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Stop Blaming Winter For Dandruff, It's More Complicated Than That

Just being real with you: One in two people in the world have suffered from dandruff at some point in their lives.

Oh hi there, you caught us in the middle of weeping ... weeping many tears that winter is coming.

You know, sure, winter is lovely. We like getting cozy with a new parka. But when you have a scalp that gets irritated easily, there is no season worse than dry, dry winter because, well, dandruff.

Look, we hate to break it to you, but according to Emily Pack, senior scientist for Head & Shoulders, one in two people in the world have suffered from dandruff at some point in their lives. So even if you don't think you have a case of dandruff, you may very well experience it down the road.

And even though it's harmless, dandruff is embarrassing. No one enjoys have white flakes cover their black turtleneck sweater. And even worse, no one enjoys the itchiness, redness and dryness that also comes with it all.

But before you go blaming winter once again for your problems, you'll want to know that winter itself does not actually cause dandruff. Sure, there are common factors in colder months which can make an existing dandruff problem appear worse, but dandruff all boils down to being a hormonal issue.

"Yeast grows more easily on greasy surfaces, so people predisposed to oily skin are more likely to suffer dandruff," Pack told HuffPost Canada Style in an email.

"This predisposition may be genetic, and if so, dandruff would more likely run in families. Stress and emotional problems may result in increased sensitivity to itchiness, but it is unlikely to be the sole source of scalp discomfort, even though some believe this to be the case."

Some people unfortunately deal with the chronic condition of dandruff (yes, people, this means there is NO cure), which can be quite intense. This type of dandruff is called Seborrheic dermatitis. Pack described this as "a skin disorder that affects areas of the body where sebum — the natural oil produced by your skin cells — is produced, including: the scalp, face and upper torso."

Pack said it's caused by the same factors as less-intense dandruff, but has more extreme symptoms, such as flaky, itchy or red skin.

Regardless if you have Seborrheic dermatitis or a slight case of dandruff, a great way to fight both is by using anti-dandruff shampoo and conditioner regularly. This means not switching back and forth from shampoo to shampoo, because eventually, the flakes will return. Keeping your hair clean is key, and to do that, you must wash your hair frequently in order to avoid a buildup of dandruff-triggering scalp oil and hair styling products that may aggravate the scalp.

And for you DIY-ers out there, Pack said there a several natural remedies people have used to help get rid of dandruff, including baking soda, apple cider vinegar and coconut oil. But she also noted you need to be careful with said remedies.

"While these remedies may temporarily mask the symptoms of dandruff, they’re not the best solutions for tackling the root cause of dandruff [or] prevent it from coming back," she explained. "In fact, since some of them have very high or very low pH levels, they may upset the natural balance of your scalp and hair, causing damage over time."

And if you're wearing a toque each and every day of winter to keep cozy (like the true Canadian you are), you may want to rethink your choice of headgear. According to Pack, hats can create a warm, humid microclimate around your scalp — "the perfect environment for dandruff-causing microbes to thrive!"


One last thing to avoid? Going to bed with wet hair.

"Malassezia, the dandruff-causing microbe, thrives best in warm, damp environments. Make sure that your hair is thoroughly dry before you fall asleep," Pack revealed.

So there you have it. You got 99 problems and dandruff is probably one of them. And that's OK, because a lot of us are trying to live our lives and deal with it too.

For more facts about dandruff, check out the slideshow below!

Dandruff Facts

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