So there you are, thinking how well you've done to create a dapper little number in the facial hair department, or mastered the art of growing a beard of magnificence, and suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, you are struck down with... beard dandruff! Horror of horrors! How could this be?
Here at Real Bearded Men we give you the lowdown on all things dandruff: what causes it, how to tackle it, and the best ways to keep it from coming back. And if you follow our easy steps right from the earliest stages of facial hair infancy, you shouldn't have to ever experience this unsightly plague at all!
Who Can Be Affected?
Absolutely anyone can be affected by dandruff, although some people are more susceptible than others, either by reason of genetics or the failure to properly look after the hairs that grow on the head. By this we include all scalp hair as the dandruff you might find in your head hair is exactly the same as you can find in your beard, caused by the same conditions. Don’t forget this can include mu dandruff too. It's estimated that approximately half the population will be affected by dandruff at some point in their lives and although not life threatening and fairly easy to treat, it is an annoying nuisance that is best avoided if at all possible.
What Is Dandruff?
Often referred to as seborrheic dermatitis, dandruff is a condition usually affecting only the scalp and is very common, manifesting itself in itchy, flaky skin, often red or yellow in appearance. It can have several causes but all stem from either dry skin or a fungal infection. Its presence is not only a sign that something’s wrong with your beard, but its unsightly appearance is detrimental to you and those around you!
Dry skin is often the result of using harsh products that are not suited to the tender skin under your beard. Of course you should always keep your beard hair and skin clean and exfoliated, but some products such as face soap and shampoo for your scalp may be hygienic but not gentle, removing the natural oils the follicles produce which would normally moisturize the skin and keep those beard hairs in fine condition. Dandruff stemming from dry skin that does not have any disturbed red irritation is easy to remedy by using products manufactured especially for beards, with the best natural ingredients. Adversely, not caring for your beard enough can also produce a form of dandruff; not following a regular washing routine can lead to an excess of skin cells and oils, which ultimately accumulate into an unsightly shedding into your beard whiskers.
Seborrheic Eczema occurs often in people with naturally oily skin. Seborrheic Eczema is similar to scalp dandruff, with the skin often looking yellow or red, accompanied by greasy scales or flakes. It is not as common in facial hair as it is on the scalp but it certainly can, and does, occur with some bearded chaps, resulting in itchiness.
If you are new to growing a beard it's natural for you to go through an itchy phase, and using a good beard oil and beard balm will soothe the skin and keep it hydrated, therefore eliminating itch and beard dandruff. Regardless of whether you are new to beards or an old hand, you can read more about beard itch here.
Fungal infections can be easily generated causing dandruff; in fact, we all have a fungal microbe - malassezia globosa – living naturally on our skin, and this is no bad thing in modest amounts. It prefers sites where sebaceous glands are prevalent and helps to break down the sebum oil they produce, curtailing the amount of oil that can make your beard look too greasy. However, this natural process produces a by product - oleic acid, an Omega 9 fatty acid - and some people can have an allergic reaction to this when there is a higher concentration of it, resulting in a red and itchy skin condition. Unfortunately in an effort to deflect this unwanted reaction, the skin starts to produce more cells, and it is these that cause the actual dandruff in their process of sloughing off and reproducing.
Some people have a higher rate of skin cell regeneration without the drama of what’s going on with the malassezia globosa and oleic acid. Usually these cells take approximately 30 days to run their full cycle but with a faster rate of reproduction, the surplus can lead to a buildup of dead skin cells and the accompanying dandruff leading to a flaky beard. Daily grooming with a brush will help keep everything in order if you happen to have this type of cell regeneration.
How To Get Rid Of Beard Dandruff
Dry skin and fungal infections go hand in hand and often your genes have a lot to answer for! If you have excellent hair heritage and have always been able to maintain a dense growth of facial mane without dehydration or dandruff, then indeed you are exceptionally lucky. However, this won’t apply to the majority of bearded guys, for whom the normal trials and tribulations of facial growth include dryness, prickly bristles and an uncomfortable, rough texture. The best way to stop problems occurring before they start is to have a habitually healthy, daily routine, looking after yourself and your beard. Not only will this stave off all kinds of problems – split ends, dandruff, brittleness, entanglement and hair loss - but will ensure your pride and joy can be admired by all.
Regardless of why you might be experiencing an onset of dastardly dandruff, the restorative remedies are more or less universal, involving a routine of exfoliation, cleansing, and moisturizing.
- Exfoliate: This is the process by which you remove old, dead skin cells which are at the heart of the dandruff problem. Your key tool for this is a good quality beard brush which will eliminate the skin flakes and disburse both natural and added oils evenly throughout your beard. Soft bristles will allow you to brush right to the root of the problem – your skin - and also help to keep your beard soft and smooth.
- Cleanse: You might be tempted to reach for a popular dandruff shampoo. It’d make sense, right? NO, DON’T DO IT! The chemicals contained in most scalp shampoos really aren’t suitable for your tender face and can actually exacerbate the problems you’re having! Instead invest in (or continue with) a good quality, chemical-free shampoo or beard wash designed specifically for those facial hairs and skin. Wash your beard while showering to be sure to remove any detritus with the constant flow of water (not too hot or more dryness will occur) and make sure the shampoo reaches right down to your skin, using a gentle massaging action. Once rinsed, dab your beard dry without rubbing.
- Moisturize: Here’s where beard oil becomes your best friend. It’s easy to think this is primarily for the hair but its real benefit is to help condition the skin by acting as a calming moisturizer, keeping it healthily hydrated and kicking those dandruff flakes into touch. Although the health benefits are the main reason for its use, beard oil also plays an important part in grooming for a soft, smooth and neat experience. Apply the oil immediately after the cleansing and drying routine using your fingers to massage down to the skin, and then spread lightly throughout your beard. A brush will help to disperse it evenly. It’s better to err on the side of caution and use just a couple of drops at first; you can always add a little more if it hasn’t reached the full scope of those facial whiskers!
- Alternative Tips: You have good reason to be extra fussy about the elements you let your beard come into contact with. Alternatives can include products containing aloe vera, tea tree oil and fish oils which all have their benefits, as can argan oil if you are an acne suffer. Here at Real Bearded Men we only use the finest quality, natural ingredients, and alongside our oils and washes we recommend our Old Havana Beard Balm which contains all the right things to calm the skin and help fight dandruff.
- Medical treatment may be required if, after several weeks, your symptoms haven’t begun to be resolved. In this case it’s possible you have a more severe fungal infection and a visit to your doctor will confirm a diagnosis, and you may be prescribed a specialist shampoo or a course of topical steroid cream.
How To Prevent Beard Dandruff Returning
Once your dandruff has gone you must continue with the above advice and cleansing regime to stop it returning. Additionally pay attention to how your skin feels: if it starts to feel stretched or taut, or you start to feel irritation, use a little more oil to ease the symptoms. Note that dry, cold weather or a humid, hot climate can easily bring on the condition of dandruff and your regime should be modified to combat the effects. Dandruff is common and everyone can suffer from it at some point, but it’s simple to treat (and to subsequently keep away) if you stay alert to the early signs and act accordingly, being careful to both the condition of the beard and the underlying skin
If you can keep the skin cool, smooth and free of grime and detritus you stand a very good chance of avoiding dandruff forever!