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Information about dandruff


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To understand the development of dandruff , one must understand the skin structure and the growth of the skin.

The skin consists of 3 layers. The outer layer, the epidermis, consists of flat epitelial cells. These cells are renoved from the bottom by dividing of cells called keratinocytes, and as new cells are made, existing cells are pushed upwards. As they move to the surface, they are gradually filled with the protein keratin so that the outermost cells are dead plates of keratine. This keratine layer is also steadily shed or worn off at the surface.

The layer under consists of connective tissue. It contains strong and elastic protein fibres between the cellls, and has blood vessels. The lowest layer conists mostly of fat cells, but it has also blood vessels and some amount of fibres. Hairs grow up from deep pouches in the skin going down through the epidermis, through the dermis and reach the fat layer, the hair follicles. The hair follicles have an inside covered by epidermial cells. High up at one side of the follicle there is a gland, the sebaceous gland, that excrete the vaxy blending called sebum that lubricates and protects the hairs and the skin.


Dandruff is a thickening of the outermost keratin-filled layer of the skin and this extra sheat of dead cells is also blended with fungi that grow in the thick outer layer and with oils produced by the sebaceous glands. The extra sheet is rather loose and it is steadily shed as small flakes that will typically stick to the hairs. The thickening occurs because of an increased renovation of cells from the bottom of the epidermis.

Dendruff most often occures in areas with thight hair growth, like the scalp. Other conditions like sebhorreic dermatitis can cause dendruff-like scaling both at the scalp and at other parts of the body. Real dendruff also tend to cooccur with conditions like sebhorreic dermatitis, so that two conditions have to be treated. A symptom often associated with dandruff is redness and iching at skin areas where the outer layers are thickened and shed. The symptoms are partly caused by the dandruff itself and partly by scratching at the skin. .


The fungi, especially yeasts, growing at the skin make substances that stimulate the extensive growth of epidermal cells, especially the fatty acid oleic acid. The substances penetrate deeperinto the epidermis where it will stimulate cell proliferation. Also an increased production of oils in the sebceous glands seem to increase the growth of the epidermal cells. There may also be an increased susceptibility for these stimulating factors.

The stimulation seems first to cause an allergic inflammatory reaction and this process will in turn make the cells proliferate faster. One ultimate cause of dendruff is therefore factors that make the fungi thrive and grow and a tendency for allergy is another ultimate cause.


Dendruff is most often treated with shampoos to loosen the stuff and to hinder new growth of dandruff. Conditioners to put in the hair without washing it away have the purpose of stopping further or new growth of dendruff. The remedies can contain several natural and pharmacological agents that work by different principles. One principle of dendruff treatment is to make the extra sheet loosen and then wash it away. The ingredients salicylic acid and sulphur are often used in anti-dandruff remedies for that purpose. Coal tar is a traditional ingredient used for this purpose.

Another treatment principle is to use substances that kill the fungi and make it difficult for the fungi to thrive. Pharmacological anti-fungal ingredients often used is imidazoole or hydroxypyridones like ciclospirox. Extracts from the seeds of the Indian tree neem is a traditional anti-fungal remedy used to treat dandruff. Tea tree oil is a natural anti-fungal remedy used in many modern anti-dandruff drugs.

A third principle is to inhibit the proliferation of cells from the keratinocytes. An ingredient used for this purpose is selenium sulphide and also coal tar has this effect. Anti-inflammatory agents like steroids are also used for this purpose.

A third principle is to take away internal processes that make the skin a good environment for the growth of fungi and to stimulate the natural protective mechanisms in the skin. To increase resistance against dendruff lean protein rich food like lean fish and lean meat may work. Fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, fish oil and vitamins of the B-group are also supposed to hinder growth of dandruff. It can also be wise to reduce the consume of milk and milk-based food.

Many natural ingredients used for treatment of dendruff work by several mechanisms. One of this is black pepper that has a traditional use in Indian medicine. Another traditional remedy is egg oil, which is fatty oils extracted from egg yolk.

An old effective natural anti-dandruff-treatment is to wet the hair and the scalp with olive oil, let the oil stay for some time and then wash the hair throrroughly with a mild soap or even better, an egg and soap based shampoo.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. This information is nutritional in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. This notice is required by the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.