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From itchy scalps and embarrassing flakes to dermatitis and psoriasis, the plights of dandruff reach far and wide. A common skin problem, what products really work to help combat it?

We asked renowned trichologist and Get The Gloss Expert Philip Kingsley for his expert advice on how to treat it and for his top product recommendations too. No matter how badly you suffer from it, hopefully this guide will help provide you with all the tools you need to treat it easily and effectively.

GTG: What causes dandruff, how can we prevent it?

PK: The word ‘dandruff’ is a generic term used for all types of scalp flaking whether it’s eczema, psoriasis, dermatitis, seborrheic dermatitis or, the most common form of dandruff, pityriasis capitis.

It is erroneously thought that dandruff is ‘dry scalp’ but it’s not. Dandruff is usually oily – the sebum (oil) produced by the sebaceous glands attached to the hair follicles is absorbed into the flakes making them sticky and oily. Also, a serum is often produced by the skin and hair follicles which further binds the flakes together.

Dandruff is formed by the reaction of the skin of an ever-present organism (part of the natural skin flora) called Pityrosporon ovale. Normally the secretions from the scalp (sweat and sebum) form a barrier and hold this organism in check and in a dormant state. When these secretions change adversely the skin loses its resistance causing the organisms to flourish. When the bacteria (organism) reach a certain stage, the skin of the scalp is shed more rapidly leading to dandruff flake.

The causes of adverse changes in the skin secretions can be: nutritional (too much fat and salt, not eating enough fruit or salad, not drinking enough water), using the wrong products on the hair, and stress which definitely triggers worse flaking. However, it is difficult to organise your lifestyle to counteract dandruff, particularly as these days dandruff is relatively simple to clear and control. One of the problems with dandruff is that, if you are prone to it, it tends to recur if the circumstances changing your skin secretions recur. Therefore even when it is cleared up it is advisable to use anti-dandruff products occasionally, more or less depending on how bad it is.

GTG: What over-the-counter products and anti dandruff shampoos would you recommend?

PK: There are many products available, some better than others. In my many years of experience at my London and New York clinics, I have been able to judge what the better ones are. Some anti-dandruff products which may be effective on dandruff leave the hair in an unflattering condition – heavy, greasy, dull, unmanageable, limp etc. L’Oréal Paris Elvive Anti-Dandruff Shampoo, £2.29 and Nizorelle Dandruff Control Shampoo are both good but, without blowing my own trumpet, my own Philip Kingsley Flaky Itchy Scalp Shampoo, £21 is a good option as it combines dandruff effectiveness, hair shine, manageability and ease of use.

If you read the labels on products, the most effective anti-dandruff ingredient is piroctone olamine. For hair performance it is best to avoid those with too much silicone such as dimethicone. The nearer to the top of the ingredient list, the more percentage it contains.

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GTG: Are there any specialist treatments that you would recommend for particularly bad cases?

PK: There are anti-dandruff scalp tonics and scalp masks available. I do suggest my Philip Kingsley Exfoliating Scalp Mask, £16 which helps to remove dead skin and counteract build-up of flakes. Exfoliating Scalp Mask is specifically formulated to combat flaking and itchy scalps and contains exfoliating and moisturising agents to soothe and add suppleness to the scalp.

My Philip Kingsley Flaky Itchy Scalp Toner, £19.50 is a leave in formulation with an anti-microbial and anti-flaking formula. It provides immediate and long-lasting relief from irritation.

Both of these products can be used alongside my Philip Kingsley Flaky Itchy Shampoo, £21.

GTG: Are there any dandruff myths that you would like to dispel?

PK: A rather common misconception is that dandruff is contagious. This probably stems from the fact that a flaky/itchy scalp is influenced by the presence of bacteria (microorganisms) and many people associate these words with all things catchy and contagious. However, this is a myth. You cannot catch dandruff as you already have the makings of it and all scalps are prone to it. The bacteria which causes dandruff is in fact found on everyone’s scalp. It’s part of your normal skin flora and is usually harmless.

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