“There are only two things in life that come without effort – failure and dandruff.”
Although dandruff comes effortlessly, it doesn’t easily go away. As Malcolm Stevenson, the American entrepreneur says: “Things there are no solutions to: Inflation, bureaucracy & dandruff.”
If you have dandruff, you probably agree with this sentiment.
Regardless of the reason, a flaky scalp is a pesky problem that, to prevent one needs to get right down to the root. In this article, we try to acquaint you with the origins of dandruff and ways to get rid of it. But first, let’s refresh what we know about dandruff.
What Is Dandruff?
Dandruff is one of the most common skin problems, affecting almost half of the world’s population before puberty. Symptoms include flaking that usually occurs on the scalp. It is also sometimes accompanied by mild itching.
The word dandruff is of Anglo-Saxon origin, a combination of ‘tan’ meaning ‘tetter’ (a skin disease in humans and animals) and ‘drof’ meaning ‘dirty.’ It implies disgusting flakes that peel off the skin.
This skin issue itself is not contagious and is not usually associated with severe complications. However, it can cause social problems and lower self-esteem.
Dandruff in infancy is known as infant cradle cap and is usually a mild form of seborrheic dermatitis in adulthood.
How Dandruff Forms
You may be wondering where do these embarrassing flakes come from? Skin cells are constantly turning over. Old cells fall off, and new ones replace them. However, under certain circumstances this turnover seems to accelerate. There is a theory that skin cells in dandruff may mature and be shed in 2-7 days, which for people not experiencing dandruff is more like a month. Cells are pushed outward where they die and flake off, and they build up and fall as dandruff with this accelerated turnover of cells.
What Dandruff Looks Like Under the Microscope
The size and abundance of scales may vary on different parts of the skin and at different times. Regardless of the size, dandruff flakes are actually clustered corneocyte cells that have retained a large degree of cohesion with one another and separated from the stratum corneum. When you look at them under a microscope, they are usually white or grey, resembling a patch of tree bark separating from the trunk.
Why Dandruff Itches
Although dandruff is not always itchy, symptoms may include mild irritation and itchiness. Dandruff by itself is not an inflammatory problem. However, its causative agents, such as seborrheic dermatitis and Malassezia fungus, can cause dermatitis and itching.
Let’s talk about dandruff risk factors and causes and how they develop irritated, itchy skin.
What Are Dandruff Symptoms?
Dandruff is always accompanied by flaky scales. The flakes usually originate from the scalp but may also develop on other parts of the skin.
Symptoms include the following:
- Itchy scalp
- Scaly skin
- Dry white spots on the hair and on the shoulders
- Crusty scalp in infants with cradle cap
The Causes of Dandruff
Despite the high prevalence of dandruff, the cause is not well understood. It seems that various agents, including environmental and genetic factors play a role in its pathogenesis. However, the most common cause of dandruff in adults is seborrheic dermatitis, also known as Cradle Cap in infants. Here are some of causes of dandruff:
- Seborrheic dermatitis (dry and irritated skin)
- Cradle cap in infants
- Sensitivity to hair care products (contact dermatitis)
- Malassezia fungi
- Demodex Mites
Dandruff and Seborrheic Dermatitis
Seborrheic dermatitis is one of the prevalent skin conditions associated with resistant dandruff. This condition can affect other parts of the skin in addition to the scalp. Itchy, inflamed red skin, along with patches of grease covered with flaky white or yellow scales, are among the common symptoms. Seborrheic dermatitis is most common in areas of the skin where the sebaceous glands are more active. Scalp, sides of the nose and mouth, armpits, eyebrows, chest, ears, eyelids, and under the breasts are common areas of manifestation.
What excludes the diagnosis of ordinary dandruff from seborrheic dermatitis is that in the former, inflammation and dandruff may extend outside of the scalp, down to the face and other parts of the skin. However, some believe that seborrheic dermatitis exists on a spectrum and the mild end of it manifests as dandruff.
Seborrheic dermatitis is also known as seborrheic eczema and seborrheic psoriasis. This type of dermatitis in infants is called a cradle cap. For more information about seborrheic dermatitis click on this link.
Cradle Cap In Infants
Seborrheic dermatitis in infants is called cradle cap and may last for several months.
This complication is not accompanied by pain or itching and resolves on its own.
However, if crusty or oily scaly patches on the baby’s head and face are thick, you can regularly wash the baby’s scalp and face with mild baby shampoo and gently remove dandruff and scales.
Contact dermatitis is caused by repeated skin contact with a stimulant. This kind of dermatitis may be either Irritant (ICD) or allergic (ACD), in which the immune system has a role in. Ingredients in some shampoos, hair dye, various cosmetic products, keratin treatments are some of the substances that may lead to this type of dermatitis. Compared to other parts of the skin, the scalp is thick and resistant. That’s why contact dermatitis usually does not cause dandruff on the scalp. But instead, it presents with acute or chronic scalp itching or hair loss. Contact dermatitis-related dandruff is more common on the eyebrows and eyelashes. However, apparent skin lesions on the scalp may also be visible.
If you have dandruff, your skin microbiome is likely out of balance, and Malassezia fungi have seized control of your scalp. Malassezia is a part of the human skin microbiomes that seems to play a role in dandruff, seborrheic dermatitis, and fungal acne.
For more information about fungal acne visit this link.
When it comes to dandruff, one thing is clear. In people with dandruff, Malaysia’s level increases by 1.5 to 2 times its normal level. But it is still not clear whether the overgrowth of this fungus causes dandruff or vice versa.
Some researchers believe that overgrowth of Malassezia on the skin leaves behind waste products like oleic acid, that some people are sensitive to. Skin reacts to the irritation by trying to grow more new skin cells. That’s why people who experience dandruff have such accelerated life cycles when it comes to skin cells.
Unfortunately, the skin’s desperate efforts to purge irritants are unsuccessful, and the only thing that it results in is embarrassing white flakes, as well as itchiness and irritation.
Malassezia is a lipolytic microorganism. That means it nourishes skin oils and breaks them down into inflammatory compounds such as oleic acid. This is why people who have oily skin or use oily cosmetics and health care products are more prone to dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis.
Demodex mites are microscopic parasites with an effective role in developing dandruff through direct and indirect mechanisms. Before we get into the mechanisms, it is good to know a little more about them.
What Are Demodex Mites?
It may sound exotic, but our skin is home to countless living things, from bacteria and fungi to insects and mites. The density of these organisms varies from 103 to 105 per mm2 of the skin.
One of them that you’ve already got an intimate relationship with is a mite known as “Demodex”.
Demodex mite densities are usually less than 5 per square centimetre of human skin. However, like Malassezia fungi, they may multiply and take control of our skin under favourable circumstances. At this time, Demodex can cause or exacerbate various skin and hair concerns. Rosacea, blepharitis, Dandruff, acne, hair loss, hair thinning, crawling sensation, eczema, seborrheic dermatitis, etc., are some of the issues raised due to excessive numbers of Demodex mites.
The Direct Role of Demodex in Developing Dandruff:
Cylindrical dandruff at the base of the lashes can be a clear sign of a Demodex mite infestation site. These microscopic parasites have small tentacle type legs and can crawl 8 to 16 centimetres per hour. They scratch the thin skin around the eyelashes with their claws. Micro-abrasions caused by claw scratches cause dandruff to build at the bases of the lashes.
On the other hand, Demodex mites secrete inflammatory substances that cause itching and inflammation. As the itching is severe, the host begins to scratch the skin, which can result in scaling.
Indirect Role of Demodex in Developing Dandruff:
Demodex is a vector for harmful bacteria and fungi like Malassezia, which has a direct role in dandruff and dandruff-related issues such as seborrheic dermatitis. On the other hand, like Malassezia, Demodex mites favour lipids from the sebum. As a result, they are more abundant in oily parts of the skin, where they are more prone to dandruff.
We Help You Get Rid of Those Pesky Flakes at the Root
At Ozidex, we have developed a unique product to target the source of skin flaking by removing Demodex. Procutin spray removes Demodex on the skin and surrounding environment, enabling us to target your Demodex mites with a combination of a great product and a comprehensive protocol, all in the comfort of your own home. By removing Demodex, we control many of the underlying causes of dandruff, such as Malassezia fungi, inflammatory agents, and seborrheic dermatitis, to help you restore your healthy, dandruff-free skin and scalp once again.