What is Dandruff?
Dandruff is dry, flaky skin. While most of us would think of it as coming from your scalp, you can also have dandruff in your beard, eyelashes, and eyebrows. It can be mild with a bit of itching and a few flakes, or extreme with many small or big flakes of skin sloughing off. Most of all, dandruff can be embarrassing for those who suffer from it.
What Causes Dandruff?
There are several possible underlying issues that contribute to dandruff:
- Dry, irritated skin – this may be from a reaction to hair products, exposure to dry air, or as a result of a food sensitivity.
- Increased oil production on your scalp, under your beard, eyebrows, or eyelashes. Increased oil production is often the result of hormonal imbalance. Increased oil production feeds a type of yeast that can grow on your scalp called Malassezia
- Skin conditions like eczema or psoriasis can also lead to dry, itchy, flaky skin.
What are the Symptoms of Dandruff?
The signs and symptoms of dandruff may include:
- An itchy, irritated scalp
- Dry, flaky skin on your scalp, eyebrows, beard, or mustache. You may notice the flakes on your clothing around your shoulders. This is a significant source of embarrassment for dandruff sufferers.
Cold, dry air makes dandruff worse in the winter, and you may find that these symptoms are more extreme when you are stressed.
What is the Best Dandruff Treatment?
Anti-dandruff shampoos may provide temporary relief of a flaky scalp, but for more long-term relief, I would address the root cause of the problem. The two most significant causes of dry, irritated, itchy, and flaky skin are hormones that are out of balance and food sensitivities.
Hormone Imbalance and Dandruff
Male hormones, or androgens, are thought to contribute to this condition because it occurs more often in men. This is not to say that women can’t suffer from it too! Androgens increase oil production in the skin, including the scalp. Increased oil production feeds bacteria and yeast on the skin and the scalp, resulting in acne and dandruff. Hormone blood tests may not show hormones that are blatantly outside the lab average range, but even high normal levels can cause excess oil to be produced. How do we address this imbalance? I would measure levels of DHEAs, total testosterone, and DHT. If these are high, or high normal, the solution is to improve your diet and lifestyle. Minerals like zinc can help hormone balance and help your immune system to work better to tackle bacteria and yeast. In addition, I may select herbs to help balance your hormones and lower excess androgens.
Food Sensitivities and Dandruff
Food sensitivities are mild allergies to foods that you may not even realize exist. They are not life-threatening because they are caused by a different antibody from the one that causes peanut or anaphylactic-type allergies. The antibody that causes severe food allergies is called IgE. This type of food allergy is readily identifiable because the reaction is intense and immediate, and requires medical attention. Food sensitivities, on the other hand, are a milder, delayed reaction to food. The symptoms that are caused by food sensitivities may include skin rashes, acne, dry, irritated, flaky skin, eczema, psoriasis, constipation, bloating, gas, diarrhea, fatigue, IBS, headaches, sinus problems, and joint pain. The most efficient way to determine which foods your body creates IgG antibodies to is through IgG food allergy blood testing. This test uses a well-recognized method called ELISA testing to check your blood for IgG antibodies to either 96 foods ($245) or 184 foods ($455). This test may be covered through your insurance, about half of the time people do get it covered by their insurance.
If you need help with dandruff, or any other health issue no matter how big or small, call me at 416-481-0222. I can help you get the best natural treatment.
Authored by Dr. Pamela Frank, BSc(Hons), Naturopathic Doctor
Dr. Pamela has been in practice as a naturopathic doctor in Toronto since 1999. She has been the recipient of numerous “Best Naturopath in Toronto” awards. She is registered with the College of Naturopaths of Ontario.
Dr. Pamela Frank uses a natural treatment approach that may include acupuncture, herbal medicine, nutrition, diet, vitamins, supplements, and other natural remedies to restore balance and provide long-term resolution of almost any health problem.