Most of us know dandruff as that flaky white stuff found on the scalp, or more embarrassingly, on the shoulders of your nice black sweater. But how to get rid of dandruff? That’s something that most of us, frustratingly, do not know.
Dandruff is more common than you may think, as most of us have had it at some point in our life. Dandruff is the result of the overproduction of dead skin, but it can also be caused by numerous other factors — such as winter air that produces dry skin, a vitamin deficient diet, and harsh chemicals found in unhealthy shampoos, even dandruff shampoos that are supposed to reduce the flakes!
Fortunately, I’m going to show you how to get rid of dandruff, the right way. Essential oils, DIY scalp masks, foods, supplements and more help get rid of dandruff. When you use these natural remedies I discuss below, those white flakes will be a distant memory.
What Is Dandruff?
Dandruff is a skin disorder affecting 50 percent of the world population and is linked with proliferation of lipophilic yeasts of the genus Malassezia. (1) American Osteopathic College of Dermatology tells us that dandruff is the shedding of excessive amounts of dead skin flakes from the scalp. There also may be a bit of itching, but typically no redness or scabbing.
Dandruff usually gets worse during the fall and winter because of the dry air while improving in the summer. It is caused by build-up of dead skin and in many more severe cases, a yeast-like organism aggravates it. While this germ is normally present on everyone’s scalp, it can produce some irritation if it grows heavily.
In a study by the Indian Journal of Dermatology, it was noted that the
debate on whether dandruff has to be treated as a disease or a disorder continues; however, dandruff is non-inflammatory in nature. The real cause for dandruff formation from the normal physiological spectrum of scaling is yet to be understood but it is a common scalp disorder affecting almost half of the population at the pre-pubertal age and of any gender and ethnicity making it clear that most people experience dandruff at some point in their lives. (2)
The study also indicates that there are several natural remedies (like using coconut oil for hair) that have been claimed to have anti-dandruff characteristics. In most cases, these naturopathic agents are often found in combination with synthetic agents. Studies from India have shown that the herbal preparations are as effective as synthetic substances in controlling dandruff.
Though it may seem contrary to popular belief, dandruff is improved when shampooing more often. Dandruff also gets worse when stressed or anxious and since dandruff is a natural process, it cannot be eliminated, but most often it can be controlled.
When scaling of the scalp is accompanied by redness, or when the redness and flaking spreads to cause greasy scaling on the face, eyebrows or sides of the nose, it may be diagnosed as seborrheic dermatitisa and related to severe dandruff conditions. (3)
Otherwise, have you heard of cradle cap? That is another name for dandruff that typically affects infants. But no need to worry. It’s completely harmless and usually clears up by age 3.
Symptoms & Causes of Dandruff
There are many causes of dandruff to include:
Dry skin. The most popular cause of dandruff is, in fact, dry skin. Usually, symptoms and signs of dry skin on other parts of the body, such as your legs and arms, will exist.
Oily skin (seborrheic dermatitis). Believe it or not, oily skin is one of the most frequent causes of dandruff. It is marked by red, greasy skin covered with flaky white or yellow scales. Also known as seborrheic dermatitis, it may affect your scalp and other areas rich in oil glands such as your eyebrows, sides of the nose and backs of the ears.
In addition, the breastbone, the groin area and armpits may be affected. Not shampooing enough can create oily skin. While it is important to not shampoo too frequently so that you can have a healthier scalp and hair from the natural oils that your skin produces, if you don’t regularly wash your hair, oils and skin cells from your scalp can actually build up and cause dandruff. Washing every 2–3 days is ideal in most cases.
Skin conditions. Those with eczema and psoriasis are often known to have dandruff since both of these conditions have characteristics of dry skin, often times severe and very irritating.
Yeast-like fungus (malassezia). While malassezia lives on the scalps of most adults, it may irritate the scalp. This irritation can cause more skin cells to grow and when that happens, the extra skin cells die and fall off, producing that white flakiness in your hair or on your clothes.
Hair care products. Because most hair care products contain chemicals ingredients, it can cause your scalp to become red, itchy and scaly. Shampooing too often or using too many styling products also may irritate your scalp and can also cause dandruff. (4)
9 Natural Remedies … for How to Get Rid of Dandruff
1. Drink Water
Often the lack of enough water in our bodies causes dry skin, and this is one of the many reasons to drink water! It is very important to drink plenty of water daily to help your overall health as well as the dryness of your skin and scalp.
2. Coconut Oil
Because coconut oil contains medium-chain fatty acids, including lauric acid and capric acid, it has strong antiviral, antimicrobial and antifungal properties. These properties help target and kill the fungus and any viruses or bacteria that may exist. In many, results can occur within just a week or so.
3. Essential Oils
There are essential oils that can really make a difference. Because some of these oils contain antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal properties, much like coconut oil, they can reduce inflammation and treat infections. You will need to choose 100 percent pure oils such as lavender, wintergreen, thyme, lemongrass, evergreen, cypress, oregano and tea tree, all of which help to fight fungus and yeast.
You can take some of these oils internally, such as oregano oil, as long as it is 100 percent pure. Try combining 1–2 drops of oregano oil, lemongrass and lavender with 4–6 ounces of water to make a tonic that you can drink.
4. Aloe Vera Gel
Benefit-rich aloe vera has been known to soothe and help heal irritated skin. New York dermatologist Michele Green, MD, notes that in a small study, aloe eased itching and scaly skin in people with seborrheic dermatitis, a more severe skin condition that can create dandruff.
5. Olive Oil
The olive oil (or coconut oil) in your kitchen cabinet can be very useful because it can temporarily remove dandruff flakes. Just apply a little bit of unrefined organic olive or coconut oil to scaly patches on the scalp. Let it sit for about an hour, then use a comb or brush to smooth out the hair.
If you apply too much, you will likely have oily hair and may need to shampoo. You can also add a few drops of the essential oils noted in this article and may benefit by including coconut oil in your diet. Just make sure it is unrefined and organic.
Skin irritations are often caused by depression, anxiety and stress. Try to pay attention to changes in your skin at these times and more importantly, try to avoid these feelings by implementing stress reduction behaviors and techniques. Try yoga, short walks or workouts, massage therapy and diffusing lavender, for example. (6)
7. Apple Cider Vinegar
It’s no surprise that apple cider vinegar uses (ACV) include being great for killing the fungus that causes dandruff. It is known to provide instant relief from itchiness and and may be your answer for how to get rid of dandruff with just a few applications.
Try combining equal parts ACV with water and massage onto the scalp. Let it sit for a few minutes and rinse. Repeat for 5–7 days and see if you notice a difference. If you experience any irritation, discontinue or use every other day for 7–10 days to see if there is improvement.
It is common that what you are eating could be part of the problem. Try a good, benefit-loaded probiotic. Not only can it help reduce dandruff, but it can help boost your overall health providing beneficial bacteria for your gut. (7)
9. Omega 3s
Add omega-3 foods into your diet such as from fresh, wild-caught salmon or chia seeds. The omega 3s can help provide much needed hydration for your skin from within; therefore, they may reduce dandruff.
In addition, deficiencies in vitamins, minerals and other nutrients found in omega 3s may increase the risk of getting dandruff. Fish oil may work as a dry scalp remedy for healthy skin and hair to combat dandruff. (8)
Recipe: Rosemary and Tea Tree Dandruff Hair and Scalp Mask
As I mentioned above, essential oils are great at helping to control dandruff because many have antibacterial properties. Try this recipe for another answer to how to get rid of dandruff!
It makes two to three applications. You can double the recipe and store in an airtight container for up to 10 days.
- 8 drops cedarwood oil
- 8 drops rosemary oil
- 6 drops tea tree oil
- 1 teaspoon local honey
- 4 ounces olive oil, almond or coconut oil
- Blend ingredients well in container.
- Massage into the scalp.
- Leave on for at least 20 minutes.
- For severe conditions, try leaving it on overnight.
- Shampoo well.
To Avoid Dandruff, Avoid These Things
Many commercial shampoos contain chemicals that are harmful, and dandruff shampoos are even worse. And within shampoos and hair products, make sure you avoid parabens, sodium laureth or lauryl sulfate.
For how to get rid of dandruff diet-wise, it’s important to minimize your sugar intake and to avoid processed foods and processed oils like corn, soy, canola, safflower and sunflower oil.
Read Next: Top 12 Argan Oil Benefits for Skin & Hair
If you feel like you could use some more in depth information on essential oils, Dr. Josh Axe is hosting a free webinar going over, in great detail, uses and tips for using essential oils. Click below to learn more.