Dandruff is a hyper-proliferative affliction of the skin of the scalp, meaning that for some reason the skin has a rapid rate of turnover and flakes off in excessive amounts. Although emboldened with it’s own scientific name (Pityriasis simplex capillitii, complete with no less than eleven syllables and a double ‘ii’ thrown in for good measure), the term ‘dandruff’ is really more of a wastebasket diagnosis, meaning that any number of factors can cause it. But even if they don’t fess up directly, those dandruff shampoo manufacturers are betting that it’s caused by a fungal infection. Just go take a look at your bottle of anti-dandruff shampoo. Ketoconazole? Selenium sulfide? Zinc pyrithione? All anti-fungals. Hmm. Could it be that everyone’s dandruff is caused by a fungal infection? But why on earth would so many people have this problem?
Shampoo is derived from the Indian word ‘champu’, referring to a head massage. Although most of us have a bottle of it in the shower, it was only a couple generations ago that we in the West even learned about the virtues and benefits of this new-fangled hair product called sham-poo (yes, the Europeans were admittedly a smelly bunch…). But instead of washing our hair with herbal rinses and floral waters, massaging and combing it with a little coconut oil as they traditionally do in India, the stuff we call shampoo is closer to industrial run-off mixed with water, a toxic soup of ingredients with untiringly complicated names like sodium laureth sulfate, methylchloroisothiazolinone and polymethacrylamidopropyltrimonium chloride. Fortified with such ingredients, the cosmetic industry would have us believe that these fantastic concoctions will apparently leave us with not only luscious controllable hair, but if you’re a woman, you will for sure have an orgasm every time you shower, and then later on, you’ll be magnetically attracted to a computer nerd that’s found an under-arm spray that gives him an irresistible odour. Let’s hope he’s as rich as Bill Gates…
And it would be all so wonderful except that the promise of bouncing hair, libidinous showers and spontaenous hookups has given way to the realization that you have dandruff. But why? Gather round my friends, and I will shed a little secret, not as the little flakes that now flutter down from your hair, but as a purifying, clarifying bath in the water of traditional knowledge. It may seem fantastic to consider, but if you are one of those vigilant daily hair-washer with dandruff, it is very likely that the cause of your dandruff is the very thing you are using to clean your hair. Loaded with antibiotic compounds including methylparaben, DMDM hydantoin and the aforementioned methylchloroisothiazolinone, the regular use of shampoo has utterly disrupted the natural ecology of your scalp. The first microorganisms to get hit were the friendly bacteria that naturally live on our skin and are supposed to surround us in a thin protective bacterial membrane. After this was destroyed the fungi moved in, and being naturally more resilient to these preservatives, they dig in for the long haul, growing into the epidermis of the scalp, stimulating the skin to shed faster to rid itself of the fungus. So now you turn to the anti-dandruff shampoos, and the stuff works for a while, but you find you have to use it regularly to beat back the fungus. You slowly arrive at the realization that you have become a dandruff-sufferer, only one of the millions that Corporate America feels sorry for, which in their great compassion lovingly manufacture their products with only your self-esteem in mind. But you’re trapped, and if you skip a wash your hair joneses for the shampoo, and like a strung out addict your hair descends into a spiral of greasy flakes. “Hey Brother, can you spare this hair a dime?”
So what’s the solution? Get off the drugs, treat the fungus within and restore the body’s natural ecology by following these steps:
1. Avoid all sweets, sugars, breads, pasta, pastries, dried fruit, natural sugars, most fruit, ice cream, milk and yogurt. Eat whole grains, root vegetables, leafy greens, high quality animal products (organic, free-range, wild), and live-culture fermented foods.
2. Make sure you get you omega 3 fatty acids in your diet, in the form of wild seafood, leafy green vegetables, and grass-fed and wild animal produce. Likewise, try to eliminate your consumption of omega 6 fats such as corn oil, sunflower oil, grapeseed oil, and safflower oil, as well as refined omega 3 oils such as canola oil.
3. Take herbs that have an antifungal and skin supportive activity, such as Turmeric, Bupleurum and Oregon Grape root. These bitter-tasting herbs help to inhibit fungal growth and development.
4. Use oils like coconut to massage into your hair and scalp on a daily basis, and if you do have a fungal infection, mix in a little Neem oil and/or Tea tree with the coconut oil, and leave it in the hair for 20-30 minutes a day
5. Try using your morning, mid-stream urine to wash your hair. Although it sounds weird, urine has natural antimicrobial compounds that inhibit microbes, as well as components that reduce scalp inflammation and softens the hair.
6. In real tough infections, I directly apply a tincture of cedar to the scalp, which is a potent antifungal herb.
7. In Ayurveda there are special hair oils you can use to treat dandruff, like Bhringaraj taila, made with ‘bhringaraj’, or ‘ruler of the hair’, and if you have black hair, try Amla hair oil.
8. Try massaging some yogurt into your hair, as the probiotics help to restore the scalp’s ecology. Like the Neem oil, just leave the yogurt in for 20-30 minutes at a time before rinsing it off with water. You can also try using unpasteurized apple cider vinegar instead, which has similar probiotic properties.
9. Instead of regular shampoo, you can also try making a strong infusion of herbs such as Rosemary, Oregano, Thyme, Nettle, Horsetail and Hibiscus flower. Let it cool, and pour it through your hair as a rinse. If you need something stronger, use a little castile soap, or try a powder of green mung bean, which is the traditional soap used in ancient India.
Apart from these ideas, make sure to follow a good diet, get plenty of exercise and stay hydrated. Within a few weeks you should begin begin to notice improvement, as the fungus dies and the ecology of your scalp begins to normalize.