Dandruff and what to do about it.
One of the most common of all skin and scalp diseases is dandruff—called by medical men seborrhea. This is a non-inflammatory disease of the scalp in which there is a throwing off of the horny layer of the scalp, producing powdery grey or white scales, that heap up into crusts. There is usually a considerable degree of itching with dandruff, and in its severe forms it occasions a very perceptible loss of hair. In dandruff the hair is usually dry and lustreless, and throughout its entire length, tends to be covered with white or grey scales, which cling to the hairs like powder or bran.
In very bad cases, these scales drop off the hair and scalp and lodge on the collar and shoulders of the coat or dress.
If you examine a "dandruffy" scalp with the aid of a magnifying glass, you will notice that the surface is covered with scales. The scalp is dull white in colour and seemingly free from evidences of inflammation. While the entire surface of the scalp is generally involved, occasionally there will be some apparently normal areas found. Blood crusts resulting from the tearing of the scalp by the fingers to relieve the itching are frequently present.
When does dandruff begin
Dandruff is occasionally seen in children of six to ten years, but usually begins at just about the age when they are coming into their sexual life. It is not thought, however, that this is anything more than a coincidence.
The disease may last as long as its owner lasts. Men are subject to it more frequently than women. Any condition that lowers the general health, and interferes with the nutrition of the scalp through the capillaries, or that causes an increase of toxic products in the blood, such as follows the absorption of poisons in the intestinal canal, etc., may be the cause of dandruff.
Fever, anemia, tuberculosis, rheumatism and syphilis, and liver and kidney disease may also be active causes, while digestive disturbances, constipation, and liver disturbances undoubtedly aggravate the condition. Or overwork, nervous and mental strains, and living in bad sanitary surroundings may also be considered unfavourable.
Any form of chronic irritation may cause dandruff
Any irritation produced by mechanical, chemical, or parasitic causes may produce dandruff. The scalp can be mechanically irritated by the use of wire brushes or by coarse bristle brushes; by fine toothed combs, or by the habit of scratching with the finger nails.
Chemicals such as are often found in hair dyes and "restorers," as well as the irritating influence of so-called "elixirs," "tonics" and pomades, leave the scalp in a condition in which dandruff often develops.
Many shampoos contain an excess of free alkalis. These have an extremely drying effect upon the scalp and hair, and should never be used.
The germ origin of dandruff
Within comparatively recent years the theory has been advanced that small bacilli, called by the Germans "Flaschenbacilli" (bottle bacilli) are largely responsible for dandruff. These bacilli are of three different shapes, spherical and banana-shaped, and pear or bottle-shaped. Hence the German name "bottle bacilli."
Is dandruff a contagious disorder
Many claim that dandruff is readily communicated ; that a large proportion of cases are contracted in barber shops, or in hair-dressing establishments, or by using toilet articles that have been infected by a victim of dandruff. This conclusion is undoubtedly erroneous in the majority of cases at least.
The first thing to be accomplished, if a cure of dandruff is to be secured, is to build up the general health. Great care should be taken to regulate the diet, and secure active elimination from the bowels and skin, and to exercise freely—especially in the open air.
The scalp should be kept scrupulously clean—not only by washing and shampooing, but also by vigorous brushing and careful massage.
One of the most effective remedies to kill the germ of dandruff is found in improving the bodily health and in the adoption of regular methods of cleansing the scalp—washing, brushing, etc. But if you must have an application to kill the germ, sulphur is the best means. Sulphur is best used in the form of an ointment—the so-called "sulphur-cream." Sometimes the addition of two or three per cent of salicylic acid is recommended—or else resorcin.
A pomade composed of
rubbed well into the scalp, three times weekly, after a thorough washing of the hair—once or twice a week with women—will sometimes accomplish results.
These results will be even better if immediately before the hair is washed a thorough shampoo with crude oil (petroleum, entirely unrefined, just as it comes from the ground) is used.Sometimes bichloride soap—one or two per cent—gives quick and excellent results.
Many people get excellent results by massaging the scalp thoroughly with cocoanut or olive oil, or plain vaseline. This is thoroughly rubbed into the scalp, after which a towel is wrapped around the head, to protect the pillow, and the oil is left on until the following morning—after which the head is given a thorough shampoo.
It is especially advisable not to leave any one application of the oil on for too long a period of time, as it has a tendency quickly to become rancid, which would tend to make the condition infinitely worse than it was before.
The repeated application of this treatment, however, if persisted in for a reasonable length of time, will produce results that are highly gratifying to all who are troubled with dandruff—especially if this dandruff is of the scaly variety associated with a dry condition of the scalp.
For "Oily dandruff"
The more oily the scalp is, the more frequently it will have to be washed. The tincture of green soap is excellent in the oily variety of dandruff. In some cases once a week is often enough to wash the hair. In others the hair and scalp must be shampooed every day for a while, in order to get results.
Parasitic diseases of the scalp
There are many parasitic diseases of the scalp, which are quite prevalent among those who do not maintain a high order of cleanliness—or even among those who may become contaminated innocently by contact with the infected one—which can only be removed by distinct antiseptic treatment. For these diseases are doubtless due to germ origin, self-propagated or acquired, and the germs must be destroyed before the condition can be cured.
Among these parasitic scalp diseases is favus, which is characterized by the formation of yellow crusts on the scalp, with baldness occurring in irregular patches and a peculiar mousey odor exhaling from it. There is a great deal of itching associated with this condition. This is a highly contagious disease, and it is exceedingly common among children of the poorer classes.
In order to cure this condition, it is necessary to keep the whole scalp soaked in olive oil for a day or two, according to the thickness of the crust. In some cases it is desirable to add carbolic or salicylic acid, in three per cent strength. Sometimes it is necessary to pull the hair out by a process of epilation, and apply an antiseptic solution to the parts from which the hair has been cleared away.
Ring worm is another parasitic disease of the scalp which is very difficult to eradicate, and which may cause permanent baldness. This is because of the fact that the parasites enter the hair follicles and penetrate deep into the skin where it is very difficult to get at them. Many cases are contracted from others, children acquiring the disease through using one an-other's combs or hair brushes. The patent hair clipper is said to be one of the most active causes of ring worm.
The best ways of killing the • parasite are by painting with tincture of iodine accompanied by frequent washings with bichloride soap, and by applying the sulphur ointment previously given. An ointment known as purific is often of great value, usually much better than sulphur.
The head louse
One of the most distressing conditions that afflicts human beings is the presence of lice in the hair and on the scalp. These justly celebrated insects gained a great deal of unenviable notoriety through the immense amount of trouble they caused during the late war.
There is one satisfaction, however, with head lice, and that is that their presence is easily recognized and second that their absence is very readily insured.
Perhaps one of the quickest ways to accomplish this is to use crude petroleum, or else common kerosene oil mixed with sweet oil. The hair should be saturated with this solution at night, for a day or two, and then washed thoroughly in the morning with an abundance of soap and water. This will almost invariably destroy the lice and prevent the "nits" or eggs from hatching out. Sometimes it is necessary to remove the "nits" from the hair by the use of a fine comb, being careful not to injure the scalp thereby.
As a further precaution it would be well to wet the scalp with kerosene for a few days, to insure the death of any louse which may have hatched out, cautioning the individual to be sure and keep his head away from the fire.
It will be seen from all this that most skin diseases are due to uncleanliness, and lack of proper hygienic precaution. It is, therefore, obvious that to prevent any of these diseases it is necessary to observe the strictest rules of cleanliness, and to use good common sense in eradicating the evil effects of any contamination.