Cause and Cure for Dandruff

September 4, 2022 - Parul Saini, Webmedy Team

Updated Version - July 17, 2023

Dandruff is a disorder where the skin on the scalp sheds off excess amounts of its top layer. The condition may also appear around your eyebrows and the side of your nose. The shedding of old, dead skin cells is normal. However, with dandruff, larger patches of skin flake off at a faster rate.

What are the Symptoms of Dandruff?

Symptoms of Dandruff may include:

  • Dry skin on your scalp, hair, eyebrows, beard or mustache, and shoulders.
  • Itchy scalp.

The signs and symptoms of dandruff may be more severe if you're stressed, and they tend to flare in cold, dry seasons.

Why Does Dandruff Happen?

The main cause of dandruff is a combination of a nutritional deficiency with bacterial and fungal factors.

The overgrowth of a specific yeast-like fungus called Malassezia on the scalp is a common cause of dandruff. Another common skin condition is Seborrheic dermatitis. Seborrheic dermatitis mainly affects the scalp and can cause scaly or greasy patches, red, irritated skin, and stubborn dandruff.

Best Remedies for Dandruff

A dandruff shampoo or products containing salicylic acid can help control Dandruff but may not be the best solution. Here are some natural remedies for dandruff:

  • Coconut Oil

    Rub 3-5 teaspoons of coconut oil into your scalp and leave for 1 hour. Then shampoo your hair and wash it out.

  • Apple Cider Vinegar

    Mix 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar with a 1/4 cup of water. Apply to your hair for 15 minutes to 1 hour, and then rinse out. Do this twice a week.

  • Flaxseed Oil

    Flaxseed oil is made from the seeds of the flax plant. It is rich in vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids like omega-3. The antibacterial properties of flaxseed oil support a healthy scalp by fighting irritation and dandruff. The omega-3 fatty acids can also help heal a flaky scalp. Flaxseed oil can nourish and condition the hair.

  • Baking Soda

    Gently rub baking soda it into your scalp in the shower and rinse after a few minutes.

  • Lemon Juice

    Rub 2 teaspoons of lemon juice into your scalp and rinse out. Then rub one more teaspoon mixed with 1 cup of water. Do this every day.

  • Aloe Vera

    Rub aloe vera into your scalp before you wash your hair.

  • Oregano Oil

    Oregano oil can help fight bacteria and fungi. Oregano oil is a unique essential oil that is rich in antioxidants and may have anti-fungal properties. This essential oil has an impressive list of benefits and could help reduce problematic dandruff-causing bacteria.

Tips to Prevent Dandruff

  • Relax and Reduce Stress

    Stress can aggravate or even worsen Dandruff for some individuals. Stress makes your immune system weak. While Malassezia is not introduced to your scalp by stress, it can thrive if your immune system is weak.

  • Massage your Scalp

    Massaging your scalp may help prevent dandruff symptoms. Brush your hair when it's damp (not wet) at least twice daily.

  • Avoid Friction

    Avoid wearing hats and scarves, especially those of synthetic materials.

  • Anti-dandruff Shampoo

    The best way to treat dandruff is to use an anti-dandruff shampoo regularly, which will guarantee proper scalp hygiene as well as a dandruff treatment.

Helpful Information

What are the main causes of dandruff?

Dandruff is primarily caused by an overgrowth of a yeast-like fungus called Malassezia that feeds on oils on the scalp. Other factors that can contribute include not shampooing enough, dry skin, sensitivity to hair care products, or certain skin conditions like seborrheic dermatitis or psoriasis.

How can dandruff be cured?

While there's no definitive cure for dandruff, it can be effectively managed. Over-the-counter shampoos with active ingredients like zinc pyrithione, salicylic acid, selenium sulfide, or ketoconazole can help control dandruff. If these aren't effective, a dermatologist can prescribe stronger treatments.

How does diet impact dandruff?

While the link between diet and dandruff isn't entirely clear, a healthy diet can support overall skin health. Some research suggests that foods rich in zinc, B-vitamins, and certain types of fats may help reduce dandruff.

How does stress relate to dandruff?

Stress doesn't directly cause dandruff, but it can exacerbate symptoms because it weakens the immune system, making it harder for the body to control the Malassezia fungus that contributes to dandruff.

Is there a connection between dandruff and hair loss?

Severe dandruff or scalp inflammation due to conditions like seborrheic dermatitis can lead to hair loss, but this is usually temporary. Once the underlying scalp condition is treated, hair typically grows back.

Are there natural remedies for dandruff?

Certain natural remedies, like tea tree oil, apple cider vinegar, or aloe vera, may help manage dandruff symptoms for some people. However, their effectiveness varies and they should be used with caution, as they can sometimes cause skin irritation.

What's the best way to use anti-dandruff shampoo?

Anti-dandruff shampoo should be massaged into the scalp and left on for a few minutes before rinsing to give the active ingredients time to work. For best results, it's usually recommended to use anti-dandruff shampoo every time you wash your hair, until symptoms improve.

What role does the weather play in dandruff?

Dry, cold weather can exacerbate dandruff in some people, as it can cause the skin, including the scalp, to dry out. Conversely, warmer, humid weather may help keep the scalp moisturized and reduce symptoms.

Is dandruff contagious?

No, dandruff is not contagious. It results from individual factors like skin type, the amount of oil on the scalp, and a person's reaction to the Malassezia fungus, which is commonly found on most people's scalps.

How long does it take for anti-dandruff treatments to work?

Over-the-counter anti-dandruff treatments often show improvements within a few weeks of consistent use. Prescription treatments may work more quickly, but it depends on the individual's scalp condition and the specific treatment used.

Are there different types of dandruff?

Yes, dandruff can be categorized based on the underlying cause. For instance, dry skin-related dandruff often presents as small, white flakes, while dandruff due to seborrheic dermatitis tends to result in larger, oilier flakes.

What's the difference between dandruff and a dry scalp?

While both conditions can cause white flakes, they are distinct. Dandruff often results in larger, oilier flakes, and the scalp may be oily and red. Dry scalp, on the other hand, is caused by a lack of moisture, leading to small, dry flakes, and the scalp may feel tight and itchy.

Does oily scalp cause dandruff?

An oily scalp doesn't necessarily cause dandruff, but it can create a favorable environment for Malassezia, the fungus often associated with dandruff. This fungus feeds on the oils on the scalp, which can lead to an overgrowth and subsequent inflammation and flaking.

What precautions can be taken to prevent dandruff?

Maintaining a regular hair washing routine, eating a healthy diet, managing stress, and avoiding harsh hair care products can all help prevent or reduce the severity of dandruff.

Is it necessary to consult a doctor for dandruff?

While most cases of dandruff can be self-managed with over-the-counter treatments, it's advisable to consult a doctor or dermatologist if your dandruff is severe, persistent, or causing significant distress.

How does frequent washing of hair affect dandruff?

Frequent washing can help control dandruff by reducing oiliness and preventing the buildup of skin cells on the scalp. However, washing too often or with harsh shampoos can also dry out the scalp and potentially worsen dandruff.

Does scratching worsen dandruff?

Yes, scratching can exacerbate dandruff by causing inflammation and further flaking. It can also potentially damage the scalp and lead to infection. Using a medicated shampoo and moisturizing the scalp can help alleviate itchiness and reduce the need to scratch.


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