Dandruff question...

I did a search and found exactly two helpful threads relating to dandruff…but have more questions.

First: During a recent salon visit the shampooer informed me that my dandruff is “big and clumpy” and not small/fine like her’s. She left it at a simple observation. Is there a distinction? In otherwords, does it mean something different to have “big and clumpy” dandruff?

  1. I have had this dandruff problem for approx. the past year and a half. I have also noticed that, coincidentally, my hair has been growing more than ever and has become (oddly) beautifully healthy. People even comment on “how pretty” my hair is. Can there be a correlation between the dandruff and healthier hair? Old schoolers refer to as “growing dandruff”.

  2. If #2 is correct, don’t I stand to risk less healthy hair by getting rid of my dandruff?

  3. I read in another thread that white vinegar helps a lot. Is the vinegar drying or damaging to the hair? Someone also suggested adding olive oil to your conditioner. This doesn’t make your hair or scalp greasy? I ask because I think my dandruff is a result of over-oiliness (sp).

Thank you for any guidance!

I used to get flakes and my hairdresser suggested that I don’t use shampoo/conditioner combo…and it worked for me. I use separate shampoo and conditioner. If that doesn’t work try not using a conditioner for awhile.

Hey, I know a little bit about this topic.

I believe finer dandruff is often just a matter of dry skin (scalp). What you’re referring to as “clumpy” is something else entirely, sometimes itchy, and almost scabby – is that right?

Sometimes folks get “clumpy” dandruff as an allergic reaction to shampoos, conditioners, hairsprays or gels. I can’t use any hairspray or gel for that reason, and have to be careful about other products. Balsam products are known to be the worst for this effect, I’ve been told.

Before you wash your hair, brush your scalp gently with a hairbrush to loosen any “clumps”.

You can try experimenting with different brands of products. Neutrogena shampoo is pretty good, with few irritating additives. Wash often, and rinse well. Sometimes a final cold rinse will cut shampoo residue.

If you’re having a skin reaction to shampoos or conditioners, then inadequate rinsing may leave a residue of the irritant behind, making it worse.

You might also try a vinegar rinse – dilute with water to something like 50-50 if you find it stings a lot, and keep it out of your eyes. Vinegar is acidic, and the acid pH closes the cuticle scales on the outer surface of the hair shaft, thereby forcing out any shampoo residue. Vinegar also helps cut any remaining residue from your scalp, which could be causing a skin reaction. And it makes your hair shine real purty.

There’s also a shampoo – I believe it’s called Nizoral – that you can get O.T.C. in Canadian drugstores or by prescription in the U.S. that treats any fungal cause that may be sparking the problem. It’s supposed to be quite effective.

Before you do all that, read this. Maybe follow it if you like.

I’ve had that “clumpy” dandruff all my life. It’s less when my hair is short and the weather cold.

My routine is to rotate shampoos every few months … cheap shampoos.

Here is the formula:

Two bottles cheap shampoo
One bottle Paul Mitchell Tea Tree Shampoo (tingles on your scalp, Reigs and Generic don’t)
One bottle Pure Baby Cradle Cap Shampoo ($2.99 at any Babies R us)

The tea tree is optional, but I happen to love it. :slight_smile:

So, the usual routine is, one day of PBCCS, two days cheap shampoo, one day tea tree, two days cheap shampoo, etc. You can follow it every day, or skip a day of shampooing, or add a day of cheap stuff. But do rotate two cheap ones on the days you use them, and do change out the “cheap ones” for other cheap brands every couple of months.

The PBCCS lets you get in there and really get under the stuff (just stand in the shower and keep massaging and scraping … I’d say use PBCCS two showers in a row the first time). It’s oily enough to help you loosen it and the rotation of the shampoos helps you rinse cleaner so you can skip the vinegar rinse if you like.

A friend suggested I start taking biotin supplements, but I’m going to wait until the fall when my hormones are relatively back to normal.

I’ve got it very badly and have for years … this routine has worked best for me. I can wear long hair again and it doesn’t totally suck!

Heh, port, I can’t use hairspray or gel, either. Exacerbates the problem (so I use it sparingly and wash it out ASAP). I even wore a wig for my wedding to spare myself the pain.

Nizoral is OTC here in the States. The owner of the salon I go to has suggested that I give it a try.

I do want to greatly THANK the two of you for responding. I’m so “up-in-arms” about this issue in my life and I was afraid that no one would respond. So, thank you.

I am going to try vinegar before Nizoral. I’m trying really hard to avoid harsh stuff. I’ve been using Neutrogena shampoo (the pink, non-residue kind) for just under a year. It is not an option for me to wash frequently b/c I am African-American and most AA’s should not wash their hair more than once or twice per week. Sometimes no more than once every TWO weeks. My hair would break off and fall to the ground if I washed it more than once per week.

I’m getting suspicious that our water may be too “hard” and may have a hand in this problem. I think we’re having our water tested on Tuesday.

Is it really necessary to dilute the vinegar?

Avoid using really hot water to wash your hair. Hot water will cut oils from your skin and dry it out. Harsh shampoos will also have this effect. A decent conditioner will help restore beneficial oils to your freshly washed scalp.

Deva, it’s not critical to dilute the vinegar. Some folks find that full-strength is simply so acidic that it stings where the little crusties have scraped off, that’s all.

Again, watch the eyes – your skin is coated with a natural acid mantle with a pH of around 4.5 to 5.5, but your eyes are at the opposite end of the scale with an alkaline pH (the reason that alkaline baby shampoos don’t sting the eyes).

I know zip about African-American hair, but it sounds like your scalp is getting quite a build-up between shampoos and could benefit from more frequent shampooing, while your hair is dry and brittle and would suffer from the same. I can’t imagine how to deal with that – I mean, how do you possibly treat a scalp without bothering the hair that grows from it?!?

Hopefully, experimentation will reveal a solution. Let us know how things go, okay?

From a life-long dandruff sufferer:

Nizoral is OTC, expensive, and worth every penny.

FWIW, I’ve noticed that there are now cheaper store brands of Nizoral (Walgreens makes their own version…I suspect other stores do as well by now.)

Deva, how’s the scalp? Any updates? I’m curious about what you discovered.

Does it actually make the dandruff go away so that you eventually can switch to normal shampoo, or is it something you have to use forever? I’ve always used Head-and-Shoulders, but ever since they change the formula a few years ago, I don’t like it. I’d love to have a cure, instead of just treating the symptoms.

Turek, my guess is that every person’s response to any medicinally active ingredient is gonna vary from person to person, but my daughter used Nizoral for a few weeks – 'til the smallest bottle on the shelf was used up – and her dandruff has been clear for the past three months.

She occasionally does a vinegar-rinse when her scalp begins to get itchy, but a bout of Nizoral seemed to clear up the bulk of the problem. YMMV.

This isn’t true. The target pH for eye preparations is 6.0; I’ve never seen any eye preparation with a pH range higher than 6.8, and anything that was actually alkaline would sting like hell. “No tears” shampoos don’t sting (as much) because they use amphoteric surfactants instead of anionic surfactants (these surfactants appear to be less disruptive to cell membranes). All of the shampoos I’ve worked with were formulated in the 5-7 range.

Most dandruff shampoos, BTW, only treat dandruff that’s caused by fungal infection. The active ingredients vary: Nizoral has ketoconazole, Selsun has selenium sulfide, Head and Shoulders has both selenium sulfide and zinc pyrithione. Coal tar and sulfur shampoos work differently.

The OP’s large, oily flakes are typical of dandruff caused by Malassezia infection. Nizoral is a good choice, as is any dandruff shampoo that doesn’t give you a rash

Nametag, I was taught otherwise, but I bow to your obvious knowledge.

I admit that I was taught this stuff a long, long time ago – probably around the time dandruff was first invented. :wink:

Baby shampoo is quite alkaline – I tested it myself, and IIRC, it ranked up there with Tide laundry detergent.

I was also taught that coal tar shampoos can wreak havoc with hairline acne, exacerbating any existing problems.

I vaguely seem to recall that there used to be a rather ineffective dandruff shampoo that contained acetesalicylic acid, too.

Still wondering whether or not Deva found a solution to his problem.

Sounds like you may have seborrheic dermatitis. This can cause you to have these thick clumps, or scale, on your scalp, around your nose, your eyebrows, and ears. These areas have the highest concentration of sebaceous glands. Nonprescription shampoos containing tar, zinc pyrithione, selenium sulfide, sulfur and/or salicylic acid can be used effectively. Neutrogena T-Gel shampoo is popular with one of the residents I work with. Just lather up, and bring the lather down to your eyebrows, etc ( any area that is affected) and let the lather sit at least 4 minutes. This will help loosen the scale. Then rinse. You can do this daily, and then cut back when the problem resolves. Then just use as needed. If you don’t wash your hair that often, at least try to use it once or twice a week. If none of this works, you may have to use a prescription strength shampoo and add a topical corticosteroid to apply to the scalp.

I have some bullet point advice. This affected my life to the point of tears at one time:

-big clumpy dandruff is not from dry skin, but indicates another problem. Could be an oil problem or a fungus.

-not washing your hair, or washing irregularly can increase outbreaks. Oily hair/ scalp (from not washing) can still have dandruff, maybe more

-stress and lack of sleep also can cause increased dandruff, especially if it’s seborrheic dermatitis

-keep you hands out of your hair, unless you are washing

-try some of the products/tips mentioned, as they have good reps, but have the expectation that one or two will work for you and that a number of them won’t

-you should exfoliate when washing the hair/scalp by loosening the dandruff and getting it out. Actually, many scaling problems on the skin are the result of the skin not exfoliating the dead layers fast enough, either because it can’t or because the skin is creating new layers too fast.