Dandruff has been blamed on a multiplicity of causes, including dry skin, oily skin, too much or too little hair washing, diet, stress or hygiene. However, the real cause of dandruff is actually a yeast-like fungus, Malassezia globosa, which lives on your scalp, feeding on skin oils.
Dandruff is shedded skin; dandruff sufferers shed skin much more rapidly than other people. This happens because the fungus uses enzymes called lipases to metabolize the oils, which creates a by-product called oleic acid. The acid penetrates your skin and triggers skin cell shedding.
A team of researchers for Procter & Gamble (manufacturers of Head & Shoulders anti-dandruff shampoo) has sequenced the DNA of the fungus and analyzed the lipases it produces. They hope these investigations will eventually lead to new treatments for dandruff.
This is another classic example of blaming an infectious agent for the “cause” of a disease. While this information is useful and can be very helpful in treating the problem once you have it, this knowledge really doesn’t help you understand how to change the underlying reasons why you got the infection.
You can easily treat the dandruff infection by using Selsun Blue, which has selenium in it, and leaving it on your scalp overnight. Alternatively you could also use Head and Shoulder’s shampoo (zinc is the active ingredient). The key is leaving it on your scalp overnight as the selenium or zinc will actually kill this fungus.
However if you eliminate the fungus you still need to correct the reason why they chose your scalp to invade and multiply. Typically that is related to an imbalance in the fats you are eating.
Dandruff, as well as other dry-skin conditions, can often be a sign that you have a fatty acid imbalance. This is a very common problem, as your standard American diet (SAD) is far higher in omega-6 than omega-3.
Your ideal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats is 1:1. But the current ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 in the average American diet varies from 20:1 to 50:1!
Your primary sources of omega-6 are corn, soy, canola, safflower, and sunflower oil; these oils are overabundant in your typical diet, which explains your excess omega-6 levels. Omega-3, meanwhile, is typically found in flaxseed oil, walnut oil, and fish.
More than 2,000 scientific studies have demonstrated the vast array of health problems associated with omega-3 deficiencies. Usually I talk about omega-3 in the context of improving brain function, and preventing chronic diseases like diabetes, arthritis, heart disease and cancer.
However, omega-3 deficiencies can also have a negative impact on your skin, creating skin-related problems, such as:
- “Alligator” skin
- Cracked heels
- “Chicken skin” on the back of your arms
- Dry, unmanageable hair
In addition to that, keep in mind that everything you slather on your skin, and put on your scalp goes into your bloodstream, and can affect your overall health and internal balance. Virtually all of your regular shampoos and conditioners contain harmful chemicals that can create skin irritation, contributing to dry scalp and excessive dandruff.
I recommend buying organic personal-care products that do not contain parabens and sodium laureth, or lauryl sulfate. The latter two are known eye and skin irritants.
Instead, look for products that contain natural antimicrobial and antifungal ingredients, such as grapefruit seed extract, or antioxidant vitamins (A, C and E) that act as natural preservatives, without dangerous side effects.
Following a healthy diet, modified to fit your nutritional type can also help you balance out your internal system, and eliminate excessive fungi naturally.