Dandruff is a common condition that affects the scalp and causes flakes of skin to form in the head and hair. Our skin cells are constantly renewing, sloughing off the dead cells. When the skin cells renew at a much faster rate than average, we call this dandruff. There is a skin condition called seborrhea, in which the skin becomes inflamed and flaky. When babies have this condition, we call it cradle cap. Seborrhea causes larger, greasy flakes of dead skin cells that build up on the skin. It can occur on other parts of the body as well as the scalp. Because the flakes are oily, they build up as a thick cover of dead skin cells and eventually come loose, filling the hair with large flakes during brushing or combing.
How do you know if you have dandruff or normal skin cell renewal? The signs to look for are as follows: white flakes on scalp and in the hair; flakes that look and feel oily; a scalp that feels itchy, sore, or tight; a scalp that is red and inflamed that produces large flakes when brushed or combed.
There are several things you can do on a daily basis to ease the condition of dandruff.
a. brush hair regularly to aid in shedding the dead skin cells
b. wash hair more or less often, determined by trial and error to see which works best for you
c. use shampoos with tea tree oil( this oil comes from Australia and has been used for centuries to treat dandruff)
d. use shampoos with cool tar, a natural anti-fungal
e. add more zinc, B vitamins, and olive oil to you diet
f. since stress may be a factor in having dandruff, use a relaxation method for thirty minutes daily
When these measures do not work, you might have underlying skin conditions such as psoriasis or eczema. People with weak immune systems tend to get dandruff more often. A study found that 10.6% of people with HIV have seborrhea dermatitis. Consult with your doctor to determine whether you have a more serious condition.
There are several herbal remedies that have worked well for dandruff since the Native Americans introduced early settlers to these plants. Yarrow is a common plant considered a weed by many people. Yarrow grows wild in most southern states. The plants are downy, aromatic, and produce flat-headed white, beige, or pink flowers. It is a perennial that grows 18 inches to five feet tall. The flowers are rich in anti-allergenic compounds. When yarrow is distilled into essential oil, it soothes and conditions the scalp. Yarrow is an astringent with anti-inflammatory properties.
Bergamot essential oil is taken from the peelings of the Bergamot orange. It soothes herpes, shingles, skin ulcers, acne, psoriasis, eczema, and dandruff. This oil is a strong antiseptic and should be diluted before using. Cedar-wood oil has also been known to work well on dandruff and other skin irritations.
Chamomile oil stimulates the production of white blood cells and helps fight infections. The essential oil is often used to treat dandruff, dermatitis, and psoriasis. Chamomile essential oil is good for your skin, helping to heal dry, itchy patches and scalp. Clary sage essential oil is distilled from the leaves and flowers of the saliva sclarea plant. It is an astringent and provides a cooling effect when it is diluted and applied to the skin. It limits sebum production and is often used to treat dandruff.
Violets have anti-microbial properties that make great skin care products. It is easy to make your own tinctures, balms, and essential oils from wild violets. It is best to harvest the entire plant while it is flowering.