Beards are all the rage these days and are sported by both young and old alike. But what lies beneath the bountiful facial hair for many might just give you the willies!  Beard dandruff is a very real condition that plagues especially African American men because Black skin does not retain as much water as white skin. This lack of moisture results in dry skin that can lead to flecks and flakes on a beard.

What is beard dandruff?

You’re all too familiar with seborrheic dermatitis or scalp dandruff that results in flaking and itching. Well, beard dandruff is a condition that causes the skin under a beard to flake and itch. Men who suffer from beard dandruff are able to see white flakes in their facial hair.

What causes it?

Beard dandruff is caused by two things–dry skin and yeast.

The use of harsh facial cleansers will clean but also rob the skin of oil. Cold winter air and even stress tend to dry the skin as well, and all this can lead to beard dandruff.

Another cause of the flaky facial codition is an opportunistic yeast called Pityrosporum ovale that naturally lives on the skin of humans.  This yeast gets into the hair follicles and multiplies causing acne-like eruptions and itching. The beard area is another prime location for dandruff because the facial hair shields the yeast from the sun’s ultraviolet light that would normally slow its growth.

How do you get rid of it?

The game plan is to do away with the dandruff problem without having to shave off the beard which can resolve the issue. But in many instances, shaving to zap the flakes might not be the course of action that a bearded man would want to take. So, if shaving is not an option, consider OTC anti-dandruff shampoos that can be effective in combating beard dandruff.

If the beard dandruff condition is light, then an OTC treatment to try is Head & Shoulders Clinical Strength, formulated with selenium sulfide to fight dryness, irritation, itchiness, scaling, and redness.  If the flaking is intense, Nizoral anti-dandruff shampoo can also help with its prescription strength ingredient, ketoconazole.  For best results, leave the dandruff shampoo on your beard for at least five minutes to allow it to penetrate and then rinse but avoid using hot water which is drying and irritating.

Dandruff shampoos tend to really dry out the skin under your beard so use them only a few times a month. If you find that the shampoos are too harsh, try an anti-itch beard wash like One DTQ’s Medicine Man, a 100% natural and organic cleanser that offers chemical-free dandruff relief, along with conditioning and moisturizing.

Make sure to follow up shampooing with a moisturizer or oil that will add hydration to your face like Kiehl’s Nourishing Beard Grooming Oil that contains a blend of sandalwood, cedarwood and eucalyptus oils that digs deep to add moisture below the beard level. Another oil to try is Tea Tree Beard Oil with notes of vanilla and peppermint; it is lightweight so your beard won’t get weighed down or feel greasy.  Make sure to distribute any beard oil throughout the skin, and entire mane, and use a beard comb if necessary.

If you prefer to go the more natural route, studies show that oils like tea tree fights off the yeast that causes flaking.  Other oils that are considered safe to use on the skin include coconut oil, jojoba oil, safflower oil, evening primrose, perilla, and hemp oil; steer clear, however, of olive, avocado, peanut or almond oil which can damage the skin and perhaps cause an allergic reaction. Oils should always be applied to completely dry skin under the beard.

How can you prevent it from returning?

If shampooing and moisturizing gets rid of your beard dandruff, then do make sure to keep up with your routine.  If after trying the recommended first line of treatment does not help to end flaking, then a visit to a dermatologist is the next course of action.  You may need a prescription anti-fungal shampoo or topical steroid treatment to get rid of the problem.