In high-humidity countries like Singapore, dandruff is fairly common and can affect anyone from toddlers to adults. This is even more so for those with oily skin or a family history of seborrheic dermatitis, who are more prone to this condition. Although dandruff is not contagious or life-threatening, it can be a point of discomfort and take a huge toll on one’s life.
Thankfully, most types of dandruff are treatable and can be managed effectively with the right treatment plan. The first step to getting a dandruff-free scalp is finding out what type of dandruff you have.
How do you know what type of dandruff you have, and what are the various anti-dandruff treatments available in Singapore? This guide gives you the lowdown on everything you need to know.
What is dandruff?
Dandruff is a chronic scalp condition where one experiences itching and flakey scalp skin. Simply put, the flakes or white spots happen because the skin cells on our scalp grow and die off at a faster rate, due to:
- excess oil production
- dry skin
- poor hygiene
- hormonal changes
- fungal overgrowth, or a combination of these factors.
Types of dandruff
Understanding the type of dandruff you have helps determine what treatment approach would be most suitable.
Dry scalp dandruff
As its name suggests, dry scalp dandruff is characterised by a relatively dry scalp that lacks moisture, leading to irritation, itching and flaking. Dry scalp dandruff, unlike fungal dandruff, often appears as smaller, whiter flakes.
Causes of dry scalp dandruff include:
- Cold and dry environments
- Overwashing hair
- Using harsh shampoos and hair care products
- Long, hot showers
- Underlying health conditions
Make sure to stay hydrated throughout the day, avoid diuretics like caffeine and alcohol, and opt for gentler shampoos and hair products.
Oily scalp dandruff
Oil or sebum in the scalp isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it helps protect the scalp and supports hair health. However, an excessively oily scalp can cause irritation and inflammation — this is called oily scalp dandruff, also known as seborrhoeic dermatitis.
Causes of oily scalp dandruff include:
- Overwashing your hair
- Not washing your hair enough
- Genetic predisposition
- Other underlying skin conditions
Swap out your usual hair care products for non-comedogenic ones. It is also important to regularly wash your hair and get plenty of hydration.
Fungal (Malassezia) dandruff
Malassezia globosa is a type of yeast that is naturally present on our skin, and is more commonly found in high sebum areas, like the scalp. Fungal or Malassezia dandruff occurs when there is an imbalance in the scalp’s natural microbiome, and this fungal overgrowth can lead to inflammation, irritation and a flakey scalp.
Scalp flaking from fungal dandruff, as compared to dry scalp dandruff, often appears larger and oilier. Sometimes, it presents as red or purple patches on the scalp, as well as pus-filled bumps.
Fungal dandruff, if left untreated, can damage the hair follicles and eventually lead to hair loss. Thankfully, there are a variety of treatments available that effectively treat fungal dandruff, such as anti-dandruff shampoos with active ingredients that help mitigate the growth of Malassezia.
Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune condition where an overactive immune system attacks healthy skin cells. This causes rapid cell build-up, which appears as flakey patches on the skin, with scales that are brown, pink, red or silvery.
Although not really considered “dandruff”, scalp psoriasis presents with similar symptoms, such as flaking skin. Psoriasis tends to produce flakes that appear more scaly or powdery in form.
Corticosteroids and medicated shampoos are often prescribed to alleviate redness, itching and scaling of the skin. Understanding what triggers your psoriasis flare-ups, and avoiding these triggers, can also help prevent psoriasis-related dandruff.
Allergic contact dermatitis dandruff
Contact dermatitis dandruff is generally caused by an allergic reaction from contact with a substance that irritates the skin. This could be anything from allergens like metals, fragrances and preservatives, to irritants like harsh shampoos.
Figuring out what triggers your contact dermatitis flare-ups, and reducing your exposure to these triggers, will help improve your condition.
If you experience any of the aforementioned symptoms, you may have dandruff. That being said, several scalp conditions may produce similar symptoms. This is why it is important to consult a skin specialist to get a proper diagnosis before trying at-home remedies or over-the-counter products.
Diagnosis and scalp analysis
The first step to treating dandruff is finding out the cause of your condition in order to determine the most appropriate treatment. An in-depth scalp analysis is carried out to assess your condition and requirements. What you can expect includes:
- Personal and family medical history — In order to get a better understanding of your condition, you will be asked about your personal and family medical history, as well as any allergies or pre-existing skin conditions you may have. You can also inform your specialist of any treatments you have tried prior.
- Symptoms — Specific symptoms you experience could greatly help in narrowing down the potential causes of your dandruff. Keep a mental record (or pen down) of the symptoms you experience; Are the flakes smaller and whiter, or are they larger and appear oilier?
- Physical examination — Your specialist will physically examine your scalp for signs of dryness, redness, inflammation, and the presence of flakes.
- Scalp analysis — A thorough scalp analysis can be done by a trained scalp specialist using a magnified scope, or dermatoscope, to closely examine the scalp. A more detailed view of the scalp allows them to easily identify any abnormalities in the hair follicles and surrounding tissue.
- Patch testing — Patch testing may be carried out in order to rule out certain skin conditions such as contact dermatitis.
Before your consultation, come prepared with any dandruff-related questions you may have. It also helps to avoid hair products that can interfere with the results of your scalp analysis.
Prevention and management
It can be hard to determine the cause of your dandruff. However, there are certain lifestyle changes you can adopt and incorporate into your daily activities to prevent and manage dandruff:
- Lather and rinse well — A good shampooing technique can make a huge difference. Make sure to cleanse your scalp well and thoroughly rinse off the shampoo during showers.
- Use medicated anti-dandruff shampoos — If you find yourself getting dandruff often, consider investing in an anti-dandruff shampoo with active ingredients, like zinc pyrithione, selenium sulphide, coal tar, salicylic acid or ketoconazole. These help mitigate the growth of dandruff-causing fungi.
- Try dandruff prevention treatments — A dandruff prevention treatment helps prevent dandruff formation and soothes the scalp to prevent inflammation. TrichoLab offers a 90-minute, non-invasive treatment that keeps your scalp clean and dandruff-free. It involves the use of specially formulated papaya enzymes to gently exfoliate the scalp and clear skin build-up, and Centella Asiatica and green tea extracts to balance oil levels in the scalp.
- Steer clear of harsh hair products — Harsh hair care treatments may dry out the scalp, which becomes a precursor to dandruff and scalp irritation. Opt for gentler shampoos and hair care products that are fragrance-free and hypoallergenic.
- Get adequate sun protection — Excessive exposure to the sun’s UV rays could damage your scalp. On sunny days, try wearing a hat, or apply sunscreen made specially for the scalp.
- Avoid hot showers — Hot water can strip your scalp off its natural oils and lead to a dry scalp. Try switching to cool water for your shower next time.
Types of anti-dandruff treatment
There is a wide spectrum of anti-dandruff treatments available in Singapore
- Topical steroids — Topical corticosteroids can be prescribed to mitigate severe dandruff, such as contact dermatitis and psoriasis-related dandruff.
- Medical-grade shampoos — If over-the-counter anti-dandruff shampoos do not suffice, prescription-strength shampoos may do the trick. These have higher concentrations of active ingredients, like zinc pyrithione and selenium sulphide, which make for stronger formulations.
- Professional anti-dandruff treatments — Professional treatments allow for more personalised and evidence-based approaches to treat dandruff. One notable solution to treat mild dandruff is the Scalp Revival Treatment.
This involves the use of medical-grade salicylic acid to clear away dirt and exfoliate dead skin cells on the scalp, followed by nano misting with hydrating nutrients, specially formulated to help mitigate dandruff and fortify the scalp.
Another anti-dandruff solution to consider is the Scalp Exfoliating Treatment. This uses an array of botanicals that help exfoliate dandruff off the scalp, regulate oil levels, and minimise flaking and dandruff formation.
If you experience dandruff, over-the-counter shampoos can be a hassle-free way to treat dandruff. However, if your symptoms worsen or if you experience recurring dandruff that requires long-term management, you may need professional help.
When to seek professional help
It is important to note that while dandruff can generally be managed on your own, severe dandruff symptoms may require a visit to your skin specialist or doctor. You should consider seeking a professional if you experience the following:
- No improvements — If you find that over-the-counter anti-dandruff shampoos and creams show no improvements to your condition, you may need professional guidance.
- Worsening symptoms — If symptoms of your dandruff are becoming more severe, if you experience patches of hair loss, or if it spreads to other parts of your body, you may require urgent medical attention.
- Recurring dandruff — If you find your dandruff coming back despite repeated treatments, you may have an underlying condition that needs to be addressed.
- Suspected allergic reaction — If you suspect that your dandruff is caused by an allergic reaction to certain substances, seek a professional’s help for proper testing. This helps you determine what triggers to avoid and what you can do to alleviate your symptoms.
- Suspected medical conditions — If you suspect that your dandruff is caused by underlying medical conditions, a professional can help identify the root problem of your dandruff-like symptoms through various diagnostic tests.
Of course, simply being concerned about your scalp health is enough to warrant a visit to a professional. They will be able to accurately diagnose the cause of your dandruff and provide treatment solutions based on your unique situation.
Looking for professional dandruff treatment in Singapore?
Tailoring your treatment to the underlying cause of your dandruff is crucial in successfully managing dandruff and mitigating your symptoms.
TrichoLab specialises in all matters of hair and scalp concerns, like dandruff. We offer a variety of treatments for all forms of dandruff-related issues — from dry scalp dandruff to fungal infections.
Take the first step to getting a dandruff-free scalp. Book a consultation with us for a comprehensive diagnosis and personalised treatment plan.