not contagious: these fungi are conditionally pathogenic and are present in most people on the skin and normally do not cause any health problems.
A feature of fungi of the genus Malassezi is lipophilicity - "love" for fat. These microorganisms consume sebum, and therefore "live" where there are most of the sebaceous glands. With the help of the lipase enzyme, they destroy the sebaceous secretion, as a result of which fatty acids, mainly oleic acid, are released onto the skin surface. It is she who is the main "instigator" of chaos, causing severe inflammation: the skin turns red, itching and irritation appear.
The number of fungi of the genus Malassezi sharply increases after puberty, and the activation of seborrheic dermatitis is triggered by hormonal changes, in which the amount of some hormones increases, while others decrease.
Dandruff appears in all people with increased production of sebum, but there is one caveat: people with "dry" skin often do not have seborrhea, but the skin can flake off, while those with "oily" scalp do not have dandruff is always.
For the development of seborrheic dermatitis, three main factors must be present:
- Increased sebum secretion
- Activation of fungi of the genus Malassezia
- Individual sensitivity to the effects of fatty acids secreted by fungi
But the following factors can provoke and intensify the course of seborrheic dermatitis:
- Decreased immunity
- Incorrectly selected shampoos and creams
- Lack of vitamins A, E, D, C
- An excess of sweet and fatty foods in the diet
The main symptoms of the disease are peeling, redness and itching. White "scales" similar to snow appear on the hair roots, and the hair itself quickly becomes dirty and "greasy" (see also: "Bold point: what kind of shampoo is needed for hair that gets dirty quickly").
There are two variants of seborrhea according to the type of sebum:
- Dry: little sebum is released, but there are scales, they are gray, there may be local areas of irritation, redness and itching.
- Oily: sebum is secreted in sufficient quantity, abundant formation of yellow scales is noted. Large areas of scalp irritation are observed.
It is necessary to treat seborrheic dermatitis in a comprehensive manner, and you need to start with the selection of caring agents and shampoos. Medicated shampoos should have antifungal effect, gently but effectively exfoliate the scalp, soothe irritations and prevent flare-ups.
How to treat?
Medicated dandruff shampoos are worth buying from pharmacies. Pay special attention to the composition - they should not contain silicones, alcohol, glycerin, parabens, sulfates and surfactants. The latter perfectly cleanse the skin, but in the long term they destroy the lipid barrier, which can only increase the manifestation of seborrheic dermatitis.
Give preference to shampoos that contain the following components:
- Ketoconazole, zinc pyrithione: Antifungal ingredients that improve the exfoliation process and destroy the fungal infection that causes inflammation.
- Salicylic or lactic acid, microencapsulated retinol - keratolytics: they destroy the bonds between epidermal cells and normalize the exfoliation process.
- Zinc, sulfur, tar, ichthyol, burdock root, niacinamide: anti-inflammatory ingredients that help quickly relieve itching and irritation of the skin.
Another important rule when treating dandruff is that as soon as we relieve inflammation, the scalp begins to moisturize itself. It is important to understand that dry and itchy sensations in such cases are treated with anti-dandruff medications, not moisturizers.
About other important nuances
The duration of the use of external therapy depends on the severity of the disease and may have a seasonality, relationship with chronic systemic diseases of the body and the level of stress (see also: "Why hair turns gray due to stress, and how to prevent it"). Fighting the factors that have caused the development of dandruff is your top priority: if you want to say goodbye to this unpleasant phenomenon for a long time, you should pay attention to the work of the whole body and include the following useful rituals in your daily routine:
- Taking medications containing iron, zinc, selenium, L-carnitine - they will help to fight stress.
- Taking vitamins and microelements (Omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, A, C, E).
- Balanced diet, restriction of fats and carbohydrates.
- Drink plenty of fresh and clean water.
- Use of cosmetics adapted to your skin type.
Dandruff or seborrheic dermatitis is a chronic process, which means that treatment and care must be long-term, regular.
About the expert:
Photo: Getty Images
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