Dandruff (or dry flaky scalp) is an itchy, annoying and persistent skin disorder of the scalp. Dandruff appears to be on the rise in the United States. There are many theories about what actually causes dandruff and a variety of treatments to control it. Dandruff can happen at any age (called cradle cap in newborns and infants) but is most commonly found in people above the age of 12.

Suggested internal causes include hormonal imbalance, excessive perspiration, excessive consumption of sugar, fat, or starch, emotional stress, lack of rest, heredity pre-disposition, poor hygiene, allergy (dairy products, chocolate, nuts and shellfish), and poor nutrition.

Possible external causes include infrequent shampooing of the hair or inadequate rinsing, cold weather and dry indoor heating, improper use of hair-coloring products, hairsprays and gels or excessive use of electric hair curlers, and infection with a fungus called Pityrosporum ovale. P. ovale lives on our bodies and scalp all the time, usually without causing a problem. Unfortunately, for some people, it can increase in numbers, leading to dandruff.

Dandruff has been blamed on a multiplicity of causes, but a recent discovery (Nov 2007) has uncovered the cause – a yeast-like fungus, Malassezia globosa, which lives on your scalp, feeding on skin oils.

Dandruff is shedded skin; dandruff sufferers shed skin much more rapidly than other people. This happens because the fungus uses enzymes called lipases to metabolize the oils, which creates a by-product called oleic acid. The acid penetrates your skin and triggers skin cell shedding.

A team of researchers for Procter & Gamble (manufacturers of Head & Shoulders anti-dandruff shampoo) has sequenced the DNA of the fungus and analyzed the lipases it produces. They hope these investigations will eventually lead to new treatments for dandruff.

Dandruff can be seasonal. It is most severe during the winter and mildest during the summer. Scaling can occur anywhere on the scalp, in the hair, on the eyebrows, the beard and can spread to the neck and shoulders. Dandruff is often known as “dry scalp”, but people with oily scalps tend to suffer the most.

As of 2007, the most common dandruff treatments are shampoos containing coal-tar, pyrithione zinc, salicylic acid, selenium sulfide, and sulfur. A key point to remember is to select the mildest shampoo possible. Although detergent based shampoos will clean the hair and scalp well, they often cause drying which will make the flaking worse.


Risk factors for Dandruff



EFA (Essential Fatty Acid) Requirement

A diet low in essential fatty acids can result in skin problems, such as dandruff.


Vitamin B6 Requirement

A vitamin B6 deficiency can cause dandruff.

Organ Health  

Recommendations for Dandruff


Processed Foods Avoidance

Refined carbohydrates in white flour or sugar can cause dandruff and should be avoided because they deplete the body of B vitamins.




Apple cider vinegar used as a hair rinse after a shampoo has a reputation for balancing scalp pH levels, removing soap residue and controlling dandruff.


Conventional Drugs / Information

Nizoral is the only shampoo containing a patented active ingredient known as ketoconazole. This ingredient is proven to be effective against P. ovale and acts directly to inhibit growth of the fungus. This product is the number one choice of doctors and pharmacists, when recommending an anti-dandruff shampoo. The effects of Nizoral can last several days, making daily use unnecessary.

When using Head and Shoulders or Selsun Blue, go ahead and leave the shampoo on all night under a shower cap. This increases the killing time for the active ingredients, zinc and selenium.



Strong or generally accepted link
May do some good
Likely to help
Highly recommended



Hypersensitivity caused by exposure to a particular antigen (allergen), resulting in an increased reactivity to that antigen on subsequent exposure, sometimes with harmful immunologic consequences.


Specific protein catalysts produced by the cells that are crucial in chemical reactions and in building up or synthesizing most compounds in the body. Each enzyme performs a specific function without itself being consumed. For example, the digestive enzyme amylase acts on carbohydrates in foods to break them down.


The chemical processes of living cells in which energy is produced in order to replace and repair tissues and maintain a healthy body. Responsible for the production of energy, biosynthesis of important substances, and degradation of various compounds.


Deoxyribonucleic acid, the large molecule that is the main carrier of genetic information in cells. DNA is found mainly in the chromosomes of cells.


An essential trace mineral. The functions of zinc are enzymatic. There are over 70 metalloenzymes known to require zinc for their functions. The main biochemicals in which zinc has been found to be necessary include: enzymes and enzymatic function, protein synthesis and carbohydrate metabolism. Zinc is a constituent of insulin and male reproductive fluid. Zinc is necessary for the proper metabolism of alcohol, to get rid of the lactic acid that builds up in working muscles and to transfer it to the lungs. Zinc is involved in the health of the immune system, assists vitamin A utilization and is involved in the formation of bone and teeth.


An essential element involved primarily in enzymes that are antioxidants. Three selenium- containing enzymes are antioxidant peroxidases and a fourth selenium-containing enzyme is involved in thyroid hormone production. The prostate contains a selenium-containing protein and semen contains relatively large amounts of selenium. Clinical studies show that selenium is important in lowering the risk of several types of cancers. In combination with Vitamin E, selenium aids the production of antibodies and helps maintain a healthy heart. It also aids in the function of the pancreas, provides elasticity to tissues and helps cells defend themselves against damage from oxidation.

Essential Fatty Acid

(EFA): A substance that the human body cannot manufacture and therefore must be supplied in the diet.

Vitamin B6

Influences many body functions including regulating blood glucose levels, manufacturing hemoglobin and aiding the utilization of protein, carbohydrates and fats. It also aids in the function of the nervous system.

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