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Dandruff Dilemma: Causes, Symptoms, and Solutions

mixed dandruff shampoo

Looking for ways to get rid of dandruff? It's an unfortunate reality that most men have to deal with at some point in their lives - these unsightly flakes of white become the source of great discomfort and embarrassment too. Dandruff can be overcome with the right knowledge and a bit of care, turning to the root of the problem.

There are many factors to note when it comes to dandruff: dry skin, excess oil production on the scalp, all of which can be exacerbated by the haircare and styling products you use.

The skin is an intelligent organ, but not a faultless one. Our skin cells are constantly renewing themselves, as old cells are pushed to the surface and out of the scalp, replaced with new ones. For normal functioning cycles, this process is gradual and inconspicuous. However, for those with irritated skin (read: dandruff), the turnover cycle occurs much more frequently as the skin tries to return to equilibrium, responding to this disruption. This results in redness, itchiness, and the excessive shedding of skin.

But what causes this irritation in the first place? A common culprit is in fact a fungus by the name Malassezia. It is naturally found on the skin, and tends to rapidly proliferate. Malassezia feeds on the natural oils produced by the scalp, known as sebum. Oily conditions on the skin exacerbate this, and as it metabolises these oils, it produces irritating and inflaming byproducts. This can also trigger the body’s immune response - hastening the skin turnover process.

Annoying? Yes. Treatable? Definitely.

Treating Dandruff

The answer is ingredients - which we’ll detail in turn. There are many natural ingredients touted for their anti-dandruff benefits - which often constitutes a considerable array of products with a lot of ‘anti’ attached to their name: antimicrobial, antifungal, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory. Tea Tree, Rosemary, Eucalyptus, Juniper Berry, Peppermint, and Lavender oils are especially useful, and not only quell fungal growth, but also soothe the scalp, reducing itchiness, irritation, inflammation, and redness. 


Many common and daily shampoos employ an assortment of these botanical ingredients in order to holistically address the health and wellbeing of the scalp and hair.

Firsthand Supply’s Hydrating Shampoo cleanses without drying, maintaining the hydration and moisturisation factor of the scalp - a blend of lavender, juniper berry, and wormwood oils not only scents the hair, but ensures its health. It’s the ideal for those who wish to keep mild forms of dandruff in check, and is gentle enough to be used daily.

For those wishing to draw upon potent botanical extracts, Geo. F. Trumper’s Medicated Shampoo uses a highly effective and all-natural combination of Ziziphus Joazeiro Bark, Juniper Tar, and Eucalyptus Oil, leaving dandruff little chance of persisting. Tar ingredients are an old but effective treatment, slowing down the production of skin cells on the scalp, soothing and reducing inflammation. 

Native to Brazil, Ziziphus Joazeiro Bark is commonly understood as an antibacterial well-suited for a broad spectrum of dermatological concerns, but in fact works synergistically with other ingredients - reducing the concentration required for bacterial growth inhibition. In other words, it makes everything else more effective.

Piroctone Olamine (PO) and Zinc Pyrithione are two of the most popular anti-dandruff compounds used in many dandruff-specific shampoos today. Next generation products prefer Piroctone Olamine over Zinc Pyrithione, which is superior not only in terms of its efficacy, but also in its reduced ecological impact. It more gently treats the hair, washes out easily after it has done its work, and is less susceptible to drying out the hair. Opposed to degreasing the hair and therefore controlling the environment in which the yeast thrives, PO relies on an antioxidant action - disrupting the cell membrane of the yeast itself.

Morris Motley’s Anti-Dandruff Conditioning Shampoo utilises 1% Piroctone Olamine in its formula. Whilst it gets to work, a powerful blend of conditioning oils (the good sort) and regulating Niacinamide cares for hair and scalp, promoting circulation and hydration. The presence of Shea Butter Extract is rich in fatty acids and nutrients important for moisturising and strengthening hair follicles, while also reducing scalp irritation. Argan Kernel Oil deeply nourishes and moisturises hair while Spent Grain Wax inhibits inhibits and helps relieve irritation of the skin. It would be remiss of us not to mention the incredible smell of this product - a woody pine and cedar 'hinoki' dominant smell supported with spices, including nutmeg, black pepper, and Ceylonese cinnamon. 

Keeping Dandruff at Bay

If you’re one to wash your hair on the daily, ensure your shampoo is appropriate for frequent use: daily is a popular term to look out for. Washing your hair regularly will reduce dead skin build-up and keep it clean and healthy. Massage your hair in the shower to promote some blood flow, but to ensure the product reaches the scalp and has the time to get to work. Hot water exacerbates dryness - and using lukewarm water is a small yet significant change in routine that might make all the difference.

This is especially important if you opt to use a styling product - a shampoo must wash without stripping. Seek products rich with natural extracts and hydrating ingredients. Consider, for instance, Quicksand from Hanz de Fuko, which employs soft and granular diatomaceous rock which absorbs excess oil on the hair and scalp. While Morris Motley’s Matte Styling Balm is generous with many healthy and hydrating oils, nourishing the scalp with wear. Look for products that won’t clog the pores on your scalp - or even make use of a light touch when it comes to application.