African American hair presents a specific challenge with regards to the treatment of dandruff. There are certain hair practices that differ between African American hair and other hair types that need to be taken into consideration. African American hair is typically wavy or curly and thermally straightened to allow easier management of various hair styles. The hair is generally washed less frequently as the hair is pre-disposed to dryness and the time involved with straightening the hair can be labor intensive, so less washing means this process don’t need repeated as frequently. Any shampoo used for African American hair needs to be gentle to avoid drying out the scalp but powerful enough since the scalp & hair is usually washed once or twice per week and sometimes less often. Also, leave-in moisturizing products instead of rinse off products are favored to allow for more convenient hair care and without repeating time-intensive hair styling practices.
The causes of dandruff are what we call “multifactorial” which basically means multiple factors are suspected to trigger the disease. The best dandruff shampoo for African American hair targets and treats these multiple factors. Many African Americans that suffer from dandruff have a family history of the condition. Genes that play a role in the immune system or the way the skin naturally grows, and sheds is different in people with the condition giving rise to dandruff. This process with genes may be inherited from the mother or father.
Environmental factors also play an important role in dandruff. Normally, a harmless yeast called Malassezia furfur lives on the skin and hitches a ride on our bodies never causing problems. In patients with dandruff this yeast overgrows by feeding on our natural body oils. The specific oils produced by people that have dandruff are slightly different than those without, resulting in lower amounts of anti-inflammatory oils. The lower levels of anti-inflammatory oils result in an imbalance of the normal healthy skin bacteria and yeast. The yeast Malassezia furfur which is implicated in dandruff modifies our body oils. This is because it produces an enzyme called lipase which turns healthy our natural body oils into inflammatory irritating oils which then cause our immune system to infiltrate this layer of skin giving rise to dandruff symptoms.
Given the above listed multiple causes for dandruff, the correct dandruff shampoo for African American hair will perform the following tasks:
- Reduce the overgrowth the yeast Malassezia furfur
- Reduce the skin buildup and flaking
- Reduce overactive immune cells in the skin
- Reduce pro-inflammatory oils
- Add anti-inflammatory oils
- Avoid drying out the hair
- Require infrequent shampooing
- Favor leave-in products
Let’s break down each cause of dandruff in African American hair and discuss the best dandruff shampoo system that safely and effectively treats the condition and performs the above tasks.
Reducing overgrowth of the normal skin microbe Malassezia furfur is one of the best ways to treat dandruff in African American hair. As described previously, this yeast overgrows and causes inflammation on the scalp via the production of inflammatory oils and general overgrowth which causes irritation. Both of our Oread Products: Oread Green and Oread Blue contain active ingredients that help remove this pesky organism from the scalp. Oread Green also contains Selenium Sulfide which is a naturally occurring anti-yeast product that reduces the quantity of Malassezia on the scalp. Oread Blue contains pyrithione zinc which also naturally reduces the amount of this yeast on the scalp and dissolves extra skin buildup on the scalp. Combing these two Oread Products (most of our clients use a different shampoo each week) in turn reduces dandruff in African American Hair. Both Oread shampoos contain tea-tree oil which is a naturally occurring oil that has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory activity. This helps add anti-inflammatory oils to the scalp. The good news is that these shampoos will stay effective if only used once per week. This will allow you to simplify your hair care regimen and avoid repeated hair styling procedures.
Reducing the skin buildup and flaking is another critically important issue to treat in African American hair with dandruff. A powerful yet gentle keratolytic agent (which means breaks up dead skin cells) is needed to treat dandruff. This ingredient is called pryithione zinc that gently dissolves the flaky shed skin seen in dandruff and is then gently washed away. Our product Oread Blue contains 2% pyrithione zinc which is twice as strong as most other over-the-counter dandruff shampoos. This allows our product to be more effective in treating the condition and can even mean less frequent application.
Overactive immune cells in the skin are the reason dandruff in African American hair can be itchy, flaky, or even sometimes painful. Once these cells are present in the skin, they release their inflammatory cellular contents which subsequently causes the symptoms of dandruff. Oread Gold Foam is a hydrating leave-in 1% hydrocortisone foam product, effectively removes these cells from the skin gently without harsh ingredients or preservatives. In fact, it contains so few ingredients it is considered a hypoallergenic product. The foam is light, airy, moisturizing, and is absorbed into the scalp and skin in a matter of seconds. The result is a symptom-free scalp that is free of inflammation.
African Americans with dandruff typically have additional body oils in the scalp that is a cause of dandruff. Our gentle shampoos Oread Blue and Oread Green remove these additional oils with detergents called surfactants and at the same time add conditioners to the hair and scalp to maintain hair moisture. These gentle surfactants surround the body oils when bathing and are lifted & rinsed away with water giving the hair and scalp a great clean feeling.
Our two shampoo products Oread Blue and Oread Green also contain one additional ingredient called tea-tree oil that is worth mentioning. This additional oil was chosen and included in the shampoos due to specific activity of tea-tree-oil compared to all essential other oils available on the market today. There are several scientific studies in the literature that show the effectiveness of tea-tree-oil in dandruff. It is important to remember that tea-tree-oil (like amny other plant-based oils) can be an allergen in some people. However, over our years of testing, we found a strength that avoids allergies but at the same time replaces naturally occurring pro-inflammatory oils created by the body and Malassezia with anti-inflammatory tea-tree oils.
The best dandruff shampoo for African American hair requires a specific set of functions unique to the hair type. These include avoiding overlying-drying ingredients, maintaining effectiveness of the shampoos even if only used once per week, harnessing the power of tea-tree oil to provide anti-inflammatory oils to naturally improve the scalp microbiome, and gently removing Malassezia furfur the yeast implicated in dandruff. Our 3-product system Oread Scalp and Face Therapy will accomplish these tasks in a safe and gentle way which leaves African American hair dandruff free.
Feature image reference: https://unsplash.com/photos/23KdVfc395A