Dandruff is considered to be a mild form of seborrheic dermatitis. It affects skin areas that have an abundance of oil-producing glands. Dandruff is commonly caused by a fungus called malassezia or pityrosporum. Other factors such as stress, hormones and certain illnesses may also contribute.
Dandruff typically develops on the scalp or face but it can occur on the ears, eyebrows and creases around the nose. Redness, scaly patches, greasiness and itching further irritate the affected skin.
Treatment for dandruff usually involves washing the hair or skin with special anti- dandruff shampoos such as Head and Shoulders ®, Selsun blue® or ketoconazole.
In infants, an outbreak of seborrheic dermatitis is called cradle cap. Milder shampoos are used for babies. However, both dandruff and cradle cap are also treated by rubbing small amounts of oil to loosen scaly patches before shampooing.
The choice of oil is where a misstep can occur, as not all oils are the same.
It is recommended that mineral oil be used to treat dandruff, not olive oil or vegetable oil. According to Beauty Brains, other natural oils such as coconut or shea butter are also on the “best not to use” list. The reason is that natural oils contain saturated fat while mineral oil is petroleum based.
The fungus in dandruff can feed off of the saturated fats in natural oil, leaving behind unsaturated fat, which can penetrate the outermost layer of the skin and cause further irritation, a Proctor and Gamble study found. (4)
The fungus cannot digest mineral oil so it may be a better choice, stated FoxNews, based on research by Dr. Elaine Siegfried and Dr. Erica Glenn, of St. Louis University School of Medicine in Missouri.
Some people have found that tea tree oil helps treat dandruff. I was unable to find a source that stated whether it is a saturated-fat-based oil or not.
Tea tree oil has been used as an antiseptic and antifungal agent. There are many shampoos on the market that contain tea tree oil. Tea tree oil is not suggested for use in infants and children and is not to be used in full concentration, because it can cause irritation.