Dandruff: What it is & How to Get Rid of it

A person looking at their scalp in the mirror

What is Dandruff?

Dandruff is the condition of itchy, flaky skin occurring specifically on the scalp. Although many people may feel embarrassed by their dandruff, it is extremely common. 50% of adults experience dandruff. 1

Common Causes of Dandruff

There are a number of factors that can contribute to dandruff. Here are the most common causes. 2 3

  • Fungus forming on the surface of the scalp
  • An overly oily scalp
  • An overly dry scalp
  • Excess skin cell growth caused by yeast buildup
  • Sensitivity to particular personal care products such as shampoo or hair mousse
  • Not shampooing frequently enough
  • Friction from brushing hair too often or too vigorously
  • Overexposure to sun
  • Pressure on the scalp from wearing hats often
  • Food sensitivity and/or intolerance

Natural Dandruff Treatments

Coconut Oil

Research shows the moisturizing nature of coconut oil can help to improve dandruff in some people. 4 Coconut oil is commonly used as a remedy for a number of skin-related conditions, such as eczema and inflammation. 5 To use coconut oil as a dandruff treatment, apply 1-2 tablespoons directly to your scalp and massage it in with your fingers. Let the coconut oil sit for 30 minutes, then rinse your hair and scalp thoroughly with a gentle shampoo. Repeat twice a week.

Tea Tree Oil

One study found that participants who used a shampoo containing 5% tea tree oil daily saw a 41% decrease in dandruff after a month. 6 Tea tree oil has natural anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties, which may help clear up dandruff and reduce itching. 7 Keep in mind that applying essential oils directly to the skin can cause irritation, and this is not to be done over open or raw skin. Instead, dilute a few drops of tea tree oil in a carrier oil such as coconut or grapeseed oil before applying it to your scalp, or choose a natural shampoo that contains at least 5% tea tree oil. It is advised to test a small area of skin when using new products, just in case it causes irritation.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Increasing the amount of omega-3 fatty acids in your diet may help reduce dandruff. Omega-3 fatty acids promote skin health by managing hydration and oil production, and speeding up the wound healing process. 8 Additionally, an omega-3 deficiency can result in dry skin and dandruff, so if you suffer from these, increasing the omega-3 fatty acids in your diet may help to reduce the symptoms. 9 To increase your intake of omega-3s, add more fatty fish (such as salmon and mackerel), nuts, and seeds to your diet.

Apple Cider Vinegar

Many people are swapping out their chemical-based shampoo for…. You guessed it, apple cider vinegar (ACV)! Before you hold your nose, and think you will end up smelling like a salad, rest assured that the vinegar smell will not linger. People often find this very simple and cost-effective shampoo replacement helps cleanse the scalp and strip away any residue from hair styling products. Just a word of caution, transfer the ACV from its glass container to something more shower-friendly.

Always speak to your doctor before trying home remedies, and to help you pinpoint the cause of your symptoms. Click below to connect with an ND who will create a health plan as unique as you!


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