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An estimated 25 million American women battle the confidence-draining effects of dandruff, spending millions each year to remedy the problem. “Dandruff occurs when underlying factors-such as stress or a fungal overgrowth-cause scalp cells to die and flake off at an accelerated rate,” explains Diana Bihova, M.D., a dermatologist in New York City “Commercial treatments may work well at first, but over time they become less effective. To defeat dandruff for good, you must treat the core causes.” Here, the proven strategies that will help any woman restore scalp health and self-confidence.
Stop stress hormones with this vitamin
Stress triggers the production of corticotropin-releasing hormone and adrenaline, two compounds that boost the secretion of sebum, a natural lubricant that makes the scalp susceptible to dandruff says Joshua Fox, M.D., of’ Advanced Dermatology P.C. and The Center for Laser and Cosmetic Surgery in New York. Chronic stress also depletes the body’s stores of vitamin B6, a vital component of healthy skin and scalp cells and a key player in the production of serotonin, a calming brain chemical. So simply maintaining healthy levels of B6 serves double duty in the fight against flakes. To ensure an adequate intake, Dr. Fox recommends consuming 2 mg of B6 daily (Good sources include tuna (1.2 mg per 4 oz. serving), bananas (.7mg each) and avocados (.3mg each).
Decrease flaking by 41% with tea tree oil
University of Pennsylvania researchers have discovered that dandruff sufferers harbor 28 percent more of the fungus pityrosporum ovale than flake-free subjects. To the rescue: tea tree oil. “It’s rich in terpenes, compounds that have proven antifungal powers,” explains Tim Schwaiger, N.M.D., of Southwestern Naturopathic Medical Center in Arizona. In fact, lathering daily with a 5 percent tea tree oil shampoo was shown to decrease flaking and itchiness by 41 percent. (Try Nature’s Gate Tea Tree Oil Shampoo, $8 for 18 oz.; at nutritionblvd.com.)
Reduce inflammation by 62% with aloe vera
Dandruff and an itchy scalp go hand in hand, but scratching only increases inflammation and flaking. To stop the cycle, choose a conditioner with aloe vera: It contains acemannan, a compound with anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial action that reduces dandruff-related inflammation by 62 percent, according to a Journal of Dermatological Treatment study. (Try Mill Creek Aloe Vera Conditioner, $6 for 16 oz.: at nutritionblvd.com.)