Eli5:What does an anti-dandruff shampoo actually do to get rid of the dandruff?

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Eli5:What does an anti-dandruff shampoo actually do to get rid of the dandruff?

In: Chemistry
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All dandruff is caused by a fungal infection that infects the scalp of every person on the planet. In most people the fungus doesn’t do much damage but if the scalps anti-fungal capability is weakened, it is expressed in excessive skin turnover that fall off in flakes – dandruff.

Most anti-dandruff shampoos include either zinc or sulfur compounds that kill the fungus, as well as some chemicals that soothe the damaged skin. They cannot kill the fungus completely however and even if they did, the person would be reinfected pretty much the next time they meet another person.

Thus, while the shampoos are effective at reducing or completely eliminating the dandruff while you keep using them as instructed, they don’t actually cure the underlying problem nor are their effects very long lasting. Most of them that are based on sulfates actually further compromise the scalps own anti-fungal capacity and will thus keep a person with a problematic scalp hooked forever.

To get rid of dandruff for good, one must address the underlying cause – why the scalp is weak to fungus in the first place. The most common cause is because its too dry from overuse of soap in which case, changing to soap free cleansing alternatives usually helps. At other times there may be a Ph imbalance or follicle trauma or a secondary bacterial infection – there is a very long list of possible causes, most of which have a solution. If you find your dandruff is hard to get rid of permanently, I recommend talking to a dermatologist about it.