Dandruff is a skin condition that affects the scalp and causes itching, flaking of the skin, and greasy patches. The causes of dandruff include:
- Seborrheic dermatitis.
- Dry Skin.
- Allergic reactions to hair and skin products.
- Other skin conditions, such as eczema or psoriasis.
- Overgrowth of a yeast-like fungus called Malassezia.
There are many over-the-counter (OTC) topical medications and special shampoos that treat dandruff. However, people can also help get rid of dandruff at home by using the natural remedies below.
1. Tea tree oil
Tea tree oil is an essential oil that comes from the Melaleuca alternifolia plant. Historically, people have used tea tree oil to treat a variety of conditions, including acne, athlete’s foot, and dermatitis.
Tea tree oil contains a compound called terpinen-4-ol, which has powerful antimicrobial properties. Tea tree oils that contain high concentrations of terpinen-4-ol can help reduce dandruff by suppressing the growth of fungi and bacteria on the scalp.
The authors of one study examined the bacterial composition of 140 scalps of Indian women and found that women with dandruff tended to have more Staph epidermidis bacteria (S. epidermidis) than those without dandruff.
One review examined the antimicrobial effects of various essential oils. The authors suggested that compounds in tea tree oil can effectively control S. epidermidis bacteria.
Applying tea tree oil directly to the scalp can cause inflammation or a rash, so people interested in using tea tree oil to treat dandruff can start by adding a few drops to their normal shampoo.
Alternatively, shampoos that contain tea tree oil are available at some drug stores and online.
2. Lemongrass oil
Traditionally, people have used lemongrass and lemongrass oil to treat digestive problems, lower blood pressure, and reduce stress. Lemongrass oil has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce the symptoms of dandruff. According to the results of a small published study, hair toners containing 10 percent lemongrass oil reduced dandruff by 81 percent after two weeks.
Like tea tree oil, lemongrass oil can cause irritation or allergic reactions if a person applies it directly to the skin. People can dilute lemongrass oil with water or mix a few drops in their regular shampoo or conditioner.
People can buy lemongrass oil in health food stores and online.
3. Aloe vera gel
Aloe vera is a succulent plant known for its healing properties. The gel in its leaves contains several bioactive compounds, such as amino acids and antioxidants, which can reduce dandruff.
The authors of one review examined 23 clinical trials with aloe vera. Findings from these studies suggest that aloe vera gel can improve skin moisture retention and promote wound healing. Aloe vera can also reduce inflammation, which can help people with dandruff symptoms, such as itching. Research suggests that aloe vera’s antifungal and antibacterial properties can prevent dandruff.
The authors of a small study of 25 people concluded that a new topical gel containing aloe vera was effective in treating a form of dandruff called seborrheic dermatitis.
People can use aloe vera gel directly from the plant or buy the gel online.
4. Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids can lower blood pressure, increase “good” HDL cholesterol levels, and support heart and brain health. A deficiency in this fatty acid can lead to adverse symptoms, such as dandruff, brittle nails, and dry skin.
Omega-3s provide several benefits for the skin, such as:
- The management of fat production.
- Regulate inflammation.
- Improve hydration
- Reduce the signs of aging.
Foods that contain great omega-3 amounts include salmon, mackerel, and walnuts. People can also take omega-3 supplements. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommend that most adults consume 1.1 to 1.6 grams of omega-3 fatty acids per day. Omega-3 fatty acids are available in drug stores, health food stores, and online.
Aspirin is an over-the-counter pain reliever that may reduce dandruff symptoms. Aspirin contains salicylic acid, an active ingredient commonly used in dandruff shampoos.
Salicylic acid can help exfoliate excess dandruff flakes, prevent oil build-up, and reduce inflammation on the scalp. To use salicylic acid on dandruff, try crushing one or two uncoated aspirin tablets into a fine powder and mixing the power with a tablespoon of regular shampoo. In the shower, apply the mixture to your hair and leave it there for a few minutes before rinsing it off. People can buy aspirin in drug stores and online.
6. Baking soda
Baking soda, which many people know as bicarbonate, can help reduce dandruff. Baking soda is an exfoliant that can remove excess skin cells and oil on the scalp. Baking soda also has antifungal properties that can help fight the fungus responsible for dandruff.
Baking soda has a very high pH level, which can damage the scalp if a person uses it too often. Using too much baking soda can strip hair of its natural oils, which can cause dryness or irritation, so people should use it sparingly. Baking soda is available at most grocery stores, health food stores, and online.
Zinc is a mineral that supports the body’s immune system and promotes cell growth. People can get zinc from animal protein, nuts, and whole grains. According to the NIH, severe zinc deficiencies have been associated with hair loss, diarrhea, impotence, and skin lesions.
A comprehensive review lists zinc deficiency as a potential contributing factor for seborrheic dermatitis and dandruff. Many dandruff shampoos contain zinc pyrithione because it prevents fungal growth and removes excess skin cells from the scalp. People can buy zinc supplements in drug stores and online.
8. Coconut oil
Coconut oil can help improve hydration, reduce irritation, and prevent fungal growth on the scalp. Findings from a test-tube study found that cultured coconut extract decreased inflammatory markers in human skin samples. Another study observed similar anti-inflammatory properties after applying virgin coconut oil to artificial skin samples.
According to the results of a clinical trial, the application of virgin coconut oil to the skin caused a 68.23 percent decrease in the symptoms of atopic dermatitis in a group of 117 children aged 1 to 13 years.
These preliminary studies show promising results, but researchers need to conduct more research to evaluate coconut oil’s role in treating dandruff. People can try applying coconut oil directly to the scalp before washing it or finding a shampoo that contains coconut oil. Coconut oil can be purchased at grocery stores, health food stores, and online.