Scalp microbiome - dandruff

Dandruff and The Microbiome

Eeks! Dandruff!!

You’re at a party, wearing your best black outfit. Suddenly you catch sight of yourself in the mirror – those embarrassing white flakes are all over your back! 

One of the most annoying scalp conditions one can get is dandruff. Almost half the population of the world suffers from this scourge of good hair days. Dandruff is a condition of the scalp, not the hair, so just washing hair frequently or good hygiene doesn’t get rid of it.

What is dandruff?

Dandruff is not a disease – it is just flaking skin cells from your scalp surface. Skin science doesn’t understand much about this condition, but what scientists do know is that it is probably caused by a reaction in some people to a fungus called malassezia that’s present in our scalp microbiome.

Before we get into the dandruff explanation, let me tell you about the microbiome. What’s that, I hear you say? For those who still don’t know this newest buzzword in the skincare industry, the microbiome is the invisible ecosystem of microorganisms like bacteria, viruses and other microbes that exists on our skin, in our gut and other parts of our body which helps protect and modulate the functionality of its habitat.

Now, coming back to that most irritating problem – dandruff. For most adults, the malassezia fungus mentioned above lives happily along with the millions of other microbes, bacteria and organisms in the scalp microbiome. But in some people, an immune reaction to the fungus can release certain substances that make the scalp irritable and skin cells grow and die and shed at a faster rate than the normal adult rate of 30,000 per minute. This is dandruff. This rate of shedding can be further aggravated by stress, certain illnesses like dermatitis of a particular kind, or very dry weather.

Dandruff and Scalp Health 

What is clear, though, is that the scalp’s health and dandruff are definitely connected. And the health of the scalp depends on how well balanced the scalp microbiome is. The scalp surface is protected and sustained by the scalp microbiome in a symbiotic way. Research has shown that for those who have dandruff or dermatitis, this fragile balance is disrupted. One study showed that the scalps of people with dandruff contained different bacteria from those who didn’t have dandruff. Besides dandruff, an imbalanced scalp microbiome can lead to excess dryness or oiliness, itching and flaking, dullness, as well as impacting hair fall and hair loss. 

The scalp microbiome is unique. It has more sweat glands, lipids, and sebum than other parts of our skin. The skin is thicker there, too. Thus, keeping it balanced and healthy requires keeping it clean, but not washing too often so as to not strip off natural oils that protect the skin. It requires using the right products that will help balance the microbiome rather than tipping it towards one side or the other.

The New Anti-Dandruff Fighters: Probiotics

Traditionally, anti-dandruff formulations are anti-bacterial. They work by destroying the bad bacteria or fungi. But the new wave of hair products use the microbiome as their super hero. They seek to introduce ingredients that will instead increase the good bacteria and maintain a just-right balance of the microbial environment. These ingredients are called probiotics.

But aren’t probiotics the medicines doctors prescribe when we have tummy troubles? I hear you ask.

Yes, exactly. Those probiotics work to rebalance an imbalanced gut environment. Similarly, other probiotics are being used to strengthen hair and soothe irritable scalps by optimizing and balancing the environment of the scalp microbiome. The great news is, these products are being found to help with dandruff too!

Gentler than zinc-based, coal-tar based, salicylic acid-based and ketoconazole-based products, and proving every day to be just as effective, shampoos like Just Human’s anti-dandruff formulation work with your scalp’s innate qualities by introducing probiotic ingredients that balance the hydration and pH levels perfectly, reducing the oiliness and imbalance that is a ground for dandruff production.

Using probiotic-based products that optimize the scalp microbiome, combined with reducing stress, a good diet that includes lots of fruits and veggies, lean meat, fermented foods, and supplements like vitamin B and Zinc which boost your immune system are the way forward to combat that exasperating and troublesome phenomenon –– dandruff.