The word dandruff is of Anglo-Saxon origin, a combination of ‘tan’ meaning ‘tetter’ and ‘drof’ meaning ‘dirty’. It is a common scalp disorder affecting almost half of the population at the pre-pubertal age and of any gender and ethnicity. No population in any geographical region would have passed through freely without being affected by dandruff at some stage of their life.1 Dandruff is a milder form of seborrheic dermatitis.

Dandruff Treatment in Ayurveda depends on the dosha predominance of dandruff. Dosha predominance can be analyzed through the symptoms such as itching, scaling, dryness, oiliness, etc…Generally, dandruff is treated with external application or treatment. Internal medicines are used only when dandruff becomes nonresponsive to the external treatments.

What is dandruff?

Dandruff is a common condition that causes the skin on the scalp to flake. It is not contagious or serious. Those dry white flakes brush off your collar or shoulders. Dandruff affects about half of adults. Onset is usually at puberty, and it becomes less common after the age of 50. It may get worse when you are stressed or sick. Cold, dry winters can trigger dandruff or make it worse, too. Regular cleansing with a gentle shampoo in a milder phase or the use of medicated shampoo can help to reduce oily scalp. People with dried hair can be benefited from less frequent shampooing or the use of moisturizer on the hair or scalp. Antifungal creams, such as ketoconazole or salicylic acid may be used.2,3,4

Signs and symptoms of dandruff 3

  • Itchy scalp and flakiness
  • Red and greasy patches on the skin
  • Tingly feeling on the skin

Causes of dandruff

The cause is unclear but believed to involve a number of genetic and environmental factors. As the skin layers continually replace themselves, cells are pushed outward where they die and flake off. It is hypothesized that for people with dandruff, skin cells may mature and be shed in 2-7 days, as opposed to around a month in people without dandruff. The result is that dead skin cells are shed in large, oily clumps, which appear as white or grayish flakes on the scalp, skin,, and clothes.3

According to one study, dandruff has been shown to be possibly the result of three factors:

  1. Sebum or sebaceous secretions
  2. Individual susceptibility and allergy sensitivity
  3. Skin micro-organism – Malasseiza yeast: Older literature cites the fungus Malasseiza furfur as the cause of dandruff. While this species occurs naturally on the skin surface, in 2007, it was discovered that the responsible agent is a scalp-specific fungus, Malasseiza globosa.3

Types of Dandruff 5

  1. Dry skin dandruff: A common type of dandruff that tends to happen more often in winters during which the skin becomes dry, including the scalp’s skin. Dry skin dandruff flakes are small and white. The scalp may feel itchy but not excessively.
  1. Oily skin dandruff: When the sebaceous glands produce too much sebum (skin oil), it can clump together irritating the scalp and causing dandruff. Oily skin dandruff flakes tend to be larger than dry skin dandruff. The flakes may look more yellow than white and may appear oiler, too.
  1. Fungus-related dandruff: Malasseiza fungus can trigger an inflammatory response that produces dandruff.
  1. Disease-related dandruff: Some common skin conditions, including psoriasis, eczema, and seborrheic dermatitis, can affect the scalp and cause dandruff.  

Dandruff – An Ayurvedic View

Darunaka, a condition mentioned in Ayurveda can be correlated to dandruff. According to Acharya Sharangadhara and Vagbhata it is one among the kapalagata roga. But, Acharya Sushrutha and other Acharyas have described it under kshudra roga. From an Ayurvedic perspective, dry dandruff is mainly due to vata dosha while oily dandruff is due to kapha dosha. In both, the conditions pitta and rakta are vitiated.

Etiology, as explained in Ayurveda, is as follows: non-application of Kesha taila, improper cleaning, sleeping during the daytime, exposure to dust, etc.

The symptoms like kandu (itching), rukshatha (dryness), keshabhumi kathinyata (brittle or hard texture of scalp), twaksphutana (scaling).6,7,8

Dandruff treatment in Ayurveda 8

tala podichil

Under the chapter of kshudra rogadhikara, the treatment for darunaka (dandruff) is mentioned in the form of snehana (oleation), swedana (fomentation), nasya (installation of nasal drops), shiromala prakshalana (hair wash), shiro basti (holding medicated oil in the structure made over the head), shiro lepa (application of medicated paste)

Various references in Ayurveda describe about hair problems where the medicinal drugs used are made into paste form and applied over scalp and hair to treat darunaka (dandruff). Medicated oils have a great role to treat dandruff. So, both applications and oils are beneficial in tackling dandruff. To mention a few of those are below:

  • Blackgram soaked in kanji for three weeks is made into paste form 
  • Powder of Indian gooseberry and mango seeds in the paste form
  • A paste made of mango seeds, haritaki (Myrobalan), and milk
  • Paste of poppy seeds and milk
  • Oils such as triphaladya taila, chitrakadya taila, gunja taila, bhringaraja taila etc. 
Shiro Dhara

Common Ayurvedic medicines used in treating dandruff

Ayurvedic Oil for Dandruff

Ayurvedic powder for hair wash in dandruff

Diet and Lifestyle in Dandruff 9

A nutritious diet is always good for dandruff. Increase intake of zinc and biotin. Zinc plays an important role in tissue growth and hair and scalp repair. Biotin keeps digestion healthy and is required by zinc as well. Food rich in zinc is pumpkin seeds, peanuts, etc, and biotin is available in eggs, yogurt, tomatoes, and carrots.

Probiotics can help to fight against the fungus responsible for dandruff, and also reduce scalp erythema, itching, and greasiness. 

A protein-rich diet is essential as protein is the foundation of your hair and will keep the hair strong. Foods such as eggs, chicken, dairy products, and pulses are beneficial.

Regular hair washes, application of hair oil, hair fomentation, avoiding exposure to dry and cold weather, and use of anti-dandruff shampoo or any medicated shampoo advised by a physician are always beneficial.

Home remedies for dandruff 10,11

  • Methi seeds (fenugreek): Soak one tablespoon of methi seed powder and one tablespoon of Triphala powder in a bowl of curds overnight. Next morning apply over the hair and scalp and wash after an hour. This application can be done once or twice a week.
  • Coconut oil and lemon: Take a bowl of coconut oil and heat it for two minutes. Then add one tablespoon of lemon juice to it and mix it thoroughly. Apply it over the hair and leave it overnight or can be applied two hours before hair wash. Once a week is beneficial.
  • Aloe vera gel: Combine one cup of aloe vera gel with two tablespoons of castor oil. Apply this to your scalp and leave it overnight. Wash the hair the next morning.
  • Add two tablespoons of aloe vera gel to the paste of fenugreek seeds and mix thoroughly. Apply this paste to the scalp and leave it for one hour. Rise the hair with water.
  • Take two glasses of buttermilk and mix one tablespoon of Triphala choorna in it and keep it overnight. Next morning, wash your hair.
  • Apple cider vinegar: Add some apple cider vinegar to water in equal parts and keep it aside. After washing your hair, apply the mix to your wet hair. Gently massage your hair with the mix. Leave to dry for fifteen minutes and then rinse it off.
  • Orange peel: Take orange peel and then squeeze some lemon juice onto it. Grind it to a paste form and apply it to your scalp. Let it dry for 30 minutes and then wash the hair thoroughly.
  • Egg yolk: Keep the hair and scalp dry and apply egg yolk over it. Cover the hair with a plastic hair cap and leave it for one hour. Wash the hair gently with shampoo thoroughly to remove the bad odor.
  • Green tea: Apply green tea over the scalp and allow it to dry for 30 minutes. And then rinse your hair with water.
  • Basil leaves Some basil leaves, two teaspoons of amla powder, and two teaspoons of water. Mix all these ingredients together and make a paste of it. Apply the paste gently over the scalp and let it dry for 30 minutes and then rinse the hair with water.
  • Olive oil: Apply olive oil over hair and then wash it after ten minutes.
  • Garlic: A few garlic cloves and one tablespoon of honey are mixed and made into a smooth paste. Apply the paste to the scalp and let it dry for fifteen minutes. Rinse your hair with water.
  • Neem leaves: Boil the neem leaves in water and wash the hair.

When to see a doctor

Consult a specialized doctor (dermatologist), when dandruff does not go away with the use of shampoos or when the symptoms worsen and are embarrassing.

Conclusion

Proper hygiene of hair and scalp is the primary care to prevent dandruff. Ayurveda has a wide variety of applications or hair oils to treat dandruff. Although dandruff is not harmful yet it is crucial from the cosmetic aspect of an individual. 

NOTE:
“This article does not provide medical advice. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on this WebSite. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call or visit your doctor.”
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References and citations

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2887514/
  2. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/dandruff/symptoms-causes/syc-20353850
  3. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dandruff
  4. https://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/understanding-dandruff-basics
  5. https://www.healthline.com/health/types-of-dandruff
  6. https://www.ijhsr.org/IJHSR_Vol.10_Issue.4_April2020/11.pdf
  7. https://www.wjpmr.com/download/article/80042021/1620042625.pdf
  8. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/356040012_An_Ayurvedic_approach_in_the_Management_of_Darunak_Dandruff_A_Review
  9. https://www.healthshots.com/beauty/hair-care/this-is-the-ultimate-dandruff-diet-for-hair/amp
  10. https://www.hindustantimes.com/lifestyle/health/ayurveda-remedies-to-deal-with-dandruff-in-winter-season-101639314504442-amp.html
  11. https://pharmeasy.in/blog/15-home-remedies-to-cure-dandruff-naturally/amp/

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