The Real Fix For Dandruff


Posted on: October 10, 2017

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Most women at some point have been bothered by dandruff. Your hairdresser will probably tell you it’s caused by a dry scalp.

But the truth is that dandruff results from an oily condition of your head. Doctors call it “seborrheic dermatitis.” And they’ll probably recommend an over-the-counter dandruff shampoo for it.

The problem is these beauty industry shampoos are loaded with harsh chemicals. They irritate your scalp and make dandruff worse.

And they have terrible side effects:

Coal Tar Carcinogen linked to bladder cancer and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
Zinc Pyrithione Skin and eye irritation; nausea
Salicylic Acid Skin irritation; vomiting; dizziness
Resorcinol Irritates mucous membranes, nose, skin and eyes; linked to methemoglobinemia, a rare blood disorder
Ketoconazole Itching, hives and rash
Selenium Skin irritation and rash

And here’s the sad part… these products never get to one of the most common causes of dandruff. I’m talking about yeast.

Studies link dandruff to an overgrowth of a fungus called Malassezia furfur.1 It’s a yeast that lives on the scalps of most people. And it loves human sebum. That’s the fatty wax secreted by sebaceous glands on your head near your hair follicles.

When your body’s defenses are down, Malassezia grows out of control. It irritates the scalp and causes more skin cells to grow. The extra skin cells die and fall off, producing dandruff.

When I see a patient with dandruff I find it’s usually a sign of yeast overgrowth somewhere in the body. Usually it’s in the gut.

Bottom line?  The secret to controlling dandruff is to control the growth of this yeast. And the best way to do that is with probiotics, or good bacteria.

In one study, 30 people with dandruff took probiotics or a placebo. After 57 days, 72% of the probiotic group reduced their dandruff. Only about 34% of the placebo group had less dandruff. Levels of Malassezia yeast also dropped significantly in the probiotic group. And they had less redness, itching and greasiness.2

For my patients with dandruff, I help them rebalance their gut bacteria to keep scalp yeast in check. And that starts with your diet.

Banish Dandruff in 3 Easy Steps

1. Stop feeding the yeast. Sugar and refined carbs like bread, rice and pasta feed the yeast.  Instead, stick to a primal diet rich in meats, fish, fruits and vegetables.

2. Eat fermented foods. Yogurt, kefir, kombucha, kimchi and raw sauerkraut are loaded with probiotics. They restore the good bacteria in your digestive system. Just be sure to avoid commercial products with added sugars, flavorings, preservatives and thickeners.

3. Take a probiotic supplement. You can find probiotics as liquids, powders, tablets or capsules. The live microbes in probiotics slow the growth of bad yeasts and help maintain the right balance of the good ones. Look for a formula that includes Bacillus laterosporus and Lactobacillus paracasei. Both of these strains have been shown to be effective in reducing dandruff.

Also look for capsules that guarantee 10-20 billion CFUs (colony forming units) at the expiration date. Probiotics are very sensitive to heat, humidity, pH levels and oxygen. Between the time of packaging and the time you take them, billions of the bacteria may die off. The best products are refrigerated to protect the good bugs.

And for quick dandruff relief, try this easy homemade shampoo instead of chemical versions.  The coconut oil is anti-fungal. And lemongrass essential oil has been proven to significantly reduce dandruff in just seven days.3

Natural Anti-Dandruff Shampoo

  • 1/4 cup coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup liquid castile soap
  • 1/2 cup vegetable glycerin
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 15 to 20 drops organic lemongrass essential oil

Combine all the ingredients in a bottle. Shake well before using.

To Your Good Health,

Al Sears, MD, CNS

1. Sommer B, Overy DP, Kerr RG. “Identification and characterization of lipases from Malassezia restricta, a causative agent of dandruff.” FEMS Yeast Res. 2015 Nov;15(7). pii: fov078.
2.Bruce Jancin “Oral Probiotic Reduces Severe Dandruff in Small Study.” Dermatology News, November 1, 2009. Accessed 5/15/17.
3.Chaisripipat W, Lourith N, Kanlayavattanakul M. “Anti-dandruff Hair Tonic Containing Lemongrass (Cymbopogon flexuosus) Oil.”Forsch Komplementmed. 2015;22(4):226-9.

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