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Is that Dandruff or
Are You Just Flaky?

If your scalp itches and you avoid dark clothing because of flakes of skin, you know that dandruff can be an embarrassing problem. Would you like to shake those pesky flakes for good? Try these easy solutions.

1. Shampoo Daily

The first and easiest step is to shampoo each day to keep dandruff away. This gets rid of excess oils, which may contribute to flaking.

2. Switch Shampoos

If your regular shampoo isn't doing the trick, even with daily washing, it may be time to try an antidandruff shampoo. Check the ingredients in over-the-counter dandruff shampoos and look for one that contains zinc pyrithione, selenium sulfide, salicylic acid, or ketoconazole.

zinc pyrithione can reduce fungus
selenium sulfide can limit cell turnover
salicylic acid works to slough off dead skin
ketoconazole works against a broad array of fungi

3. Switch again

Even your favorite dandruff shampoo may stop working after a while. If those little flakes return, don't blame the shampoo. You may have built up a resistance to the active ingredient. To prevent this, you can rotate between three different brands of dandruff shampoo (each with a different formulation), using each for a month. In other words, use the first shampoo for a month, then switch to a second brand for a month, then to a third brand for a month, then back to the first shampoo again.

4. Lather twice

The first lathering and rinsing gets rid of the loose flakes and the oily buildup on your hair and scalp. It sort of clears the area so the second lathering can get to work. Leave the second lathering of shampoo on your hair at least five minutes before rinsing it off. That gives the shampoo a chance to penetrate the skin cells and do what it's supposed to do.

5. Try tar

If the antidandruff shampoos aren't working, it's time to bring out the big guns, namely the tar shampoos, which have been a proven remedy for more than 200 years. The tar decreases cell turnover quite effectively, though there are some drawbacks. Tar shampoos have a strong odor, may stain the shaft of lighter-colored hair (it can take weeks of using a milder shampoo to get rid of the discoloration), and may irritate the skin.

6. Rinse well

If you decide to go with a tar shampoo, rinse your hair with lemon juice, a conditioner, or creme rinse to get rid of any lingering odor from the shampoo. Using a hair conditioner after washing with any antidandruff shampoo is a good idea anyway, because the medicated shampoos tend to stiffen hair and make it less manageable. Many of them also dry the scalp, which can add to flaking; a conditioner can help seal in nourishing moisture.

Be sensitive to your sensitivity. There are some people who just shouldn't use a tar shampoo. Why? Because they're skin is too sensitive. Rather, their scalp is, and a tar shampoo can irritate and inflame their hair follicles, causing a condition called folliculitis. The cure? Switch to a milder shampoo.

7. Don't scratch

Try to resist the temptation to go after those itchy patches like a dog chasing fleas. You may end up with wounds to your scalp caused by your fingernails. If you break the skin on your scalp, discontinue use of medicated shampoo for a while. Switch to a mild shampoo, such as a baby shampoo, and use it daily until the scratches are healed.

8. Shower Power

After exercise or strenuous work that makes you perspire, shower and shampoo as soon as possible. Sweat irritates the scalp and speeds up the flaking of skin cells.

9. Lose the Mousse

Go easy on the sticky stuff. Although you needn't give up the various mousses, sprays, and gels that hold your hairstyle in place, try to use them less often. These hair products can contribute to oily buildup.

10. Home Remedies

Shampoo residue can also cause scalp irritation that results in dandruff. My grandmother had a simple recipe for a rinse that she used once a month. It works well for me. Here is Grandmother's simple recipe:

1/4 cup water & 1/4 cup vinegar

11. Read the labels

If you see ammonium lauryl sulfate listed as an ingredient, you may want to discontinue use. Ammonium lauryl sulfate is a surfactant used to make the shampoo soapy. This may also cause dandruff, itchy skin, and burning. It will be hard to find a product without this ingredient because 95% of shampoos contain ammonium lauryl sulfate. You may want to try looking for an organic shampoo.

Here is a guide to how gentle your shampoo is according to the surfactant used:
  • Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate - very, very, harsh
  • Ammonium Laureth Sulfate - very harsh but better than the above
  • Sodium Lauryl Sulfate - better than the above but still a little harsh
  • TEA lauryl Sulfate - good choice
  • TEA Laureth Sulfate - good choice
  • Sodium Laureth Sulfate - gentle, best choice

Maybe it isn't dandruff?

Remember that flaking skin may also be caused by seborrheic dermatitis or psoriasis.

Seborrheic dermatitis is a chronic inflammation of the skin, along with scaling that may show up in the eyebrows, hairline areas, the sides of the nose, the ears, and the central chest. Psoriasis is characterized by red, scaly patches of skin and is the result of unusually rapid turnover of cells. There are prescription medications available to control both conditions.

If you still have trouble with dandruff after attempting the home remedies discussed here, see your doctor.

Links to other websites for recommended hair loss products:


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