While the woman in the above photo might look like a happy camper frolicking in the snow, I think it's safe to say she wouldn't be wearing the same child-like grin if her scalp was inundated with dandruff, a skin condition characterized by itchiness, flaking, and general inflammation of the scalp.
There are very few people who haven't ever experienced dandruff at some point in their lives, though much like herpes or other skin conditions, it comes with a pretty hefty stigma attached, which is why people — myself included — are perennially on the hunt for fixes. And believe it or not, there are actually quite a few, super-simple things you can do to ensure you stay scale-free this season. With the help of hairstylist Meri Kate O'Connor and New York City-based dermatologist Francesca Fusco find out how you can avoid the flakes for good.
Morning and night, O'Connor recommends brushing your hair gently but thoroughly with a mixed-bristle (plastic and boar) brush, like one of the famous Mason Pearson brushes, which you can read more about here, as the bristles aid in distributing the oils evenly throughout the hair while exfoliating at the same time. "It also stimulates the blood flow in your scalp to release more oils and unclog the hair follicles, which will also help to stimulate hair growth," she adds.
If you're dealing with dandruff, it's absolutely essential that you're using the proper cleansing products to address the condition head-on. For this, Fusco recommends products that contain zinc pyrithione, which can be found in Dove's DermaCare Anti-Dandruff Shampoo and Conditioner, which she says she's a fan of.
"Regular use of this product clears dandruff, AND leaves hair shiny, nourished and manageable," she explains, adding that it's especially great because you can use it as your regular go-to shampoo and conditioner, while also fighting unwanted flakiness.
O'Connor adds that she likes exfoliating formulas that help rid the scalp of dead skin cells and product buildup. "I really like Kérastase Bain Exfoliant Hydratant or Shu Uemura Essential Drops but if you have color-treated hair, make sure you find a formula that is color-safe."
She also explains that if you do have colored hair, you can easily create your own formula by mixing a few drops of Shu Uemura's Essential Drops into your color-safe shampoo, or you can apply the drops directly to the scalp. "The peppermint fragrance will tingle a bit and stimulate the scalp to release healthy oils, which will help with dryness and flaking," she says.
It may seem counter to common advice in recent years, but O'Connor says if you're not washing your hair enough, it can lead to product buildup, which can then lead to clogged hair follicles, which exacerbate dandruff. "Clogged hair follicles can cause minor to severe scalp irritation — in other words, a dry, flaky scalp and, in worst-case scenarios, hair loss," she explains. So make sure to give yourself a good shampooing and nice scalp massage every third day.
It's no secret that our skin craves nourishment and hydration, and the skin on your scalp is no exception. Fusco stresses the importance of getting foods with omega fatty acids in your diet, as well as eating a balanced diet in general.
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