How To Get Rid Of Dandruff And Itchy Scalp


How To Get Rid Of Dandruff And Itchy Scalp

This guide is a full, detailed write up that teaches you how to get rid of dandruff and itchy scalp. And when I say detailed, I mean I’m trying to give you every popular solution out there and even a few that are less common.

So hopefully you’ll be able to find the best solution that works just for you. If you need clarification or have any feedback, your own personal experiences, or products you’d like to add, please leave a comment at the bottom.

  • Depending on the treatment, what might work for dandruff could make your dry skin or other flake causing conditions even worse.
  • Dandruff and dry scalp are different conditions that need to be treated differently. I’ll go over solutions to each of these in more detail further down.
  • Unfortunately, there is no way to get rid of dandruff permanently. We can only control it.

How to get rid of dandruff and itchy scalp

What is dandruff?

We tend to think of dandruff as any and all flakes. It’s usually used as an umbrella term to describe all kinds of flaking conditions. But, that’s not quite what dandruff is. Dandruff is a more common and less severe form of Seborrheic dermatitis or in babies, it’s known as cradle cap. It’s a long-term skin disorder. Around 50% of people have had dandruff at some point.[1]

Seborrheic dermatitis typically has red inflammation and is not limited to just the scalp like dandruff is. Lots of people get it on their face too.  Since both conditions are very similar and are treated in a similar way, I’ll be using dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis interchangeably throughout the post.

Seborrheic dermatitis is also referred to as Seb Derm, SD, or seborrheic eczema.

Is dandruff contagious? No. Not at all. Everyone has the fungus/bacteria on their scalp that can make dandruff happen. Some people are just more susceptible to irritation caused by that fungus/bacteria.

Dandruff is a chronic condition. When you have bad dandruff you’ll always have to use something to take care of it. But, once the symptoms are gone, you can scale back the treatment and use it less often. If you completely stop treatment, dandruff will most likely return at some point.

What are the main symptoms?

The main symptoms are itchiness, greasy and oily skin, flaking ranging from small white flakes to large yellow ones, and redness.[2]

The flakes from dandruff are dead skin cells shed due to oily skin. We all shed skin constantly. But, someone suffering from dandruff is shedding a lot faster. That excess shedding makes those dead skin cells clump together to become bigger and more noticeable flakes.

There is a key distinction here between dandruff and other types of flakes. Dandruff is directly related to an oily scalp.

Be careful when self-diagnosing your problem. There are all different kinds of eczema and psoriasis issues that can cause flakes. Dandruff products can be drying to your scalp, which is good for dandruff, but using them on a simple case of dry skin during the winter months could make things even worse.

Cure my dandruff fast by hiding it!

There’s no real way to get rid of dandruff fast. Don’t expect to completely get rid of dandruff in just one wash or that it will disappear instantly. It takes time to reduce the symptoms. It can take a couple weeks to completely reduce the occurrence of flakes.

But, we can hide it if you need to quickly head out for the day.  These three options aren’t going to get rid of dandruff but, if you’re looking for a quick fix to get you through, we can start here.

The three best ways to hide dandruff are:

  • Hats
  • Light-colored clothing
  • Cover it with your hairstyle

Please note that hats can be a double-edged sword. They are perfect for hiding hair issues but, hats also create a warm, humid environment for Malassezia to thrive in. I mentioned changes in humidity can flare up seborrheic dermatitis. Remember? It could make your dandruff even worse.

You could also dye your hair a lighter color. Be careful with hair dyes though! I mentioned this above too, it can be a cause for scalp irritation (contact dermatitis) if you’re particularly sensitive/allergic. It’s an additional way to hide dandruff but, I wouldn’t recommend it. Just in case.

Now, we’re almost onto the treatments that can actually fix your dandruff problems. But…

Before you try anything!

Before trying new skin care products, do a test patch. Especially if you have sensitive skin or allergies. Every treatment can have side effects or cause allergic reactions in some people. Even natural home remedies can cause problems.

The purpose of a patch test is to see if you have any type of contact dermatitis or allergic reaction to certain products before you put it all over your scalp.

If you want to be extra careful, there are two types of patch tests. One on the inside of your elbow and one on a small patch of skin behind your ear. There are two because you may find that certain products are totally fine on your arm but, cause a reaction on your face.

After you’ve applied a small amount of the product, wait 24 hours and look for any signs of irritation.

Antihistamines – If you are using any antihistamines, keep in mind they suppress your allergy symptoms.

Common antihistamines include:

  • Benadryl
  • Zyrtec
  • Claritin
  • Allegra

Finally, now we’ll get onto our main topic on how to get rid of dandruff and itchy scalp.

The only scientifically proven way to treat dandruff

best anti dandruff shampoo for men

Shampoo treatments. Lots of people turn to some kind of shampoo for dandruff and itchy scalp. There’s a reason for that. It’s the most effective type of treatment.

Why, do you ask? Because of their special ingredients. Every anti-dandruff shampoo has one!

The most popular active ingredients in anti-dandruff shampoos are[12]:

  • Coal Tar
  • Zinc pyrithione
  • Selenium sulfide
  • Salicylic acid
  • Ketoconazole
  • Sulfur

Nizoral

A popular shampoo that uses Ketoconazole to fight dandruff. Over the counter versions use 1% Ketoconazole. 2% requires a prescription. It’s recommended use is two times per week.

Ketoconazole is becoming more and more popular based on how effective it is at treating both dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis. And its effects are longer lasting than other treatments.[13]

Nizoral is the first treatment I would start with because of how effective ketoconazole is against different types of fungi. It’s also one treatment I see recommended over and over again. If you want to see what people have to say about it, check out the Nizoral reviews on Amazon.

Selsun blue

Another over the counter dandruff shampoo that uses 1% Selenium Sulfide to fight flakes. There is another line of Selsun blue shampoo called naturals that uses Salicylic acid.

This version of Selsun blue uses aloe in it to help soothe skin. I’ve written more about aloe further down.

Head and Shoulders

The most recognizable dandruff shampoo out there. There are different versions of Head and Shoulders but, the classic uses Pyrithione zinc for dandruff treatment.

Head and Shoulders Clinical Strength.

Neutrogena T-Gel

Coal tar is the active ingredient in this dandruff shampoo. Coal tar is meant to remove the dead skin cells from the top layer of your skin and slow skin cell growth. It should reduce itchiness, dryness, and scaling.

There are a few complaints about coal tar shampoo. The first is the smell. It can be a little bit strong. The second, coal tar makes your skin more sensitive to sunlight. The third is that it can discolor your hair. Although that’s not always the case. This type of shampoo is very effective for dandruff, itch, and psoriasis.[14]

Although there are some complaints, people report instant relief from itchiness using Neutrogena T-Gel.

Please note, these kinds of shampoos are usually not meant for dry flaky skin. They’re made for an oily scalp. If your skin is dry and flaky, not oily and flaky, you may want to look at alternatives.

The technique is just as important as the shampoo you use!

Most importantly, follow the directions on the bottle. 

Gently rub it into the scalp. Dandruff comes from your scalp, not from the hair. So make sure to get it in there good! You don’t need to be rough with it. Just make sure your scalp is covered.

Leave it in for a while. Make sure the active ingredient in your shampoo has plenty of time to work. Keep the shampoo in your hair for 5-10 minutes before you wash it out for maximum effectiveness.

Rinse out thoroughly. Product build-up is a cause of itchy scalp so make sure you’re completely rinsing out the shampoo after each rinse.

Depending on what type of anti-dandruff shampoo you use, you’ll want to adjust how often you use it. Most shampoos have recommendations for when to use it. Some say to use their shampoo only twice a week, others recommend daily for severe dandruff.

In between your use of an anti-dandruff shampoo you should use milder gentle shampoos. That will help reduce scalp irritation. Regular shampoos are sometimes a little harsh because of some of the chemicals. For most people this is completely fine but, those with skin conditions like seborrheic dermatitis they’ll be even more susceptible to irritation.[15]

Once symptoms disappear, you can reduce how often you use an antidandruff shampoo. And if symptoms come back, start using it more often again. There is no cure for dandruff, it can only be controlled.

Should I use conditioner after dandruff shampoo?

It depends. If your scalp is dry immediately after your anti-dandruff shampoo, you should not use a regular conditioner. These don’t have any ingredients that fight dandruff.

There are anti-dandruff conditioners though. They use the same active ingredients as an anti-dandruff shampoo. For example, Head and Shoulders conditioner uses Pyrithione zinc in both their shampoo and conditioner. The conditioner just has a smaller amount (.5% vs 1%).

These are only necessary if you’re concerned about your hair being weak or dry after using your dandruff shampoo.

Also be mindful about what ingredients are in your conditioner. Many natural conditioners use oils for their hydrating properties. But, many of these oils feed dandruff. More on that below.

For example, a super popular conditioner on Amazon is a tea tree oil conditioner by Maple Holistics. It has excellent reviews and is listed as a dandruff treatment option. But, there are 5 ingredients in it that can increase Malassezia growth. They are glycerin, sorbitan olivate, argan oil, shea butter, and jojoba oil. All moisturizing ingredients. That would lead me to believe that the tea tree oil conditioner is better for dry scalp or psoriasis issues.

My recommendation would be anything that doesn’t have ingredients that feed the route of our problems. I used the website Sezia to look up ingredients that aggravate Malassezia. This conditioner has none of those.

DIY dandruff treatment options

Now I want to take some time to go over a lot of other options besides medicated shampoos. It’s not because these DIY treatments are the best options but, because they are often listed as amazing remedies that cure dandruff. Which, in some cases is the opposite.

Some of them could very well be effective. But, there isn’t enough evidence for any of them to be listed as a tried and true method to get rid of dandruff and itchy scalp.

Carrier and essential oils

Can you use carrier oils as a home remedy for dandruff?

Oils are commonly listed as an effective natural treatment and home remedy for dandruff. They aren’t necessarily good for dandruff. However, they are fantastic for dry skin and hydration.

Why might they be bad for dandruff? Dandruff is a less severe form of seborrheic dermatitis. An issue with an overly oily scalp. Malassezia, thought to be the yeast responsible for dandruff, is lipid-dependent.[16]

The definition of lipid from Google dictionary:

“any of a class of organic compounds that are fatty acids or their derivatives and are insoluble in water but soluble in organic solvents. They include many natural oils, waxes, and steroids.”

Lipids are part of oils produced by living things. Natural oils feed Malassezia.

So adding more oils isn’t really going to do a lot of good for us.

People commonly confuse any and all flakes as dandruff. It could actually be many different things including dry scalp which oils may be very helpful for.

The only exceptions I can point to are possibly mineral oil, MCT oil, squalane oil. They could be helpful based on the fact that they do not feed Malassezia. More on those further below.

Not Coconut oil

But, I thought coconut oil was the best?!

It’s true that Coconut oil is one of the top natural remedies that pop up for dandruff treatment. But, is it really good for your scalp? Yes, it is. It’s great for your skin and works very well as a moisturizer.

BUT, you may not want to use coconut oil for dandruff treatment. It’s true that coconut oil has antifungal properties. It happens to be effective against a specific yeast species called Candida.[17] You’d think that would wipe out our dandruff problems but, it can make things worse.

It may not specifically target the Malassezia/bacteria imbalance that leads to dandruff in the first place. There’s no ingredient in coconut oil that’s specifically targeted to fight dandruff. Malassezia feeds on oils so it might be more counterproductive to use it.

Fatty acids with a carbon chain length or 11-24 seem to dramatically speed up the growth of Pityrosporum Ovale (Malassezia Furfur).[18]

Coconut oil is bad for Malassezia (gives it more fuel) because of its lauric acid content. Lauric acid happens to be a medium-chain fatty acid with a 12 carbon backbone.[19]

There isn’t enough research specifically on coconut oil to say for sure that it’s bad or good for seborrheic dermatitis. But, it makes sense that feeding a scalp overloaded with oil even more oil won’t work. Especially when it has one of the prime fuels for the fungus we’re fighting.

If you choose to go with coconut oil, proceed with caution. Reports on the effectiveness of coconut oil vary from being helpful to being the cause of dandruff flare-ups.

I would recommend against the coconut oil route.

As always do a patch test before applying to test for any allergies or sensitivities to coconut oil.

Other vegetable oils

Olive oil is listed as another home remedy to battle dandruff. Just like coconut oil, olive oil has great hydrating benefits for your scalp but, it isn’t the most effective for treating seborrheic dermatitis.

Just because vegetable oils are what the yeast that causes dandruff feeds on. I’m not going to list every vegetable oil here but, they typically contain oleic acid or linoleic acid which have carbon chain lengths of 18 which is in that problematic range.

I recommend against using any vegetable oils.

3 Oils that won’t make it worse

Mineral oil, MCT oil, Squalane oil.

These three oils are the ones that do not feed Malassezia, the yeast that is thought to contribute to dandruff. Malassezia feeds on specific fatty acids like lauric acid (in coconut oil) we talked about. If you want to use an oil treatment to combat dandruff I’d recommend using one of these three.

Why are these oils okay?

Because the fatty acids in these oils fall outside of the 11-24 carbon chain length that increases the growth rate of Malassezia furfur.

Mineral oil

Mineral oil is different from vegetable oils. It is petroleum based rather than plant-based. And it’s inert. Mineral oil doesn’t react with other chemicals very easily.

As a result, the type of fungus thought to cause dandruff cannot “eat” this type of oil. You won’t be further feeding your dandruff problems if you use mineral oil. That doesn’t mean it’s the best type to use though!

I mentioned that mineral oil doesn’t react with chemicals easily. This stuff doesn’t get absorbed by the skin very easily. It’s occlusive. Which means it sits on top of the skin and acts as a barrier. So it can help retain moisture or keep it out and can also trap in the natural oils and sweat your skin produces.

Many people think of mineral oil as a bad product because of how it’s produced. I mentioned it’s petroleum-based because it’s made as a by-product of refining crude oil. That doesn’t necessarily make it bad. Doesn’t necessarily make it good either.

Untreated or lightly treated mineral oil can cause a lot of problems from clogging pores to cancer.[21]

Sounds pretty horrible right? But, the mineral oil used in cosmetics is highly refined to get rid of any impurities. It’s thought to be non-carcinogenic but, there isn’t enough evidence to show it’s 100% harmless.

It’s one of the most commonly used oils for OCM. More on OCM below.

Mineral oil is very inexpensive but, because it doesn’t get absorbed by your scalp it can feel a bit greasy. So I recommend if you’re going for mineral oil, you go for a lightweight version.

MCT oil

MCT stands for medium chain triglycerides. They essentially come from coconut oil. It’s a great source to extract MCTs from.

That doesn’t mean it’s bad! Don’t rule it out just yet.

However, if you choose to get MCT oil you need to look at the label for the specific fatty acids in coconut oil that Malassezia eats (lauric acid). We don’t want that in our oil.

Caprylic and Capric acid are the two fatty acids most commonly found in MCT oil but, lauric acid is sometimes in it as well. Caprylic and capric acid both have carbon chain lengths below 11.

This study[22] mentions that Caprylic acid (or octanoic acid) was found to be the most effective as far as antimicrobial activity goes and it might be useful for treatment against the yeast in the future.

You can find 100% pure caprylic acid MCT oil here.

Squalane oil

Squalane comes from squalene. It’s basically a more stable form of squalene that won’t cause damage to your skin from auto-oxidation. It’s used in a lot of skin care products as a moisturizer and emollient (softens skin).

It has a high carbon chain length: 30.

Squalane is reported to have anticancer, skin hydrating, and emollient properties.[23]

If you have dandruff and you feel that your scalp is very dry, squalane oil may be the way to go. And it has a very long shelf life.

What about essential oils for dandruff?

essential oils for dandruff and itchy scalp

I haven’t really talked about essential oils yet.

Once again there isn’t enough research to prove that essential oils are great for dandruff but, tea tree oil is a common one suggested for treatment.

Do essential oils feed Malassezia? They aren’t lipids. Essential oils are mostly terpenes which are another type of organic compound.

Many essential oils are produced through a method called steam distillation. The components of essential oils typically have lower boiling points than lipids. For example, Google says the boiling point of lauric acid (fatty acids are a type of lipid) is 289.9°C. Google says the boiling point of limonene (a monoterpene) is 176°C.

Steam distillation takes advantage of the different boiling points of materials to separate them.

Tea tree oil

Tea tree oil is a popular essential oil. It’s another remedy that’s often recommended. Tea tree oil has proven to be effective[24] against dandruff. But, it cannot be applied directly. It needs to be diluted. Essential oils tend to be too harsh to use on their own. It was proven to be effective when used as a 5% tea tree oil shampoo. If you want to go the tea tree oil route, I’d recommend an anti-dandruff shampoo with tea tree oil in it.

So tea tree oil works, but not all shampoos with it are winners. An example is a shampoo with tea tree oil in it, but other ingredients that make dandruff worse. Be careful when choosing any shampoo, natural or otherwise, if you aren’t sure of the ingredients.

Important note on tea tree oil. About 5% of people have an allergic reaction to tea tree oil on skin contact. So try a patch test before you apply it to your whole scalp!

Lots of folks with seborrheic dermatitis/dandruff have had luck with this tea tree shampoo.

Other Oils

Lemongrass oil, Rosemary oil, Lavender oil, Chamomile oil, Eucalyptus oil, Thyme oil, Peppermint oil. These essential oils have a whole host of dandruff fighting properties. They can be anti-fungal, antibacterial[25], antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, and anti-microbial.

Just like tea tree oil, they must be diluted because they’re too harsh on your skin to use as is. Essential oils are very concentrated.

It’s fairly common that people make their own blends of oils to fight dandruff. For example, someone might use lavender, lemongrass, rosemary, and tea tree oil with a carrier oil to dilute them. Coconut oil is very popular as a carrier oil but, don’t use it for dandruff. Just remember that the percentage of essential oils in your mixture should be somewhere around 1-5%. I would keep to the lower end.

Never dilute with water. Water and oils do not mix well.

What oils should I use for dandruff?

There are three main oils that work best as natural home remedies if you want an oil treatment (because they don’t feed Malassezia). Squalane oil, MCT oil, and Mineral oil.

You can use squalane oil or MCT oil as carrier oils if you want to mix in essential oils like tea tree.

My personal rating would be Squalane oil as the best, followed by MCT oil, with mineral oil in last.

The oil cleansing method (OCM) benefits

OCM is a type of cleansing that is based on the idea that oils dissolve oils. The idea is to maintain the natural pH of your skin instead of stripping away all of its moisture by washing.

The main problem with the oil cleansing method for dandruff is that it can make your hair feel really greasy. OCM is typically used to wash your face. And you’d wipe it off with a microfiber cloth after.

If you want to use oils on your scalp I highly recommend you do it before a shower and use a medicated shampoo or even a mild shampoo to get the oil out afterward.

A common myth about soap is that when you wash away the natural oils of your face your sebaceous glands kick into overdrive. They produce more oil than before. That isn’t true.

Be careful with what oils you use. Recipes for the oil cleansing method you find online might use oils that feed dandruff. Do a patch test before applying any oils to your scalp. Any oils you use can be very messy so be prepared.

How to use oils on your hair:

  1. Apply a small amount of oil to your scalp/face (a little goes a long way)
  2. Massage it in for a few minutes
  3. Wash out the oil with your shampoo if on hair(mild or anti-dandruff)/Wipe it off with a microfiber cloth if oils are used on the face

That’s all there is to it.

Other natural home remedies for dandruff and itchy scalp

For most home remedies and natural treatments, there is no science to back up their effectiveness. That’s why they’re home remedies. That goes for the carrier and essential oils above as well. Even if they are effective for some folks (apple cider vinegar is a popular one) they only tend to work for the short term and have mixed results. If used in the long term, they tend to have negative effects on your scalp. Remember to dilute treatments!

Water isn’t always effective for diluting so be careful.

Since there isn’t any scientific evidence, I’ll be going over the reason why folks believe it works. And if it helps some people, it’s worth talking about.

But, on the flip side, I’ll try to go over any side effects and negatives for these treatments. Many of these treatments are too harsh for your scalp in the long term.

An apple cider vinegar dandruff treatment 

There isn’t any scientific evidence to prove that apple cider vinegar (ACV) helps with dandruff but, many people claim it has helped them get rid of annoying flakes. It’s supposed to be great for your hair’s health by lowering pH levels due to ACV’s acidic nature.

The natural pH level of your scalp is around 5. Shampoo’s pH levels can range anywhere from 3.5-9 with most of them being higher than 5. And ACV’s pH ranges from 3.1-5. There is research to go along with this.

Higher pH levels of hair products can lead to hair damage. Specifically, higher pH levels increase the negative charge of the surface of your hair which increases the friction between hair fibers. That can lead to cuticle damage and fiber breakage.[26]

It makes sense that you might think the acidity of apple cider vinegar would help out your scalp. But, there’s just not enough research right now to confirm that. Mainly we know that lower pH causes less frizzing.

The acidic nature of ACV can be a double-edged sword. Too much can cause more damage to your scalp than good. Since you can never cure dandruff for good, apple cider vinegar may be an okay treatment in the short term but, should not be used long term.

Another problem with ACV is it has a very strong smell. I don’t know about you but, I’m not a fan of smelling like vinegar all day.

If you decide to give it a shot, it’s highly recommended that you dilute it with water to minimize the smell and make it gentler on your scalp. It’s too concentrated to use by itself. Make sure not to get it in your eyes or broken skin either!

The most popular ACV is Bragg organic raw apple cider vinegar.

Lemon Juice, helpful or not?

Just like apple cider vinegar, the idea behind the lemon juice is to lower pH levels and clean away any extra sebum (your skins natural oils). The citric acid in lemon juice is responsible for this. It’s sometimes used as an exfoliant for skin.

Lemon juice happens to have an even lower pH level than apple cider vinegar. Between 2 and 3 pH. Quite strong. So it can cause skin irritation. Please be sure to do a patch test before applying lemon juice to your scalp.

Make sure you dilute the lemon juice before applying. Home elixirs or tonics made with lemon juice may include 1/3 cup of coconut oil (coconut oil is not recommended for dandruff, see above) and about 5 drops of lemon juice. If I was going to use lemon juice I would just dilute it with water.

Side effects of applying lemon juice are sun sensitivity. Lemon juice can increase your chances of getting sunburn and make it even worse. It makes your skin more sensitive simply because it’s so acidic.

Baking Soda. Is it safe to use for dandruff?

Baking soda for dandruff

Baking soda is used fairly often as a substitute for regular shampoos. Often as a method of washing hair without using commercial shampoos. This is known as the no poo method.

It can be used as a dry shampoo but, the main problem I have with it is its high pH level and what that means for the health of your scalp. It has a pH level of around 9 which is much higher than your scalps natural pH of around 5 (acidic). 7 is considered a neutral pH, that’s where water sits.

Typically shampoos and conditioners are balanced to be slightly acidic, just like your scalp. And your scalp stays healthy for it.

Usually, when using baking soda as a shampoo, people will recommend using apple cider vinegar after as a conditioner to restore the pH level of your scalp back to normal. Just because ACV is acidic. But, there’s no evidence that it works like that.

It’s always suggested to dilute baking soda in an effort to lower the pH slightly. But, baking soda is very strong. And as such it’s very difficult to dilute. It doesn’t take much to make water alkaline (higher pH).

Baking soda will certainly clear oil out of your scalp but, can leave your hair feeling weak brittle, and damaged in the long term. There’s no evidence that baking soda is great as a shampoo and as such it has mixed reviews.

Using it once most likely won’t give you any problems. You may see some benefit from using it with a very oily scalp because it’s very effective. But, long-term this is not the best option.

But, since we have a scalp condition (dandruff) I would recommend against this home remedy. We don’t need any more irritation.

Can I use mouthwash for dandruff?

From the 1930s to the 50s Listerine was advertised as a treatment for dandruff. They said to douse your head in Listerine, full strength and vigorously massage it into the scalp. And to repeat the treatment for a few days. They also recommended olive oil for dryness.

Why don’t they advertise that today? Does it still work?

The FDA forced Listerine to stop saying two things, that it works for dandruff and that it cures coughing and sore throat.

Does Listerine work?

It’s mildly effective. Mouthwashes like Listerine are antiseptic and anti-inflammatory. And there are a number of different ingredients in mouthwashes that are anti-fungal too. That sounds perfect for our dandruff situation right?

It tends to be more useful for only mild cases of dandruff. Mouthwash isn’t as useful for more severe cases of dandruff, like seborrheic dermatitis.

Some side effects of using Listerine as a dandruff treatment are dry scalp and burning sensation. Due to its antiseptic properties/alcohol content, any open skin may burn. And because dandruff can get very itchy, the scratching may have hurt your skin. The burning won’t hurt you but, it is unpleasant.

One reason to avoid using mouthwash as a dandruff solution is that it can really dry out your hair. That’s why back in the 1930s they recommended using olive oil for moisture to counteract the dryness.

The key is that mouthwash is worth a shot as long as you don’t have sensitive skin. And it should not be used regularly. Once in a while is not going to hurt you but, continued use over long periods of time can do damage to your scalp and hair.

Lots of people have found success using Listerine for their dandruff problems and especially for itchiness. Just be careful not to get it in your eyes!

If you choose to try it out, make sure you go for the original gold formula of Listerine. It has the right combination of ingredients. And once again like the other natural remedies I’ve listed, it’s recommended you dilute the mouthwash. Usually, it’s recommended to do a half mouthwash half water mixture.

Aspirin dandruff shampoo

The idea behind making an anti-dandruff shampoo with aspirin is that it has a similar active ingredient to other anti-dandruff shampoos like Neutrogena T-Gel: salicylic acid. It’s a DIY anti-dandruff shampoo method.

The form of salicylic acid in aspirin is a modified version called acetylsalicylic acid which has some different properties. They aren’t exactly the same thing.

Please note that you can’t use other headache medicines in the same way. They have different ingredients and will not work. It needs to be aspirin.

If you’re allergic to aspirin do not apply it to your skin. 

Apply it by crushing up 2 aspirin tablets and mixing it into a small amount of shampoo.

White willow bark is also mentioned as a dandruff-fighting remedy. Salicin can be extracted from it. Both aspirin and salicylic acid are derivatives of salicin.

Neem leaves

These are thought to be antifungal and antibacterial. Once again there isn’t enough evidence to show that this is an effective treatment for dandruff.

And if used long-term or in large doses there may be negative side effects like kidney and liver damage when taken orally.

Boil water and add neem leaves overnight. Apply the water to your scalp. Some combinations also include neem leaves and honey to form a paste or neem leaves, lemon juice, and coconut oil.

Once again before using neem leaves do a patch test to see if it irritates your skin before applying it all over.

Using aloe vera gel for hair dandruff

This stuff is fantastic for soothing skin.

I’m sure you’ve heard of it used for all kinds of things. It’s healing properties are great for your skin. It can help with bug bites, scars, acne, sunburn, you name it.

Aloe vera will help reduce itching and irritation but, it won’t necessarily target the root of the problem.

A study on aloe vera revealed that it’s a helpful treatment but, it won’t cure dandruff. Helpful because it reduces scaliness.[27]

I would recommend aloe vera to anyone that wants to be a little more comfortable dealing with an irritated scalp. Aloe vera allergies are out there so make sure to do a patch test before applying.

Be careful when choosing an aloe vera product. Read the ingredients carefully because even those 100% aloe vera gels sometimes include harsh additives. This is the Aloe vera gel I’d recommend.

Garlic is antifungal?

Garlic is another antifungal home remedy to treat dandruff. It’s often mixed with honey and applied topically but, you can eat garlic to get benefits as well. The results are just like you would expect: inconclusive. Some say it works wonders. For others, it’s had no effect.

There are side effects for overconsumption of garlic like heartburn, bad breath, and upset stomach. But, we want to apply it topically.

It’s not exactly the treatment you’d want to use for the smell but, hey if some people have had success with it, it’s worth a shot.

Raw organic or Manuka Honey

Does honey work as a natural dandruff treatment

Honey has a ton of nutrients in it that are great for your scalp. It’s antifungal, antibacterial, and has antioxidants. Fun fact about honey: it basically never goes bad. At most, it forms into crystals which are still safe to eat.

Research is still being done on honey specifically for its antibacterial properties. A study found that crude/raw honey has positive effects on seborrheic dermatitis (dandruff).[28]

Get Raw Manuka Honey here.

Patients that had seborrheic dermatitis applied honey diluted in water, rubbing it in gently for 2-3 minutes every other day. It was left on for three hours then rinsed off. Patients that kept using the honey treatment had improved while the ones who stopped had their symptoms return. There isn’t enough evidence and research done to know for sure that it’s a 100% cure for dandruff.

How to apply honey for dandruff. Dilute it in warm water. 90% honey to 10% water. Gently massage it into your scalp for a few minutes and leave it on for 3 hours. Then rinse it off.

Side effects of applying honey to the skin. There’s good news. As long as it’s real honey, there are no side effects when you apply it topically. I say, real honey because in the past honey manufacturers have been caught using cheap syrups to create “honey” instead of the real deal. So you can’t always be exactly sure what’s in those cheap syrups.

Create your own natural dandruff shampoo recipe

You can always mix and match ingredients to make your own recipe as well. Just don’t forget that a lot of these home remedies must be diluted. Essential oils, vinegar, lemon juice, etc. should all be diluted.

For example, you could mix honey, aloe vera gel, water, and a few drops of peppermint oil.

There is a nifty site that can tell you if a certain ingredient promotes Malassezia growth. It’s called Sezia. You just type in an ingredient and it will tell you if it’s good or bad for Malassezia.

Avoid scratching

I know it’s hard to do but, if you can find the will, avoid any scratching. I see all kinds of ASMR dandruff scratching and flake removal videos everywhere on the internet. Despite being pretty gross, some people find it very relaxing and satisfying.

That’s an example of what you shouldn’t do. I mean, the videos are fine but, scratching is bad.

Scratching or scrubbing at the flakes will irritate your skin further. You’ll be increasing your dandruff and itchiness problem.

Think of the flakes like a scab. If you continuously pick at it, it won’t heal. The same thing applies here.

Over scratching can even lead to bleeding and infection. Avoid it!

Brushing and exfoliating are usually good for your skin in moderation but, they can also be rough on your scalp. Especially when your skin is heavily irritated. It’s usually a good way to distribute oils throughout your hair but, don’t brush any more than you have to.

If you are looking for relief for itch, studies have shown that a shampoo with zinc pyrithione reduced itch.[29]

Does sunlight help with dandruff?

The super short answer is yes. But, that doesn’t mean you should spend extra time in the sun.

UV radiation has been used to treat specific skin diseases like eczema and psoriasis. And narrow-band UVB phototherapy seems to be an effective treatment for seborrheic dermatitis.[30]

Narrow-band UVB is a specific type of phototherapy treatment that is within a very specific wavelength. It’s one of the most common and safest methods of light therapy.[31]

However, that does not take away the negative side effects of sun exposure. Sunlight from outdoors isn’t as safe as narrow-band UVB.

In moderation, sunlight is good for your skin. Your skin makes vitamin D when it absorbs sunlight. The sun is actually going to be your best source of vitamin D. A little bit of sun is great for many skin conditions including dandruff.

Just be careful not to get too much of it. I don’t think I need to get into all of the negative effects of excessive sun exposure the worst of all being skin cancer.

In addition, some conditions and medications can make you more sensitive to sunlight. And that can increase your chances of sunburn and the negative effects of UV radiation exposure.

Going outside for a little while is great. Sunbathing for hours is a bad idea.

If you choose to spend more time outside, make sure you protect yourself with sunscreen.

Can a healthy lifestyle fix dandruff?

Diet, exercise, stress, and the amount of sleep you get can contribute to scalp conditions.

Being healthy will not cure you of dandruff but, you can reduce how severe your flare-ups are by adopting a healthier lifestyle.

Can stress cause dandruff?

No. But, it can make problems even worse if you already have dandruff. In fact, stress can make many skin conditions worse. Like psoriasis and eczema.

The best ways to manage stress are:

  • Hobbies (books, sports, video games, movies, board games, whatever you’re into)
  • Spend time with friends and family
  • Exercise
  • Relaxation techniques (deep breathing, meditation, yoga)
  • Adjust to a healthier diet
  • Get plenty of sleep
  • Use time wisely (Time spent to relax is not wasted time!)

Can your diet affect dandruff?

Diet plays a heavy role in your bodies health. But, is it the best way to cure dandruff naturally? No.

There isn’t enough research available to say something like changing your diet alone could put an end to your dandruff problems. Or cause them by itself. It’s very unlikely to do either of those things. But, adjusting your diet to a healthier one is never a bad thing.

How about vitamins for dandruff? The only time you should adjust your diet or take vitamins is if you are deficient in any nutrients. Common vitamins taken for hair and scalp problems include biotin, zinc, or fish oil for essential fatty acids.

Does drinking water help dandruff?

Yes, it can help, but it won’t cure dandruff alone. Don’t expect any miracles by drinking more water. Let’s put it this way: if you don’t drink enough water, you’ll be more susceptible to dandruff and other scalp conditions.

The same goes for dry scalp. Drinking more water will help but, there are many factors that contribute.

Recommendation: drink more water in addition to other dandruff treatments.

Does dandruff cause hair loss?

No. Not directly. But, poor scalp conditions can cause weakened hair growth. Which means hair can break off much more easily.

Constant scratching from an itchy scalp can weaken hair.

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