Dandruff, which is defined by itchy, white flakes of skin on your scalp, can be both uncomfortable and embarrassing. Other symptoms may include greasy patches on your scalp and tingling skin.
However, it is simple to treat and relatively common, with some reports estimating that up to 42 percent of infants and 1–3 percent of adults worldwide are affected. Dandruff can be caused by a variety of conditions, including dry skin, seborrheic dermatitis, sensitivity to hair products, and the growth of a specific type of fungus on your scalp.
Though there are plenty of over-the-counter (OTC) products designed to treat dandruff, natural remedies are often just as effective. Here are 10 simple home remedies to naturally get rid of dandruff.
What is dandruff?
Dandruff, also known as seborrheic dermatitis, is an inflammatory condition that develops on oily areas of the skin, most notably the scalp or inside the ear. Inflammation causes flaking scales ranging in color from white to yellow. This condition is known as cradle cap in infants.
Dandruff is a chronic, lifelong condition that is usually treatable and can disappear completely between flare-ups.
Although it can cause embarrassment or social stress in some cases, it is rarely severe and is not contagious.
In severe cases, dandruff can be emotionally draining, but it is not a life-threatening condition. It can lead to secondary bacterial or fungal infections if left untreated.
Seek prompt medical care if you are being treated for dandruff and any skin patches form crusts, exude pus, or become very red or painful.
Causes of dandruff
Although the precise cause of dandruff is unknown, it is most likely caused by a combination of excess skin oil and Malassezia, a type of yeast found on the scalp.
According to experts, dandruff is not a disease of the skin’s sebaceous glands or their secretions. However, sebaceous glands appear to be required for dandruff development due to its preference for body sites with a greater number of sebaceous glands and larger sebaceous glands.
Dandruff flare-ups can be caused by factors such as infrequent washing or shampooing, using alcohol-containing skin or hair products, stress or fatigue, other skin disorders such as acne, and weather extremes.
Symptoms of dandruff
Dandruff symptoms include flaky scales ranging in color from white to yellow, which appear on oily areas of the skin such as the scalp or the inside of the ear. The affected skin is sometimes red as well.
Common symptoms of dandruff
You may experience dandruff symptom fluctuations, with long periods of inactivity between flare-ups. Typical flare-up symptoms include:
- Dry, white, flaking skin
- Itchy skin
- Oily, yellow, adhering scales of skin
- Plaque (broad, raised area of skin)
- Redness, warmth or swelling
- Skin lesions (any abnormal skin tissue )
Symptoms that might indicate a serious condition
Dandruff can be part of severe seborrheic eczema, severe psoriasis, or blepharitis (inflammation of the eyelids) in some cases, and should be evaluated in an emergency setting. Seek immediate medical attention if you experience any of the following serious symptoms:
- Burning sensation in the eye
- Eye pain
- Eyelashes that grow abnormally or fall out
- Flaking or crusted eyelids
- Gritty feeling in the eye
- Increased sensitivity to light
- Itchy eyes
- Lip inflammation
- Oozing, wet skin
- Red, sore eyes (bloodshot eyes)
What can I do to treat dandruff?
There is no cure for dandruff, but you can usually manage it with a combination of anti-dandruff medication, good hygiene, and general good self-care to help avoid triggers.
Shampoos & Topical treatments for dandruff
Special dandruff shampoos can help prevent flare-ups or manage existing ones. Prescription medications, such as corticosteroid shampoo or lotion added to your regular dandruff shampoo, may help relieve inflammation and itching in severe cases.
Your doctor may also prescribe an antibiotic if you develop a secondary bacterial infection.
Self-care strategies that help you avoid triggers can help you control your dandruff. It is also critical that you stick to your treatment regimen and incorporate it into your regular hair care routine.
Dandruff treatments you can find over-the-counter:
- Shampoos sold over the counter that contain one of the following active ingredients: pyrithione zinc (DHS Zinc, Head & Shoulders), selenium sulfide (Selsun Blue, Exsel), salicylic acid (Scalpicin, X-Seb), or coal tar (DHS Tar, Neutrogena T/Gel, Polytar).
- Ketoconazole and other prescription antifungal ointments (Nizoral)
- Prescription corticosteroid treatments (lotions or shampoos to relieve dandruff inflammation and itching), such as clobetasol propionate (Cormax, Temovate, Olux), hydrocortisone (Emo-Cort, Locoid), and fluocinolone acetonide, are available (Capex)
Best natural remedies to relieve dandruff
Tea tree oil
Tea tree oil has traditionally been used to treat acne and psoriasis. Tea tree oil has been shown to have powerful antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties, which may help alleviate dandruff symptoms.
According to one older study, tea tree oil is effective at combating the specific strain of fungus that causes both seborrheic dermatitis and dandruff.
Another study discovered that applying tea tree-infused placental tissue to the skin was more effective than a prescription antifungal treatment at healing lesions caused by this fungus.
Coconut oil, well-known for its numerous health benefits, is also used as a natural dandruff treatment.
It may work by increasing skin hydration and preventing dryness, both of which can aggravate dandruff.
According to some studies, when used as a moisturizer, coconut oil may be just as effective as mineral oil in improving skin hydration.
Other research suggests that coconut oil can help treat eczema, a skin condition that can cause dandruff.
An older 8-week study discovered that applying coconut oil to the skin reduced symptoms of atopic dermatitis (a type of eczema characterized by itching and inflammation) by 68%.
Aloe vera is a succulent that is frequently used in skin ointments, cosmetics, and lotions.
It may help treat skin conditions such as burns, psoriasis, and cold sores when applied to the skin.
According to one review, aloe vera’s antibacterial and antifungal properties may also protect against dandruff (13).
Similarly, several in vitro studies indicate that aloe vera may be effective against a variety of fungi and may aid in the control of certain fungal infections.
Aloe vera has also been shown in animal studies to reduce inflammation, which may alleviate symptoms.
Despite these encouraging findings, more research is required.
Apple cider vinegar
Apple cider vinegar has been linked to a number of health benefits and is frequently used as a natural dandruff treatment. This is because the acidity of the vinegar is thought to stimulate the shedding of dead skin cells on your scalp. Apple cider vinegar is also said to balance your skin’s pH, reducing fungal growth and thus combating dandruff.
However, no studies have been conducted to back up these claims. Many of the claimed benefits of apple cider vinegar for dandruff are based on hearsay.
In fact, one small study of 22 people discovered that applying diluted apple cider vinegar topically to the skin did not improve eczema or skin barrier integrity — and even worsened skin irritation. That said, test-tube studies show that apple cider vinegar and its compounds may prevent the growth of certain types of fungus.
Baking soda is a simple, quick, and readily available dandruff treatment. It’s thought to work as a gentle exfoliant, removing dead skin cells and reducing scaling and itchiness. It also has antifungal properties that may aid in the treatment of dandruff.
An older test-tube study found that baking soda completely inhibited fungal growth in 79 percent of specimens after 7 days on some of the most common strains of fungus that cause skin infections. Another older study examined the effects of baking soda on 31 psoriasis patients. After only three weeks, treatment with baking soda baths significantly reduced itchiness and irritation.
More research is needed, however, because one study discovered that baking soda had no effect on psoriasis, skin hydration, or skin redness. Apply baking soda directly to wet hair and massage it into your scalp for best results. Allow it to sit for 1–2 minutes before shampooing your hair as usual.
What you can do to improve your dandruff
In addition to reducing your exposure to dandruff triggers, such as skin and hair products that contain alcohol, you can prevent or limit flare-ups by:
- Cleaning your face and ears frequently
- Diligently managing oily skin
- Eating a diet that is low in fat and salty and smoked foods, and high in fiber and fruits and vegetables
- Getting plenty of rest
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Protecting yourself adequately against weather extremes
- Shampooing your hair frequently
- Treating the effects of stress in your life
Treating dandruff can be a difficult approach, but various natural remedies can relieve and relieve symptoms.
The next time you see dandruff, try some of the above natural remedies to support scalp health and reduce dandruff naturally.
If these treatments do not work, consult your dermatologist to determine if other treatment options are needed to achieve long-term relief.