Have you ever considered the head-scratching questions of dandruff? What is it? Why do some people get it and others don’t? And more importantly, how do we get rid of it? A new TED-Ed video animation offers a tell-all exposé of the conditions and the yeast responsible for dandruff.
Called Malassezia globosa, this little fungus lives off the fatty oils that our skin produces. It uses different approaches to break down the sebum of our skin into the lipids it depends on to live. But Malassezia globosa only eats certain fats, the saturated ones, leaving the unsaturated behind, which causes damage to the skin, irritation, and eventually dandruff. A human head can have up to 10 million Malassezia globosa on it.
Given that the cause is a fungus, antifungal shampoos are the best options in tackling the problem. For most people who suffer from dandruff, that should be enough. But it is very varied who and when some people developed dandruff. Age appears to be a factor – young adults and adults to middle-aged people tend to be more affected. Sex might play a role too, as males are more affected than females. Certain illnesses can also increase the chances.
As the video explains, there is a lot that we don’t know about dandruff, including whether people with it have genetic or epigenetic differences that cause them to be more susceptible to the often annoying condition.
Scientists are looking at better treatments that might tackle the irritations created by the fungus but they are also trying to understand if this relationship is parasitical or symbiotic. Sure Malassezia globosa is feasting on our scalp, but they are also good at fighting off dangerous microbes that might infect our skin. This might be a good trade-off, but more research is needed.
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