YOU’RE at a big party, you’re wearing your sexiest black dress and you feel like a million dollars.
Until, halfway through the evening, you check the mirror and realise your shoulders are covered with tiny white flakes.
It’s the scourge of dandruff, and there s no surer way to make you feel the most unattractive woman in the room.
Dandruff is still such a taboo problem that many of us won’t even talk to our best friends about it.
As for going to the chemists to buy a bottle of medicated shampoo – what if we meet someone we know?
Yet there s no reason to be ashamed, because dandruff affects almost everyone at some stage.
Even Friends beauty Courteney Cox is starring in the new Head & Shoulders anti-dandruff shampoo campaign, showing that stars suffer as much as the rest of us.
But if getting rid of dandruff is as easy as the ads claim, why aren’t the little white flakes a thing of the past?
For one thing, there is no permanent cure. If you’re a sufferer, you’ll have to keep on using anti-dandruff shampoos regularly to keep on top of the problem.
And people with severe cases may find over-the-counter remedies just don’t work for them – if this is the case, you may need to go to your doctor.
He or she may then refer you to a dermatologist or trichologist (hair and scalp expert).
WHAT CAUSES DANDRUFF?
DANDRUFF is tiny flakes of dried, dead skin which are shed from the scalp and come away when you brush your hair.
John Firmage, a registered trichologist at London’s Battersea Scalp and Hair Clinic, explains: “Skin sheds from the scalp naturally. When the scale coming off is heavier than normal we call it dandruff.
“It’s a universal problem though some people suffer from more severe cases than others.”
Dandruff can form when too little natural oil is produced on the scalp and the hair becomes dry. But it’s not just a problem with dry hair.
If too much oil is produced, the hair becomes greasy and yellow flakes can form.
It can also be triggered by health problems or stress, says John.
Often when people go on holiday it disappears, he explains.
Hormonal changes can also play a part – which is why dandruff is a classic curse of adolescents.
Diet can sometimes be to blame, particularly if you drink too much alcohol and enjoy lots of salty, sugary or spicy foods.
WHAT IS DANDRUFF?
DANDRUFF is a term for all types of scalp flaking and is the most common condition to affect the scalp. It is estimated to be a problem for about 80 per cent of the population at some time in their lives.
The cells on our scalps constantly renew and, in the normal course of events, dead cells will be washed or brushed off without being noticed.
With dandruff, however, this process is speeded up, so more cells are shed.
And these cells tend to be clumped, making them big enough to be seen.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?
IN PITYRIASIS CAPITIS, the most common form of dandruff, you can usually see flakes of skin throughout the RECENT claims that a medicated shampoo leaves hair 100 per cent free of visible flakes with regular use were found to be misleading. So what exactly is dandruff and do any of the medicated shampoos on the market really work? CHARLOTTE DOVEY asks leading trichologist Philip Kingsley to explain all.
hair and, after brushing or combing, on the shoulders.
They tend to be a greyish-white in colour and the scalp itself may feel tight, itchy or sore. Seborrhoeic dermatitis, the more severe form of dandruff, can also affect the skin around the forehead, face nose and ears.
If symptoms are persistent or the skin is looking inflamed, crusty and red, there may be an underlying condition such as eczema or psoriasis.
WHAT CAUSES IT?
DANDRUFF is caused when the skin reacts to a naturally occurring yeast fungus known as pityrosporum ovale.
Normally, secretions (sweat and sebum) form a barrier, keeping this yeast in a dormant state. However, triggers including eating too much fat or salt, not drinking enough water, stress, hormonal imbalance, an excessively oily scalp or a reaction to hair products, can cause these secretions to change adversely.
If this happens, the yeast can flourish – speeding up the skin-shedding process.
HOW IS IT TREATED?
ALL medicated shampoos contain anti- bacterial ingredients which help to lower the levels of pityrosporum ovale. The most effective antidandruff ingredient is piroctone olamine.
Other antibacterial ingredients include selenium sulphide, zinc pyrithione, coal tar and ketoconazole.
Alternatives to medicated shampoo include scalp masks, which soften and lift the flakes enabling them to be washed away more easily, or antibacterial scalp tonic.
After starting treatment, you should see an improvement in one to two weeks.
HOW DO YOU PREVENT IT?
UNFORTUNATELY, you’re either prone to dandruff or you’re not. If you are, it’s likely to recur whenever your skin secretions change. To give yourself a chance, cut down on fried foods and reduce your intake of sugars, fats and dairy products.
Also, increase the amount of fruit, green leafy vegetables and raw food in your diet, and make sure you have enough vitamins