6 Ways to Tackle Dandruff

If you have dandruff, you might find that your condition gets worse around this time of year. The extreme change in the weather and lack of humidity can wake up psoriasis, Malassezia yeasts, and seborrheic dermatitis (the common causes of dandruff). But the weather isn’t the only culprit—winter-related habits might also play a role. Use these tips from Dr. Ilyse Lefkowicz, a New York-based dermatologist and clinical instructor in the Department of Dermatology at Mount Sinai Medical Center, to help keep the flakes at bay.

Take a deep breath and relax. Anxiety doesn’t only make you edgy and irritated, says Dr. Lefkowicz. Dandruff symptoms also increase with stress. “My first question is, ‘What’s going on?’ Is there a stressful event that’s triggering this reaction?” Any time your immune system is altered, it can provoke dandruff flare-ups.

Lather up more often. Most dermatological conditions are aggravated by excessive washing—but this isn’t the case with dandruff. In fact, this is the one condition that actually gets better with washing, says Lefkowicz. Dandruff doesn’t make your hair and scalp dirty. Instead, the fungus that resides on our scalps some feeds off sebum—wash effectively and you’ll reduce the sebum, cutting off the food supply.

Massage your scalp. Your dandruff shampoo isn’t just made for your hair—it’s also working on your scalp. For the best results, put the shampoo directly onto your scalp and clean the skin there. “Finger contact with scalp is important,” says Lefkowicz, who suggests gently massaging the area. It doesn’t take long, either: “As long as [the shampoo] makes contact with your scalp, the technology will sink in,” she says.

Bathe with lukewarm water. It’s tempting to take a hot shower on chilly mornings, but try to resist the allure. Heat irritates the scalp and encourages inflammation. “When you use very hot water, you are affecting the skin moisture barrier,” says Lefkowicz, who suggests cool to lukewarm water.

Don’t go to sleep with wet hair. Always make sure your hair is dry before you lay your head on your pillow. “Any warm, moist environment favors yeast production,” says Lefkowicz. Slapping on a hat when your hair is still wet is yet another way to encourage growth. Besides, hat head anddandruff is not a winning combination.