Here’s why you’ve suddenly started getting dandruff

You shampoo, condition and mask with aplomb, your hair colour is always on point and your hairstylist dubs you buffy the split end slayer for your dedication to the healthy hair cause.

And yet, suddenly and inexplicably you find yourself having transformed into a human snowglobe every time you move.

Worse still, unlike other beauty maladies such as zits or greasy hair, dandruff isn’t something that can be covered with a dab of concealer or a spritz of dry shampoo and unless you decide to bring the shoulder brush dance move back into every aspect of your life, those tell-tale flakes are destined to give you away.

So why am I getting dandruff?

“Skin cells on our scalp (just like the rest of our body) are constantly being replaced and shed. This is part of normal cell turnover and usually isn’t noticeable. However, it can become apparent if skin cells begin to divide too rapidly – and this is what occurs with dandruff,” says Anabel Kingsley, Trichologist at Philip Kingsley.

Indeed, according to Dr Rolanda Wilkerson, Principal Scientist at Head Shoulders, 50% of us are genetically predisposed to having scalp issues like dandruff and when the susceptibility is present, flaking can show up in varying degrees although she notes that other warning signs such as dryness, redness and itching tend to appear before the flakes do.

Rather than just being irritating, an unhealthy scalp ultimately produces unhealthy hair warns Dr Rolanda because the hair grows through damaged with uplifted cuticles. Even more terrifyingly a flaky scalp has actually been proven to cause hair loss too warns Anabel which means tackling the problem pronto. How? We get to the root of the issue:

Why now?

For those who haven’t experienced the familiar shoulder sprinkle before, finding out you suddenly have dandruff can feel a little confusing. “The trigger is an overgrowth of a certain yeast naturally found on the scalp, called malassezia furfur,” explains Anabel.

“Natural skin secretions, such as sweat and sebum usually protect the scalp and keep these levels in check. However, metabolic shifts such as hormonal changes and stress, can disrupt skin secretions allowing malassezia furfur to thrive.”

And as the scalp tries to shed this irritant along with skin cells, in just a few days a dandruff sufferer can produce as many new cells as a healthy scalp produces in a month adds Dr Rolanda. Alongside stress, Anabel notes that diet can play an important part in suddenly noticing more flakes with the most common culprits being full fat dairy products, white wine and champagne.

How to get rid of dandruff

“The best approach is a consistent and daily one,” advises Anabel. “At our Clinics in London and New York we find that daily use of a soothing, antimicrobial shampoo and a targeted post-shampoo scalp toner is the fastest way to clear dandruff.

The best soothing shampoos to heal your irritated scalp

The most effective ingredient is an anti-fungal agent called ‘piroctone olamine’ which specifically targets the yeast responsible for these excess flakes whilst camphor is also a good ingredient in terms of soothing the scalp. Applying an exfoliating scalp mask once or twice a week can help speed up recovery too as it gently lifts away flakes and helps to return the rate of skin cell turnover to a normal, healthy level.”

How to stop it returning

“Dandruff can be triggered by stress, so keeping stress levels in check can be very helpful,” says Anabel. “At our Clinics we recommend moderate exercise such as yoga and pilates, meditation sessions or any other activity you find relaxing.” As certain foods and drinks can also exacerbate flaking and itching, Anabel also recommends trying to work out your trigger foods by process of elimination as well as popping a supplement that contains essential fatty acids such as omega 3 which tackle dryness as well as having anti-inflammatory properties (we love the Philip Kingsley Root Complex, £38).

Why you need a scalp-boosting, dandruff-beating regime

“Daily shampooing is an absolute must if you have a scalp condition, such as dandruff or seborrheic eczema and is also important if you have fine hair, as this hair texture has more sebaceous glands and therefore becomes oily quickly at the roots,” notes Anabel.

Finally, in the fight against flakes make sure you steer clear of products that coat the scalp such as dry shampoo. “I’m washing my hair” has never been a better excuse.

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