Dandruff isn’t so much a problem involving the hair as a disorder of the scalp, and like so many other skin problems it’s a trouble that frequently recurs. It often starts at the age of ten and continues to cause showers of trouble for decades afterwards, the small white scales often being accompanied by an itching of the scalp which simply heightens the associated embarrassment.
Dermatologists recognize two types of dandruff. In the first type the dandruff occurs on an oily, greasy scalp. In the second it affects the individual with dry, brittle hair. In both types the dandruff scales originate from the superficial layer of the skin where there is some disorder in the rate at which dead cells flake away from the protective layer of cells on the skin’s surface.
Dandruff may seem to be more of a social and cosmetic problem than a medical one but it is still a disorder which needs treatment. The important point to remember is that treatment usually needs to be regular rather than erratic and initiated when dandruff recurs.
There are several useful drugs available for the treatment of dandruff.
Selenium sulphide is an effective shampoo ingredient. It is a powerful chemical which is extremely dangerous if taken by mouth. It is so toxic that it should not be used on inflamed areas of skin, it should not be allowed to enter the eyes, and it should not be used indefinitely. If it is used for long periods of time (three months or more) it can cause a temporary hair loss.
When using a product containing selenium sulphide the scalp is first washed with soap and water and then rinsed. After rinsing with clean water 5-10 ml of shampoo containing 2.5% selenium sulphide is applied together with a small amount of warm water. The resultant lather is rinsed off and the application of shampoo repeated. This time the lather should be left on the hair for five minutes at least. This is the point where most people lose patience and abandon their treatment too quickly. After treatment the hair should be well rinsed and the hands and nails cleaned well.
The shampooing needs to be done twice a week for two weeks and then once a week for another two weeks. After that the shampoo can be used when it is needed.
Selenium sulphide is available as Leuiuw, Selenium Sulphide Scalp Application BPC and S el sun.
Another equally useful dandruff shampoo constituent is zinc pyrithione. Products which contain 1% zinc pyrithione include Head and Shoulders and Kevlon ZP11 Formula Medicated Shampoo.
There are, of course, other shampoos available and the constituents of these vary a great deal. Many contain antiseptics and disinfectants. For example, Banish Shampoo, Betadlne Shampoo, Dandriclde, Prodan Dandruff Treatment, Torbetol Shampoo and Vaseline Medicated Shampoo all contain certain ingredients in this general category.
Salicylic acid and precipitated sulphur are both constituents of Dr Page Barker’s Dandruff Lotion and methyl salicylate is an ingredient of Gill’s Dandruff Remover. Both these can help remove the superficial layer of dead skin cells, while coal tar, which is an ingredient of Sebbix Liquid Shampoo, Tegrlu Shampoo and Vosene, can also help to improve the condition of the scalp.
There are also a number of more imaginative preparations for the treatment or prevention of dandruff. These include Eplgran, a wheat germ scalp tonic, Juniper and Buckwheat Shampoo and Nettle Extract Anti-Dandruff Lotion.
The choice of an ordinary shampoo must largely be dictated by personal preference and cosmetic requirements, but if dandruff is the problem then a shampoo containing either selenium sulphide or zinc pyrithione is probably the best buy. If one of these substances does not work then I suggest that a doctor’s advice is sought. There are more powerful products which can be prescribed.