Anti-Dandruff Shampoo: Do You Really Need It?

Sick of those pesky white flakes that gets on all your clothing? Dandruff can actually be a sign that you’ve been stressed out for a while. When your emotional and physical shape isn’t in top condition, dandruff’s the SOS signal your body’s sending you.

So what do you do then? Run to the store for some anti-dandruff shampoo? Nope. When dandruff occurs due to  stress, you don’t really need any chemicals. Stress increases sebum production, so all you need is good scalp hygiene and an improved lifestyle (read: lower stress) to get everything back to normal.

If Your Dandruff Persists – It Could Mean Some Serious Skin Condition

OK, so you’re keeping your scalp squeaky clean and is living relatively stress-free, but the dandruff is still sticking around? You should probably think about getting a professional diagnosis. Persistent dandruff can be due to other serious skin conditions, which require proper clinical treatment.

Anti-dandruff shampoo should only be used through a prescription, after consultation with a dermatologist or a trichologist.

This is because many scalp conditions may be mistaken as the common dandruff.  And these usually cannot be fixed by anti-dandruff shampoo. In fact, in some cases, these conditions may be aggravated by the anti-dandruff shampoo and get worse. These include:

  • Eczema: a medical condition in which patches of skin become rough and inflamed, with blisters that cause itching and bleeding, sometimes resulting from a reaction to irritation
  • Psoriasis: a skin disease marked by red, itchy, scaly patches
  • Allergic chemical dermatitis: an allergic response caused by contact with a substance
  • Seborrhoeic dermatitis: a type of skin rash
  • Pityriasis steatoides: a form of dandruff and scales on the scalp due to a fungus that is not contagious
  • Pityriasis amantasia: scalp condition that causes scaling, and can occur in patches anywhere on your scalp

While the actual causes of dandruff still aren’t clear, it has been found that a scaly scalp is a breeding ground for microorganisms. This is because dead skin cells combined your sweat and sebum make up the perfect party ground for these microorganisms. Especially the ones named pitysporum ovale, a type of fungus.

Anti-Dandruff Shampoo Works Only Temporarily

The anti-dandruff shampoo’s usual tactic is to destroy the party grounds of these microorganisms. It also shows the existing microorganisms the door. To do this, the shampoo uses cytostatic compounds which inhibits cell growth. 

Popular cytostatic compounds include selenium disulphide, salicylic acid and coal tar. Don’t know what these terms mean? No worries. We’ve done the research and all you need to know is that they are toxic, especially selenium disulphide. This is why these ingredients are mostly included only in prescription uses.

If you purchase an over-the-counter anti-dandruff shampoo, it’ll wash away the dandruff, but not the underlying cause of the dandruff. When the underlying cause isn’t addressed, your dandruff will probably return with a vengeance. Be aware that many anti-dandruff shampoos are also rather potent and can dry out your scalp.

The best way to defeat dandruff is to find out why you have it in the first place. A dermatologist or a trichologist is usually your best bet at discovering the cause of the dandruff.


Do you have dandruff? How did you finally get rid of it? Let us know in the comments below or on our Facebook page!


Edited by: The HealthWorks Team
Adapted from: “Hair Hygiene” by Rozanna Chung, professional trichologist. Questions? Check out her website Hairlab.

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