Remember those head & shoulders commercials from the 70s and 80s? Two women would be eyeing some cute guy, all ready to rip off his clothes, and then he'd reach up and brush a few dandruff flakes off his shoulder and the women would be all Eeww! Forget it!
And it was like, bitches, puh-leeze! He's got a few skin flakes on his shirt, not a turd smeared across his face. Those were dumb ads.
Dandruff is not the end of the world, and it certainly shouldn't be enough to make you a social pariah.
But it can be annoying, itchy, sometimes painful and, admittedly, a little unsightly. One thing everyone agrees on is that you gotta shampoo your hair, people.
Not washing your hair is so early 90s.
What the experts say
"A fungus commonly found on the body called Pityrosporum ovale or Malassezia furfur eats the oil we produce in our skin sweat glands, called sebum. As the fungus eats the sebum, it irritates the skin, and this causes a higher turnover of skin cells. Any environmental or emotional reaction can lead to more dandruff (stress, wearing a hat, humidity, hormones, hair products). Common over-the-counter remedies are selenium suspensions (Selsun), zinc pyrithiones (Head & Shoulders), salicylic acid (Ionil), coal tar (Neutrogena T/Gel) and ketoconazole (Nizoral). Natural alternatives are tea tree oil , thyme oil , apple cider vinegar , lime or lemon juice . Limit refined sugar and alcohol, take a good probiotic , omega 3 fatty acid , zinc and a multivitamin with plenty of B vitamins .'
DANIEL WATTERS , naturopath, Rosedale Natural Health Clinic, Toronto
"Dandruff has to do with blood deficiency, so you can look at it as lack of circulation to the head or as the quality of the blood not being good. Make sure you're really scrubbing your scalp every day in the shower. Brushing your hair really makes a difference. Often vegetarians have blood deficiencies. It's tough to do vegetarianism well. In India, for example, they have chickpea or lentil flour or some sort of bean with every meal, but here that's often not the case. Tofu is hard to digest. Stress is another factor. Muscle tension in the scalp leads to poor blood circulation in the area. Acupuncture , herbs , massage , sex - all those things are good. This time of year soups and strews made with meat help nourish the blood.
KALEB MONTGOMERY , Chinese medicine practitioner, Toronto
"Scaling is part of the normal turnover process, but excessive scaling is called dandruff. This could be a mild form of seborrheic dermatitis, which is a mild form of psoriasis, or it could just be dandruff. The prime trigger is heredity. Winter or stress can also trigger the condition, as can chemicals on the scalp like harsh detergents or straighteners. Keep the hair as short and clean as you can, with the emphasis on clean. Cortisone lotions can be put on the scalp at bedtime and shampooed out in the morning. Dovonex solution is a vitamin D analogue. People use lubricants or salicylic acid or sulphur preparations . You want to eat healthy, but diet is not what I would call a major factor.'
HOWARD DONSKY , FRCPC, head of dermatology, Dermatology and Cosmetic Center, author of Beauty Is Skin Deep, Rochester, New York
"It's important to use olive oil , which has antibacterial properties. Don't eat refined sugar or refined carbohydrates. Alkalize the body so the PH is well balanced. Eat less meat . Meat is the most acidic. Fish , nuts and seeds are better. So are asparagus , bamboo shoots , carrots , celery , chives . More alkalizing fruits are papayas and cherries . Acidophilus definitely helps balance the flora. The B2s and B6s are good for preventing skin disorders. Pine and rosemary oils help with scalp circulation. You put it in olive oil and massage it into your hair. If you dilute grain alcohol with four parts water, then add the pine oil and rub it in, this will have an antiseptic effect. I hear this really, really works.'
VIVIAN LEE , holistic nutritionist, Toronto