Asian man looking in the mirror checking his hair for dandruff

What Is Dandruff? Learn How to Fight the Flakes and Get a Healthy Scalp

Read on to understand the science behind one of the most common scalp concerns.

Have you been seeing white flakes on your hair, scalp, or even on your shirt? Is your scalp itchy, too? These are symptoms of dandruff. This scalp condition is pretty common, but its exact cause remains to be pinpointed. However, various studies have been conducted to shed light on the factors that are associated with this condition. All these aim to help us answer these questions: What is dandruff? And how do you treat it?

Dandruff: A Flaky Situation

Dandruff is a skin condition that’s often characterized by white flakes and scalp itching. Contrary to popular belief, it isn’t caused by skipping a shower or two. It’s not about one’s personal hygiene. Instead, dandruff is often associated with the overgrowth of a fungus called Malassezia on one’s scalp. Everyone has this on his or her scalp, and when you have a healthy scalp (just like with the rest of your skin), you have a barrier that protects your scalp and keeps it well-moisturized and hydrated.

When this barrier gets disrupted because of stress, illness, diet, temperature changes, low humidity, and the use of harsh hair products, your scalp gets dry and damaged. This manifests itself as white flakes that you see on your head and on your shoulders. Without this barrier, your scalp also becomes susceptible to different micro-organisms, therefore causing dandruff.

How to Treat Dandruff

Asian man shampooing his hair with an anti-dandruff shampoo
Keep flakes away by using an anti-dandruff shampoo. Credit: Dennie Ramon

Using an anti-dandruff shampoo can help you put a stop to all the flaking and itching. Peter Bailey, Unilever’s research and development manager, explains, “The key ingredients that anti-dandruff shampoos contain is either an antifungal agent or a keratolytic agent. Anti-fungal agents attack the micro-organisms on the scalp that we believe are a primary cause of dandruff… [while] the most common keratolytic is salicylic acid, which essentially breaks up clumps of dry skin.  In other words, while antifungals treat the underlying cause of dandruff, keratolytics address the symptoms.  Often the two types of agents can be combined into a dual action type formulation.”

When buying an anti-dandruff shampoo, you may find the antifungal agent piroctone olamine, commonly known as Octopirox, listed among the ingredients. It works deep in the scalp to keep flakes away by inhibiting the growth of fungi. You may also find zinc pyrithione, another common antifungal agent used in anti-dandruff shampoos.

Our Recommended Anti-Dandruff Shampoo

Bailey also adds that you can use an anti-dandruff shampoo even if you don’t experience flaking and itching. As the saying goes, prevention is better than cure. “Using an anti-dandruff shampoo even when you don’t have dandruff can help prevent dandruff from occurring by removing Malassezia from the scalp.  However, many people who don’t have dandruff today may never get dandruff due to their individual scalp skin physiology,” he says. It all depends on how strong or weak your scalp barrier is and if you are exposed to different factors that may alter the condition of your scalp.

Thinking of using an anti-dandruff shampoo? Try CLEAR Cool Sport Menthol Anti-Dandruff Shampoo for Men. Formulated with Triple Anti-Dandruff Technology, it removes, resists, and prevents dandruff. This shampoo also washes away dirt, grime, and grease. It even leaves a fresh, presko feeling on your scalp, thanks to its cooling mint.

CLEAR Cool Sport Menthol Anti-Dandruff Shampoo for Men

Other Tips to Keep Your Scalp Healthy

1. Wash your hair after sweating.

Did you just finish working out? Head to the shower to cleanse not only your body but also your hair and scalp. This way, dirt and grime won’t build up on your scalp and clog your pores.

Dove Men + Care Refreshing Clean Shampoo

Editors tip: Keep your hair clean by washing it with Dove Men + Care Refreshing Clean Shampoo. It deep cleanses your hair and scalp and gets rid of dirt and grease. It also has caffeine that helps strengthen your hair and menthol that leaves you fresh and energized after your hair wash. 

2. Minimize the use of heavy hairstyling products.

Speaking of buildup on your scalp, did you know that residue from your hair gel, hair wax, and pomade can also clog up your pores? We’re not saying that you stop using these products. Just refrain from using them all the time. If you need them for everyday styling, though, just scoop a small amount and add little by little until you get the hairstyle you want. And don’t forget to wash your hair at the end of the day.

3. Maintain a healthy diet.

What you eat also affects your hair and scalp. Vitamin B-rich foods like bananas, tuna, avocado, and legumes can help minimize scalp flaking or crusting. Your scalp will also benefit from omega-3 fatty acids because they help in moisturizing the skin, including your scalp. When your scalp is well-moisturized, it’s less likely to get flaky. Foods that are rich in omega-3 include fatty fish like salmon and mackerel, as well as nuts and seeds like walnuts, chia seeds, and flaxseeds.

4. Stay hydrated.

It turns out that drinking eight glasses of water a day is also good for your scalp. This simple habit can help keep your scalp from drying out and flaking, so don’t forget to give yourself water breaks even if you’re busy.

Taking care of your hair involves taking care of your scalp. Now that you know the science behind dandruff and how to treat and prevent it, you probably won’t be scratching your head anytime soon.