Suzy Cohen, has been a licensed pharmacist for over 30 years and believes the best approach to chronic illness is a combination of natural medicine and conventional. She founded her own dietary supplement company specializing in custom-formulas, some of which have patents. With a special focus on functional medicine, thyroid health and drug nutrient depletion, Suzy is the author of several related books including Thyroid Healthy, Drug Muggers, Diabetes Without Drugs, and a nationally syndicated column.
I’ve had dandruff for years and it’s so embarrassing. I’ve tried everything, but I think you’re smart so I want your advice. Can you help me? I’m fed up to my head and shoulders! – S.J. Toms, River, New Jersey
Answer: Okay, funny man, I got that but don’t quit your day job just yet. Head & Shoulders is just one popular shampoo for dandruff and it works by reducing a fungus thought to cause dandruff called “malassezia.” This fungus and another yeast called pityrosporum ovale could probably be found on every scalp, but some unlucky folks are more susceptible to infection. The flakes you see are just dead skin that has come off, and it causes itchiness and redness. A more severe type is called “seborrheic dermatitis” or “cradle cap” in babies. Sensitivity to wheat protein, which is called gluten-intolerance or celiac disease, is often associated with this condition.
Read labels on dandruff products to see what the active ingredients will do for you:
Salicylic Acid or Sulfur: Products that contain these ingredients help prevent flakes and scalp build-up. Sebolux is a sulfur-based shampoo and Neutrogena’s T/Sal contains salicylic acid (which should not be used if you’re allergic to aspirin).
Ketoconazole: This is an antifungal found in Nizoral A-D shampoo, which is sold over-the-counter. It helps deal with the fungus malassezia, so it gets to the cause rather than the symptoms.
Selenium Sulfide: Reduces the amount of fungus on the scalp. You will find it in Selsun Blue shampoo (1 percent) and in the prescription product “Selenium Sulfide” (2.5 percent). It may damage your jewelry so be sure to remove it before using these products.
Coal Tar: This agent, also used to make asphalt driveways, slows down skin cell production so you don’t flake as much. You will find it in products such as Denorex and Zetar shampoo.
You’re probably itchin’ to know what home remedies might work. I’ll tell you, but please don’t e-mail me if you reek of salad dressing or look like a cast member from Grease. Rub a mixture of apple cider vinegar and lime juice (equal parts) into your scalp for 3 minutes, then shampoo/rinse. Or you can massage coconut oil into your scalp for 5 minutes, then shampoo/rinse. Do this several times a week.
And my final secret weapon is rosemary (rosmarinus officinalis) that boosts immune function and reduces inflammation. I’ve recommended it in prior columns because it may help with arthritis, tumor prevention and memory disorders. You can drink tea or take supplements. Careful ladies, rosemary can stimulate menstrual flow although studies suggest it can reduce risk for breast cancer. For dandruff, mix 1 or 2 teaspoonfuls of rosemary essential oil into your shampoo. For added benefit, also add a teaspoonful of tea tree oil, neem oil, or grapefruit seed extract to your shampoo.
Did You Know?
Nicotine is a drug mugger of biotin and can accelerate hair loss.