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Malassezia: Pleaz-a Leav-a

It's a lover of lipids, a seeker of the dark. It doesn't discriminate, and it overstays its welcome. Just what is this mysterious thing of which I speak? It's called malassezia, and it's now believed this pesky creature is one of the leading causes of dandruff.

It's a common misconception that dandruff is caused by a dry scalp or by poor hygiene, which is not the case. Dandruff is dependent upon three factors: sebum production, individual susceptibility, and microbe (malassezia) by-products.

Yes, this yeast-like fungi is present on everyone's scalp, and it loves the dark and damp atmosphere on the top of your noggin. Depending on your body chemistry, this microorganism will thrive on fats produced by your oil glands. Like a hungry houseguest who doesn't seem to leave, malassezia causes irritation and redness.

For dandruff relief, look for shampoos and conditioners with pyrithione zinc, an anti-fungal ingredient. Head & Shoulders makes an excellent variety of gentle, moisturizing products that include this ingredient — and they actually smell good. (Mr. Bella is way into his bottle.) With regular usage, you should be flake-free in two weeks. Keep in mind, if treatment is discontinued, the fungus will come back with its intrusive, ferocious appetite. No, thanks.

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