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Dandruff: Why It Happens and How To Beat It

The exact cause of dandruff, also known as scurf or Pityriasis simplex capillitii, is unknown. However, most experts agree that dandruff is not caused by poor hygiene.

Dandruff is a condition of the scalp that causes flakes of skin to appear and is often accompanied by itching. In some cases, it can be embarrassing and not easy to treat.


The following are factors that may contribute to dandruff:

1) Seborrheic dermatitis (irritated, oily skin) : People with seborrheic dermatitis are very prone to dandruff. Seborrheic dermatitis affects many areas of the skin, including the backs of the ears, the breastbone, eyebrows, and the sides of the nose.

The patient will have red, greasy skin covered with flaky white or yellow scales.

Seborrheic dermatitis is closely linked with Malassezia, a fungus that lives on everybody's scalp and feeds on the oils that our hair follicles secrete. Generally it will cause no problems at all. However, it can grow out of control.

When this happens, the scalp can become irritated and produce extra skin cells. These extra skin cells die and fall off; they mix with the oil from the hair and scalp and turn into what we see as dandruff.

2) Not enough hair brushing : People who do not comb or brush their hair regularly have a slightly higher risk of having dandruff - this is because they are not aiding the shedding of skin that combing or brushing provides.

3) Yeast : People who are sensitive to yeast have a slightly higher risk of having dandruff, so it is logical to assume that yeast may play a part. Yeast-sensitive people who get dandruff often find that it gets better during the warmer months and worse during the winter.

UVA light from the sun counteracts the yeast. Some believe that, during the winter, the skin is drier because of exposure to extreme temperatures - hot rooms and the cold air outside - making dandruff more likely.

4) Dry skin : People with dry skin tend to get dandruff more often. Winter cold air, combined with overheated rooms is a common cause of itchy, flaking skin. People with dandruff caused by dry skin tend to have small flakes of dandruff; the flakes are not oily.

5) Not enough shampooing : Some people say that if an individual does not shampoo enough, there can be a buildup of oil and dead skin cells, causing dandruff. However, many experts doubt this is true.

6) Certain skin conditions : People with psoriasis, eczema, and some other skin disorders tend to get dandruff more frequently than other people.

7) Some illnesses : Adults with Parkinson's disease and some other neurological illnesses are more prone to having dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis.

Patients recovering from heart attacks and strokes and some people with weak immune systems may also have dandruff more often than other people.

8) Reaction to hair or skin care products : Some people react to certain hair care products with a red, itchy, scaling scalp. Many experts say that shampooing too often may cause dandruff as it can irritate the scalp.

9) Diet : Some experts say that people who do not consume enough foods that contain zinc, B vitamins, and some types of fats are more prone to dandruff.

10) Mental stress : Experts believe there may be a link between stress and many skin problems.

11) HIV : One study found that 10.6 percent of people with HIV have seborrheic dermatitis.


A person with dandruff or seborrheic dermatitis will hardly ever experience complications. If one were to occur, it would more likely be caused by one of the dandruff treatments. If a dandruff shampoo or scalp treatment is causing irritation, the individual should cease using it and ask a pharmacist to suggest another one.

In some cases, bacteria can get under the skin if there is a break in the skin of the scalp. If this happens, and causes illness, or if an area of skin is red, tender, and swollen, a doctor should be consulted.

Dandruff is termed as Darunaka in Ayurveda. Most of the Ayurvedic texts refer this complaint under minor diseases (Kshudra Rogas).

Dandruff causes as per Ayurveda:

  • Excess intake of sour tasting foods leading to
  • Intake of cold water for long
  • Excess exposure to sunshine
  • Night awakening
  • Exposure to dust
  • excessive sweating
  • Suppression of natural urges
  • Not washing hair regularly
  • Non application of oil to the scalp etc

How dandruff is formed as per Ayurveda?
The dryness of the skin is contributed by Vata Dosha.
Excessive oily scalp also causes dandruff. Oiliness is caused by Kapha Dosha. Hence, dandruff has involvement of Kapha and Vata Dosha.

Clinical features of Dandruff:
1. Kandu (Itching)
2. Keshachyuti (Hair fall)
3. Swaapa (Numbness)
4. Twak sputana (Cracking of the skin)
5. Daruna(Dryness followed with crack in the scalp)
6. Daha (Burning sensation)
7. Gaura (Heaviness) and
8. Toda (Pricking sensation) etc

Ayurvedic treatment options:
If the cause lies on the scalp such as dry skin, then just hair oil application or local treatment will be sufficient to cure dandruff.
If the cause lies in underlying skin disease such as psoriasis, treatment for the causative disease will be required.

Ayurvedic treatments such as shirodhara, shirobasti helps not only to relieve dandruff and improve hair quality. They also help you to relieve stress and lack of sleep (which are also cause for dandruff).

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