Dealing with dandruff is burdensome and annoying. But did you know that, like snowflakes, no dandruff is made alike? That’s right; there are several kinds of dandruff, some may point toward a bigger issue with the scalp.
If you’re experiencing a snowstorm of dandruff, knowledge is power, and knowing the root cause of your dandruff is crucial to treating it. We’re breaking down four types of dandruff and how you can approach them.
If you’re here, you’re probably well aware of what dandruff is, or at least what it means for you.
The scientific approach classifies dandruff as a condition that causes flaking from the scalp.
For you, it means constant, annoying flaky pieces, itchiness, irritation, and possibly low self-esteem. In fact, studies have suggested a link between dandruff and a low sense of confidence. You might feel the need to hide from public places or adjust what you’re wearing (goodbye black tee, hello baseball hat).
But what you do to tackle your dandruff may be counterproductive to your end goal of kicking those flakes to the curb forever.
There are four different kinds of dandruff, each caused by slightly different variables: dry scalp, oily scalp, fungal growth, and underlying disease. Let’s explore each one.
Perhaps the most familiar kind of dandruff, dry dandruff, is caused by the presence of dry skin and a lack of moisture on the scalp. It’s recognizable by small, white, dry flakes resembling snow or powdered sugar in the hair.
If you’re suffering from dry skin on the rest of your body, your scalp is likely dry as well. This is especially true in dry climates or winter when the weather is cold and devoid of humidity. It can also be caused by over-washing your hair, and stripping your scalp of the natural oils it needs to maintain an appropriate amount of moisture.
If your dry dandruff is causing an itchy scalp, resist the urge to scratch it. Scratching can cause small open wounds in the scalp, leaving it vulnerable to infections.
Looking to tackle dandruff related to dry scalp? There’s lots you can do.
First off, hydrate hydrate hydrate. Ensuring your body is hydrated is key to the health of your skin, and that includes your scalp. As for your environment, you can add a humidifier in the rooms in your home you use most. It can help support moisture levels of your skin. Be sure to clean it regularly and check for potential mold growth from the moisture. And of course, look for products specially formulated for your scalp health. At Jupiter, we’ve formulated our Nourishing Conditioner for use on the hair and the scalp so that key ingredients like colloidal oatmeal and coconut oil will soothe and moisturize a dry scalp.
As the name suggests, oily dandruff comes from excess oils on the scalp that build up causing greasy flakes. They can be either white or yellow in color and tend to be larger and stickier than flaking from a dry scalp.
If you live in a humid climate, it can be harder to control oily dandruff since it’s more difficult to completely avoid extra moisture in the air. Humidity prevents sweat from properly evaporating, leaving it trapped on the skin. Combine headwear and under washing your hair, and oily dandruff can thrive.
To tackle oily dandruff, regular washing is key to control the amount of oil your scalp produces. You can also use a medicated scalp serum to help control oil production between washes. Exfoliation is also an important part of addressing an oily scalp and dandruff. Properly brush your hair so oils are evenly distributed to hair strands. You can also use an exfoliating scalp brush to break up oily buildup on the scalp prior to washing (plus a scalp massage feels ahhhhmazing). In addition to physical exfoliation, the chemical exfoliation of our volcanic ash Purifying Mask harness the power of natural volcanic ash to naturally exfoliate the scalp and give a much needed “reset” to your skin.
The skin is home to an elaborate microbiome, even on your scalp. When an overgrowth of bacteria and fungus pops up on the scalp, it can evolve into a nasty case of dandruff.
Malassezia, the yeast-like fungus that occupies the scalp, can overgrow and cause dandruff and build-up. No one knows what causes some people to have an overgrowth of Malassezia while others don’t, but we do know that it can cause many problems.
Symptoms of fungal dandruff are similar to other dandruff cases, with white or yellow flakes on the scalp and in the hair, an irritated scalp, scalp redness, and oily, greasy hair. One of the biggest differences with fungal dandruff is the possibility of the overgrowth to expand elsewhere.
The face, chest, and back are all vulnerable to fungal growth. That’s why getting fungal dandruff under control ASAP is important to your overall health.
Fungal dandruff is treated with antifungal shampoos, ointments, or prescription-strength medication to control the overgrowth. Zinc Pyrithione (ZPT), is one of the most effective active ingredients in antifungal shampoos that stops yeast growth in its tracks.
The scientific explanation is that the ingredient increases copper on your scalp, making it uninhabitable for Malassezia.
That’s why Jupiter’s Balancing Shampoo is formulated with ZPT as the star flake-fighting ingredient, along with a host of natural and scalp-healthy ingredients that leave your hair refreshed and your scalp cleansed and flake free.
Some dandruff is caused by other underlying conditions, especially complex skin conditions. Without treating the disease, dandruff could persist or even worsen. Conditions like psoriasis and eczema encourage a breeding ground for dead skin and fungal overgrowth.
Psoriasis is largely a genetic autoimmune condition which goes through cycles and can be triggered by certain medications, cuts, burns, and other skin injuries. The condition causes hyper-proliferation (uncontrolled growth) of skin cells, which results in plaques or scales on the skin and can contribute to dandruff. Psoriasis is chronic but can be managed with the right treatment plan.
Eczema (also called atopic dermatitis) causes dry skin, itchiness, scaliness, and other forms of skin irritation. It’s caused by an interaction between your genes and outside influences, such as allergens, food, and even water. Eczema can occur anywhere on the body, including the scalp which may result in flaking and itching.
While the symptom of dandruff can be treated individually, recurrent cases of dandruff caused by other underlying conditions should target managing the condition itself. Talk to your doctor (preferably a dermatologist) to discuss treatment plans.
Malassezia, the yeast-like fungus that occupies the scalp, can overgrow and cause dandruff and build-up.
You know about dandruff, but we’re guessing you’re not here out of pure curiosity. It’s because you’re frustrated and done with dandruff.
No matter what kind of dandruff you have, here are some general tips for managing your case and feeling in control again.
If you have a sensitive scalp, it may be more vulnerable to damage from harsh ingredients found in most shampoos and conditioners. Not every hair care product considers your needs. While there are plenty of different kinds out there, it’s important to pay close attention to the ingredients label.
Too many hair products choose to include parabens, sulfates, and phthalates when there’s no reason to include them. These can be irritating to the scalp, and strip it of its natural oils, throwing the delicate microbiome out of whack. This can lead to dandruff and can even impact the health of your hair.
People with dandruff (50 to 75 percent of the population experience dandruff at some point in their lives and 20 percent chronically…that’s a lot of people) deserve the best for their hair and scalp. One of the best ways to support scalp health is through scalp massage. Stimulating your scalp can increase blood flow and encourage cell turnover. And as we mentioned above, exfoliation helps to break up and remove buildup from styling products, sweat, and oil production on the scalp.
Look for haircare products that include nourishing and hydrating ingredients. The goal is to balance your scalp's microbiome, leaving it moisturized and loved.
If you’re unsure what to try first, check out our Scalp Quiz to see which set of products are best to help you achieve your hair and scalp goals.
Shopping online, or at a drugstore or pharmacy you’ll find an endless selection of products dedicated to tackling dandruff. Dandruff shampoos, ointments, and other items can help you manage your dandruff from home.
When you search for an appropriate treatment, be sure to read the list of ingredients. Look for treatments that use Zinc Pyrithione, an active ingredient popular for treating dandruff, and avoid harsh chemicals like sulfates and parabens.
Besides the standard healthy foods needed in your diet, like an abundance of yummy fruits and veggies, specific foods with nutrients can support your hair and scalp health. If you’re on a special diet, like the vegan diet or keto, you may have nutrient deficiencies. It’s important to see what gaps are missing in your diet, especially if you think it could be contributing to chronic dandruff.
Some of the best foods to support a healthier scalp have B vitamins like biotin and B12, omega-3 fatty acids, or zinc. You can find omega-3s in salmon or fish oil supplements (perfect for those who hate eating fish but want the benefits).
Nuts, especially walnuts, cashews and almonds, contain zinc. Vitamin C can also help scalp health by supporting the body’s immune system against harmful bacteria that could attack healthy cells.
Lacking certain nutrients from your diet? While you should make every effort to have a well-rounded diet, supplements can fill the gap where your diet is lacking.
When we exercise, we sweat, and our body temperature rises. That’s good, right? Yes, but excess sweat and the warm environment give Malassezia a chance to run rampant. And when you’re surrounded by other gym participants contributing to a sweatier environment, it’s the perfect storm.
Does that mean you should stop working out if you have dandruff? Absolutely not! Like a great diet, exercise is important for maintaining a healthy body. Instead, you should be on top of your hygiene routine directly after your session.
It may be tempting to grab a snack after your workout, but you should prioritize showering and washing your hair directly after your workout. Even for a shorter session or something more “low maintenance” like yoga, if you sweat, dandruff can blossom.
If you can’t take a full shower, try rinsing your hair out with water and giving it a thorough wash as soon as possible. If you have a chronic dandruff problem, bring along an anti-dandruff shampoo to wash with.
Neglecting your sleep schedule? Or maybe you have an inconsistent one? Sleep is connected to health in many ways and can even affect your hair’s health. That’s because a lack of sleep contributes heavily to stress, which restricts blood flow - an issue linked to dandruff.
Without proper blood flow, hair follicles are not supported and can weaken, and nutrients needed to support the scalp are restricted. Studies show that making a list of things to do for the following day can hasten the sleep process. If making a to-do list is intimidating, you can make a “completed” list with tasks you’ve accomplished, no matter how small.
A comforting, warm bath can also help calm you before heading to bed. Just ensure you have properly dried your body and hair if it gets wet to prevent a moist environment for dandruff to thrive.
Listening to pink noise, such as the sounds of waterfalls, wind, rain, or ocean waves, has shown promising signs of supporting better sleep. Consult your physician if you have tried every practical remedy to get more sleep. There could be an underlying cause of your lack of sleep.
If you’ve tried every over-the-counter and at-home solution and still don’t see results, it’s time to consult your doctor. They’ll be able to observe your scalp and run necessary (and non-invasive) tests to determine the cause of your dandruff. They can also give you prescription-strength treatments that are a bit stronger.
A doctor can also determine if a bigger issue contributes to your dandruff, like a skin condition that has yet to be diagnosed or a missing element of your hair routine.
Dandruff comes in many forms, and knowing which one is giving you grief is key to finding the best treatment regimen. Dry, oily, fungal, and disease related dandruff are all caused by different variables and need proper treatment to banish those flakes.
You should pay attention to your overall health, ensuring that you eat a healthy diet, sleep well, and maintain a hygiene routine. An important part of treating dandruff, no matter the underlying cause, is finding the right scalp and hair care routine. Consistency is key, introducing a Zinc Pyrithione based shampoo and soothing conditioner as part of a regular routine can make all of the difference when it comes to managing your flakes.
Exfoliating regularly with a scalp brush and a scalp mask can also help your scalp reset by clearing away buildup from flaking and styling products, leaving behind a smooth and refreshed scalp.
Check out our blog for more information about all things scalp health!
Built for those looking to address constant or moderate to severe flaking, redness, or irritation and want their mane left looking refreshed and silky smooth.