Hail­storm on my shoul­der

Dan­druff is com­mon, and bad cases of­ten cause white or yel­low flakes of skin to ap­pear on the scalp and in the hair.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Health -

I AM re­ally sick of hav­ing dan­druff. It al­ways falls on my shoul­ders, and I can­not wear dark clothes be­cause of that. When I comb my hair, it looks like a hail­storm. What is dan­druff?

Dan­druff is a con­di­tion of your scalp caused by flak­ing of your skin. It is dead skin.

It is not a se­ri­ous dis­ease. Yes, but it is an­noy­ing! What causes it? There are many causes:

● Se­b­or­rheic der­mati­tis – This is one of the com­mon­est causes for dan­druff. It is an in­flam­ma­tion of the se­bum (oil) glands on your scalp, and it causes ir­ri­tated and oily skin.

Here, the skin becomes red and greasy, and also becomes cov­ered with flaky white or yel­low scales.

The scalp is not the only area that can be af­fected. Any other area of the skin that has plenty of oil glands, such as the eye­brows, the sides of your nose, the backs of your ears, your groin area, and your armpits can also be af­fected.

● If you don’t sham­poo your hair of­ten enough – If you don’t wash your hair at least once ev­ery two or three days, oil and skin cells from your scalp can build up, caus­ing dan­druff.

● Malassezia (a yeast-like fun­gal in­fec­tion) – This yeast lives on the scalps of most adults, es­pe­cially those peo­ple who have very oily scalps.

The yeast it­self con­sumes the oils on your scalp! For most adults, the yeast does not cause any prob­lems. But for some peo­ple, it ir­ri­tates their scalps and causes more skin cells to grow. The ex­cess skin cells die and drop. They look white and flaky.

● Dry scalp skin – There are prob­lems from be­ing too oily, and also prob­lems from be­ing too dry. Here, the skin flakes are smaller and less oily than those from other causes of dan­druff. Red­ness or in­flam­ma­tion is also un­likely. The rest of the skin on your body, such as your face, is likely to be dry too.

● Con­tact der­mati­tis – Sen­si­tiv­i­ties to cer­tain in­gre­di­ents in hair care prod­ucts or hair dyes can cause a red, itchy, scaly scalp. This should be ap­par­ent af­ter you try a new prod­uct.

My sis­ter and I use the same hair care prod­ucts, and we have the same habits when it comes to sham­poo­ing our hair. How come I have dan­druff and she doesn’t?

You may have cer­tain con­di­tions that your sis­ter does not. For ex­am­ple, age is a de­ter­mi­nant. Dan­druff oc­curs more of­ten in younger adults than older ones. It tends to con­tinue to plague you through­out your middle age.

Older peo­ple can still get dan­druff, but this is less likely. For some peo­ple, they are plagued with it for the rest of their lives!

You may also have malassezia and your sis­ter doesn’t. Even though you may be sis­ters, your skin may be oiler than hers.

Some peo­ple with cer­tain dis­eases like HIV, con­di­tions where your im­mune sys­tem is sup­pressed, or Parkin­son’s dis­ease, are more likely to de­velop dan­druff than oth­ers.

Does dan­druff get worse in cer­tain con­di­tions?

Any con­di­tion that pro­motes dry skin or oily skin can con­trib­ute to dan­druff.

For ex­am­ple, if you sleep in an air-con­di­tioned room all the time and work in an air-con­di­tioned of­fice. Or if you use cer­tain types of sham­poos that make your scalp too greasy or too dry.

How can I treat it?

It is im­por­tant to note that one treat­ment may work on one per­son, and not an­other. So try dif­fer­ent things to see what works best for you.

Use a gen­tle sham­poo daily if you have oily hair. This can help reduce the oils and dead skin build-up.

There are cer­tain dan­druff sham­poos you can buy over the counter. Again, dif­fer­ent types of sham­poos work for dif­fer­ent peo­ple. You will know if a cer­tain sham­poo does not work for you if you ex­pe­ri­ence red­ness, itch­i­ness or burn­ing af­ter you use it.

Then there are strong dan­druff con­trol sham­poos that you can get from the doc­tor. The doc­tor may even pre­scribe a steroid if things get too bad.

My cousin was given an anti-fun­gal sham­poo. Does it re­ally work?

Yes, for some peo­ple. There are gen­er­ally dif­fer­ent com­pounds in dif­fer­ent dan­druff sham­poos.

There are pyrithione zinc sham­poos – zinc pyrithione is an an­tibac­te­rial and an­ti­fun­gal agent.

Then there are tar based sham­poos. Coal tar is a prod­uct of the coal man­u­fac­tur­ing process. It is es­pe­cially good for se­b­or­rheic der­mati­tis. It slows the speed of growth and death of the skin cells on your scalp.

Then there are sal­i­cylic acid sham­poos. These elim­i­nate scal­ing, but may leave your scalp dry, so you have to use it with a con­di­tioner.

There are se­le­nium sul­fide sham­poos and also ke­to­cona­zole sham­poos.

Try us­ing one of these sham­poos daily or ev­ery other day un­til your dan­druff is con­trolled, then cut back to two or three times a week.

Dr YLM grad­u­ated as a med­i­cal doc­tor, and has been writ­ing for many years on var­i­ous sub­jects such as medicine, health, com­put­ers and en­ter­tain­ment. For fur­ther in­for­ma­tion, e-mail starhealth@thes­tar.com.my. The in­for­ma­tion con­tained in this col­umn is for gen­eral ed­u­ca­tional pur­poses only. Nei­ther The Star nor the au­thor gives any war­ranty on ac­cu­racy, com­plete­ness, func­tion­al­ity, use­ful­ness or other as­sur­ances as to such in­for­ma­tion. The Star and the au­thor dis­claim all re­spon­si­bil­ity for any losses, dam­age to prop­erty or per­sonal in­jury suf­fered di­rectly or in­di­rectly from reliance on such in­for­ma­tion.


Dan­druff can be caused by any num­ber of things, in­clud­ing dry skin, var­i­ous skin con­di­tions and sen­si­tiv­ity to hair care prod­ucts.

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