Anti-Dandruff tips for the winter
February 6, 2004 7:56 AM   Subscribe

Ask MetaFlaker: Dandruff [more]

A couple of weeks of 24/7 sub-zero temperatures here in New England has left me scratching my head. I get bad dandruff every year around the coldest days of January and it tends to continue until April. In the past I've tried most of the OTC shampoo remedies: tar, pyrithione zinc, salicylate, selenium sulfide, and those now-available-without-prescription (but with-the-same-exorbitant-price) ones with names like Flazoxil and Nizorquidal. None seems to make much difference. Anyone have an ancient [ethnic group] secret that's worked for them or should I just adopt a pastel wardrobe and wait for spring?
posted by TimeFactor to Health & Fitness (14 answers total)
Use head & shoulders as a determinant as to whether or not you need to spring for a dermatologist
posted by Fupped Duck at 8:02 AM on February 6, 2004

When you do choose a shampoo, keep to it. Changing shampoo too often can aggravate Dandruff. Also, wearing hats will dry out and irritate your scalp.
posted by MintSauce at 8:10 AM on February 6, 2004

I am not sure what will work for you, but I can see why Nizoral and other antifungals don't work; if a fungal infection were the cause of your ills, the problem would be worse in hot, humid settings (here in GA in the summer). Your problem is more likely caused by cold dry air, but I don't know what the best solution is. If you can wash your hair less and use cooler wather, that might help; that is standard dermatologist advice for winter skin care in general.
posted by TedW at 8:14 AM on February 6, 2004

aveda makes a "scalp treatment"--it's basically moisturizer for your head that won't make your hair look gross and greasy. it works wonders. you apply it during the "styling" phase of your morning ablutions.

i have found that dandruff shampoos actually aggravate the dry scalp thing that comes from overheated buildings.
posted by crush-onastick at 8:18 AM on February 6, 2004

From the sounds of it, you don't have dandruff, you have dry scalp, these are not the same thing (dandruff is caused by a fungus, dry scalp is caused by not enough sebum on your scalp). I agree with TedW: wash your hair as infrequently as possible (it'll be gross for a bit, but your scalp will adjust), use the coolest water you can stand, and moisturize your scalp with a moisturizing conditioner (you can also get a Head & Shoulders specifically for dry scalp, try that). Also, don't use a dandruff shampoo every time you wash your hair, use it only twice a week (or every 3-4 shampoos), and use a clear or moistirizing shampoo the other times.
posted by biscotti at 8:19 AM on February 6, 2004

And don't use cheap shampoos like Suave that dry out your scalp.
posted by mecran01 at 8:33 AM on February 6, 2004

Try tea tree oil shampoo and conditioner - much friendlier to the body than those nasty chemical concoctions.
posted by gottabefunky at 9:52 AM on February 6, 2004

Yeah, I'd vote for a dry scalp shampoo. My mother had the same problem until she tried the H&S dry scalp, and now loves it.
posted by Hackworth at 10:03 AM on February 6, 2004

If you don't mind going short-hair (like, buzz) or dome, that usually helps me with dandruff come wintertime.
posted by Yelling At Nothing at 10:07 AM on February 6, 2004

If dandruff is caused by a fungus, why does it return when you use a non-dandruff shampoo? I always thought that H & S worked by kinda sticking the flakes to the scalp (I think i just grossed myself out)
posted by dash_slot- at 12:37 PM on February 6, 2004

Take a trip to the local health food or supplement store. Ask for their recommendations on a high quality omega 3 oil supplement. Fish oil (take just before not after the meal otherwise you get fishy burps) or Flaxseed oil are good choices.
posted by Feisty at 1:34 PM on February 6, 2004

According to this:

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. An oily scalp also supports the growth of P. ovale.

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.

Nizoral is the highest recommend treatment.
posted by stbalbach at 6:02 PM on February 6, 2004

I also find that in cold weather, I try to stay as hydrated as possible. I view dry scalp (if that is what you have) to be no different from a dry face and chugging large amounts of water tends to lessen the dry skin when the humidity drops.
posted by Dagobert at 8:38 AM on February 7, 2004

Response by poster: Thanks for all your suggestions! Unfortunately I've already tried most of them to no avail. My hair is short, I coincidentally take cod liver oil daily for other reasons, my diet is good and varied, I drink lots of fluid but not coffee, My experience with any dry skin unguent applied to my scalp is that it makes things worse. Similarly, not shampooing makes things worse, as does using non-dandruff shampoo. I'd found stalbach's link on my own previously but Nizoral (and some other of that ilk whose name escapes me) works no better (or worse) than the conventional remedies but at many times the price. Oh well, I've been dealing with this annually for as long as I can remember and spring will be here soon enough.
posted by TimeFactor at 10:07 AM on February 7, 2004

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