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The Best Ways to Deal with Dandruff

Man's shoulder in a jacket with dandruff.
Cozy Home/Shutterstock

Dandruff is embarrassing and annoying, especially when you’re worried about making a good impression. Here’s why it happens and what you can do about it.

What Is Dandruff?

Dandruff is dry skin on your scalp flaking off, hanging out loosely in your hair and even falling onto your shoulders. Some people suffer from worse cases of dandruff than others, and some people never suffer from it at all.

Dandruff itself can sometimes be a symptom of another health issue, but most often it’s just an annoyance that you can easily treat.

Some common causes of dandruff include:

  • A dry scalp.
  • A buildup of products like hairspray and gel.
  • Skin cells that, for whatever reason, are growing and dying more quickly than normal.
  • A type of fungus (named Malassezia) that can affect otherwise healthy scalps.
  • Psoriasis, an immune disorder that can cause dandruff-like flakes, as well as flaking, inflammation, and silvery plaques on other parts of the body. 
  • Eczema, an immune disorder where the protective, sealing layer of the skin is weak or even non-existent. Eczema also affects other parts of the body and usually comes with redness and swelling.

Regular dandruff is more common in the colder months, for some people. Your shampoo, home’s water, and even not using conditioner can all add to your chances of seeing some flakes on your shoulders.

Having dandruff is not a sign that someone doesn’t wash their hair, but it could be a sign that you’re washing it too much and stripping the natural oils from your scalp.

So, You Have Dandruff. What Can You Do About It?

women with dandruff on her hair and shoulder
suriya yapin/Shutterstock

Knowing what causes dandruff is only half the battle. If your dandruff is fungal or from dry skin only, shampoos and natural home remedies may be able to help. Keep in mind that what helps with one person’s dandruff won’t always work for everyone. If your friend says Head & Shoulders is the best, give it a try but know that it might not stop your flakes.

If you have psoriasis or eczema causing your dandruff, you’ll want to talk to your doctor about possible skin treatments. Both of those conditions are chronic and affect a lot more than just your scalp. However, some of the treatments we recommend here can at least help you alleviate the dandruff-like flaking that occurs with the disorders.

Try Shampoos that Contain Tea Tree Oil

Whether you want to buy a product that is already on the market, like Paul Mitchell’s Tea Tree Lavender Mint Moisturizing Shampoo, or you want to DIY your treatment, tea tree oil is a must when it comes to dandruff treatment. To make your own, add a few drops of tea tree oils to your regular shampoo.

Tea tree oil is an essential oil with a minty scent. Tea tree is a natural anti-inflammatory, and it is anti-microbial. These factors make it perfect for treating fungus and eczema-caused dandruff.

Consider Aloe Vera for More than Sunburn

While a sunburn on your scalp can lead to flakes when the dead skin starts to peel off, aloe vera offers soothing relief and moisture to your scalp even when your head isn’t sunburned. When using aloe vera for sunburns and dandruff, pay attention to the ingredients. Purchase 100% aloe only, and avoid any brands that come with alcohol in the ingredients. Alcohol sucks moisture from your skin, which will make your dryness issue worse, not better.

Try Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar isn’t considered acidic, but its mild acidity will help get your flakes off faster. ACV is also is also good for balancing the pH of your skin, which can be useful if your dandruff is caused by a fungal infection.

ACV is easy to use. Rinse your scalp with some before washing. It will loosen up the dry skin so more will wash out with your shampoo.

Use Coconut Oil Sparingly

Coconut oil is a healthy natural oil that will replenish the missing oils in your scalp. If you use too much of this oil and don’t rinse well, it will leave your hair looking greasy. Coconut oil is good for pre-wash scalp treatments, though. Plaster some on and massage it into your scalp twenty minutes before you shower, then wash and rinse thoroughly.

Pick the Right Shampoo and Conditioner

young man washing his hair
Alena TS/Shutterstock

If you prefer store-bought dandruff treatments, pick shampoos and conditioners that are made to treat dandruff or are meant to hydrate and moisturize. Many of these products also contain salicylic acid, which can work wonders for treating any type of dandruff.

Aside from the Paul Mitchell shampoo already mentioned, some other high-quality choices in dandruff care include:

Keep a Lint Roller in Your Bag or Car

You don’t want to have to forego wearing black or other dark colors forever. While you’re treating your dandruff—it’s not going to go away overnight—have lint rollers stored in convenient places, like in your desk at work, so you can “dust off” dandruff flakes before chatting with the boss or meeting friends for lunch.

Talk to Your Doctor or a Dermatologist

If you think that your dry scalp issues are caused by more than dryness, talk to your doctor. There are prescribed treatments if your dandruff is from psoriasis, fungal infections, eczema, or other ailments. Your doctor can also suggest a healthy diet that is rich in foods that contain Omega-3 fatty acids, which can help you have healthier skin.

Yvonne Glasgow Yvonne Glasgow
Yvonne Glasgow has been a professional writer for almost two decades. Yvonne has worked for nutritionists, start-ups, dating companies, SEO firms, newspapers, board game companies, and much more as a writer and editor. She's also a published poet and a short story writer. Read Full Bio »

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