Back in Black: Stopping Dandruff

Text by Ranel Ram Cheng

At least one in five men suffer from the flaky menace that is dandruff, bringing with it scalp irritation and awkward social situations. With a little help from the experts and a change in grooming habits, however, gentlemen can shoo away this problem and up their game.

Nothing attracts the ladies more than a guy in a black suit. It is an unspoken rule among gentlemen: a sleek tuxedo can make for a happy, lucky night for whoever wears it. But, sadly, a picture-perfect suit also makes a perfect background to emphasize the snow-like flakes that make dressing to impress difficult for any man.

An estimated 20 percent of the male population suffers from dandruff. The embarrassing condition reportedly affects more men than women all over the world. It is a fairly common skin ailment that causes dry, grayish-white dead skin to appear in the scalp or hair. While it isn’t fatal, dandruff can cause irritation, making for an itchy, unpleasant feeling on the head and the occasional embarrassment in social situations. The body normally sheds millions of dead skin cells everyday. In fact, human beings shed an average of eight pounds of skin every year. This occurs gradually and is usually unnoticeable. But for people with dandruff, the process is fast-tracked, making flakes more visible.

A United States study identified three major causes of dandruff: over-secretion by oil glands, fungi or microorganisms, and individual skin sensitivity. Meanwhile, the Britain’s National Health Service warns that dandruff can occur due to too little or too much hair washing, overuse of hair products, and even emotional stress.

At best, dandruff simply occurs as flakes on the scalp but it can also lead to more serious infections. One form of dandruff related to a skin condition called seborrheic dermatitis can develop into redness, itching, and crusting of the skin around the nose, eyebrows, ears, armpits, groin and inner thigh. Those who suffer this more severe form of dandruff notice scaly patches that turn pinkish and sometimes discharge pus or fluid. Miguel*, a 23-year-old yuppie from Ortigas, has been plagued by this problem since his early teens.

“I sometimes find people just staring at my shirt as if I wore it wrong. Then I realize it’s the dandruff.” It gets even more awkward for him because “people notice the dry patches of skin on my eyebrows, ears, even my beard, and they think I’m some kind of uncivilized caveman.”

He avoids wearing black or dark-colored shirts, fearing the potential backlash from people noticing the fallen flakes, but he can’t grow his hair longer to conceal the dandruff either. His scalp easily gets irritated.

“It gets worse during summer especially when it gets hot. That’s why I always sport short hair,” he says. He recounts that dandruff was what he was most conscious of when he hit puberty. “It was way worse back then,” he says, sharing that family members teased him about the “snow” from his head. He had his first check up with the dermatologist at 11 and has since been more careful with the products he uses on his head.

Men suffering from dandruff need not fret as there are treatments available to combat the flaky menace. There are also ways to minimize the shedding, which are mostly just simple adjustments in grooming and lifestyle:

  • Don’t be afraid to use medical shampoo.
    Different people have different levels of skin sensitivity and this applies to the scalp as well. Coal tar shampoos or shampoos that contain selenium sulfide have been found to be effective in slowing down the shedding of the skin. Miguel was prescribed this treatment for a couple of months before he transitioned to using hypoallergenic baby shampoo. Now, he uses commercially available anti-dandruff shampoo for men.
  • Mind what you put on your head.
    Men with dandruff should also be careful of what they put on their hair. Following his doctor’s advice, Miguel applies hair gel or wax sporadically, limiting use to two to three times a week or only during important occasions. Applying less is recommended but if need be, it is important to wash these off thoroughly when the day ends.
  • Let your fingers do the walking during bath time.
    Special attention should be given as well when washing the hair. When shampooing, maneuver your fingers beneath all strands and gently massage the scalp. Some people find that alternating between medicated shampoos and ordinary ones effective. Make sure to rinse the hair thoroughly when done.
  • Relax, it’s all in the head (and body).
    Believe it or not, one’s overall emotional and physical condition can literally go all the way to the head. Extraneous stress, lack of sleep, and even depression can manifest themselves through dry, flaky scalp. Dandruff in this case can become a symptom of a bigger problem. In this case, it is best to do the necessary lifestyle check and adjustments. Cliché as this may sound, eight hours of regular sleep, a healthy diet, and a positive, balanced lifestyle can do wonders!
  • When in doubt, do not scratch.
    When the scalp gets itchy, avoid scratching as this would increase irritation. Gentle pats on the head can minimize the itching sensation. A fresh shower at the end of the day can do the trick as well. If the irritation persists, however, consult a dermatologist. So for bros out there who suffer from dandruff, don’t write off that dream night in a tux just yet. Don’t settle for sweeping the problem under the rug (often, literally) and end up hiding your full potential. Nasty white flakes can end up hampering confidence and become distractions in social situations — the thing is, a little extra time and effort in your grooming goes a long way. And when a bath is just not enough, there are standard treatments are available for this very common problem. Men shouldn’t hide what should be their crowning glory and miss any occasion to SUIT UP!

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