Almost all of us have suffered from dandruff at some point in our lives. If you’ve ever had this problem, then you’re probably familiar with the embarrassment that it entails. There’s nothing more unsightly than the specks of skin flakes that end up on your shoulders after giving in to the uncontrollable urge to scratch an itchy scalp.
If you want to know how to get rid of dandruff, then I suggest trying out holistic remedies instead of shelling out money on anti-dandruff shampoos that are found on grocery shelves.
There are a variety of natural remedies that can help you resolve your scalp woes, some of which may even be found in your cupboard. These simple home remedies include baking soda, lemon, garlic and salt, among others. But before I get into the details of treating dandruff, let’s first discuss what this irritating and embarrassing scalp disorder is.
What Is Dandruff?
Dandruff is a very common skin condition that can affect anyone regardless of age, gender or race. Despite its prevalence, there are still a number of people who are not aware of what dandruff looks like. Dandruff typically looks like greasy flakes of skin,1 which become more visible over dark clothing. On the scalp, it may also appear as scaly patches of skin, and is sometimes accompanied by redness or inflammation.2
Some people often mistake dry scalp for dandruff, thinking that these skin conditions are the same. Keep in mind that these scalp disorders are not synonymous even though they have the same symptoms of flaking and itchy scalp.3 Here are the subtle yet noteworthy differences between dandruff and dry scalp:
• You can get dandruff from the excessive production of oil, whereas dry scalp is caused by lack of skin moisture.4
• Flakes that come from dry scalp are whiter compared to dandruff, which usually comes in yellowish or grayish colors.5
• Since dry scalp flakes are smaller compared to dandruff, they're much easier to remove from the scalp.6
Lice Versus Dandruff: How to Set Them Apart
Aside from dry scalp, another common problem that’s commonly mistaken for dandruff is lice. These are parasitic insects found on the hair or scalp. They are also characterized by white specks on the hair. However, unlike dandruff, these specks are not exfoliated skin from the scalp. The white particles left by lice are actually empty eggs, which are commonly known as nits.7 Moreover, as lice feed on human blood through the scalp, their saliva irritates the skin and causes it to itch.8
Since the symptom of lice and dandruff are virtually identical, it’s easy to see why some people would mistake one condition for the other. However, the similarities between lice and dandruff end with scalp itch and flaking. It’s crucial to know the difference between these two conditions since they require different methods of treatment. Here are a few details to help you differentiate lice and dandruff:9,10
• Nits are typically found around 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch from the scalp while dandruff is dispersed all over the hair.
• Unlike dandruff, which falls off the hair strands with a few flicks, nits are harder to remove because they adhere to the hair strand using a sticky substance produced by female lice.
• Nits have a regular oval shape since they're actual eggs, making them more proportional compared to dandruff flakes.
• Aside from itchiness, lice may also cause your scalp to tingle. Dandruff does not cause any tingling sensation.
What Causes Dandruff?
Dandruff has been linked to a variety of possible causes, including poor hygiene, stress and improper diet. While it’s true that there are different factors that may trigger this scalp condition, it’s important to note that the real cause of dandruff is actually a yeast-like fungus called malassezia globosa. This fungus lives on the scalp and feeds on skin oils.11
As the malassezia globosa fungus metabolizes the oils that it consumes using an enzyme called lipase, it produces a byproduct called oleic acid, which penetrates the scalp and causes dandruff.
A small amount of flaking is actually normal since skin cells die in order to allow formation of new skin.12 However, there are some cases when a person experiences an abnormally large amount of scalp flaking due to one or more underlying issues that may increase the growth of the yeast-like scalp fungus. Some of the possible underlying issues that may trigger dandruff include:
People with neurological illnesses like Parkinson's disease are found to be more susceptible to dandruff.
Irritation to hair products
Store-bought hair products contain a number of chemicals that may irritate the scalp and lead to inflammation, itchiness and flaking.
Poor eating habits
Insufficient consumption of foods that are rich in zinc and B vitamins may lead to dandruff.
Although anyone can suffer from dandruff at any age, this skin condition is more prevalent in young adults and middle-aged people.
The cold weather during the winter season may promote the growth of the yeast-like fungus that causes dandruff.14
Changes in hormones may affect the natural sebum production of the scalp. People who are suffering from hormonal imbalance are more likely to get dandruff.15
Symptoms of Dandruff That You Should Look Out For
There are a few telltale signs that can help you determine whether you’re suffering from dandruff or not, and they’re usually easy to spot. These symptoms include:
• Flakes of dead skin: One of the first signs of dandruff that you might notice are flakes of dead skin on your hair and on your clothing. These flakes range in size, and may appear as white, yellow or gray.
• Itchy scalp: Another common symptom of dandruff is an itchy scalp, which is often hard to ignore.
• Inflamed scalp: It's common for some people to encounter scalp redness or inflammation when suffering from dandruff.16
• Rashes on other parts of the face: Dandruff may also cause rashes on other parts of the face, including the eyebrows, nose and ears.17
How to Get Rid of Dandruff Fast: Do Medicated Shampoos Work?
People who want to remove dandruff as quickly as possible often reach for medicated shampoos. But are medicated shampoos really the cure for your scalp problems? First of all, medicated shampoos are only effective while you’re continuously using them — they do not cure dandruff. This means that you would have to use this shampoo a few times per week to see results, and you’ll likely deal with dandruff again once you stop using it.
What’s more, most of these dandruff shampoos contain antifungal ingredients, like zinc pyrithione and ketoconazole. Although these may be effective in controlling dandruff, they can irritate your scalp upon continuous use and cause your hair to become frizzy and dry. Other dandruff shampoos also contain coal tar, which controls dandruff by delaying the process of skin cell regeneration. However, coal tar is a known carcinogen, so it’s best to steer clear of shampoos that contain this ingredient.
One of the safest ways to get rid of dandruff quickly and without using any harmful chemicals is by using salt to exfoliate the flakey skin from your scalp. Gently massage the salt onto your dry scalp before taking a bath to make them easier to remove when you rinse your hair.18 Always keep in mind that your skin absorbs whatever you apply on it, so using natural remedies, like the ones below, is always your best option.
Tried and Tested Natural Dandruff Treatments
To treat dandruff, most people often resort to using anti-dandruff shampoos and conditioners, but as discussed above, they can do you more harm than good. If you want to help eliminate dandruff safely and naturally, here are some tried and tested homemade treatment methods that may work for you:
• Apple cider vinegar: To make an apple cider vinegar solution for dandruff treatment, dilute a quarter cup of apple cider vinegar with a quarter cup of water. Put this solution in a spray bottle, and spritz it on your hair and scalp before wrapping your head with a towel. Wait for around 15 minutes to one hour before rinsing your hair. Doing this treatment twice a week helps control dandruff by reducing excess yeast growth on the scalp.19
• Tea tree oil: Using tea tree oil for treating dandruff is quick and easy. Simply massage a few drops of tea tree oil onto your scalp to reduce itchiness and excessive oil production.20 You may also mix a few drops of this oil in your shampoo.
• Coconut oil: Thoroughly massage around 3 to 5 tablespoons of coconut oil onto your scalp an hour before showering.21 This treatment not only helps you be dandruff-free but also keeps your hair smelling good. You may also mix coconut oil with lemon or camphor to achieve better results.22
Other essential oils that you can use to help eliminate dandruff include peppermint oil, eucalyptus oil, lavender oil, patchouli oil and lemongrass oil, among others. Most of these essential oils are rich in antifungal and anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce scalp fungus and inflammation.23
Other Natural Dandruff Remedies That You Should Try
Vinegar, coconut oil and essential oils are not the only natural options for curing dandruff. Here are some other home remedies that you can try:
Garlic is known as a natural antifungal remedy. It can effectively stop dandruff by simply getting rid of the yeast-like fungus that causes it. Crush a clove of garlic and gently rub it into your scalp. You may also mix it with honey if you want to lessen the pungent odor that it leaves on your hair.
Baking soda is a cheap and effective dandruff remedy that you can find in your kitchen. Not only does it reduce scalp fungus, but it also makes your hair softer. Wet your hair before massaging a handful of baking soda into your scalp, and then rinse your head thoroughly with water.
• Aloe Vera
Gently rubbing fresh aloe vera on the scalp can help reduce irritation since it has a cooling effect that can soothe the itch caused by dandruff.
The acidity of lemon helps balance the pH level of your scalp, making it harder for yeast-like fungus to thrive. Apply two tablespoons of pure lemon juice on your scalp before rinsing. For better results, wash your hair again with a mixture of one teaspoon lemon juice and one cup of water.
Preparing your own treatment for dandruff using natural ingredients may seem meticulous and messy compared to simply using regular anti-dandruff shampoo, but there’s no doubt that it’s worth the time and effort. If you still want to use an anti-dandruff shampoo, though, then you may opt to make one on your own.
How to Make Your Own Dandruff Shampoo
The most important item that you need to create an effective homemade dandruff shampoo is aspirin. Aspirin contains salicylic acid, which is the active ingredient of most medicated shampoos. The salicylic acid reduces flaking and loosens dead skin to make them easier to remove from the scalp.
Making a homemade dandruff shampoo is quick and hassle-free. You just have to crush two tablets of aspirin until they turn into fine powder, and then add it to the usual amount of organic shampoo that you use every time your wash your hair. Massage this mixture into your hair and leave it on for a minute before rinsing well and washing again with just plain organic shampoo.
Diet and Lifestyle Changes Can Help Prevent Dandruff Too
Aside from learning how to get rid of dandruff, it’s also very important to know how to prevent this skin condition. so all your treatment efforts will go down the drain.
Dandruff is usually linked to poor diet, so start fixing your eating habits first. Make sure that you’re eating foods that are rich in zinc and vitamin B6, as they help regulate the oil production on your scalp and keep your skin in good shape. You should also cut down your consumption of sugar and grains because these are known to promote excessive growth of yeast or fungus.
Getting out in the sun more often is another way to prevent dandruff since sunlight prevents fungus from thriving on your scalp. Plus, it increases your vitamin D levels, which helps improve the condition of your skin.
Stress is one of the most common triggers of dandruff, so it’s important for you to learn how to properly manage stress as well. Consider taking up new hobbies, and stay away from stressors as much as possible. Lastly, practice good personal hygiene and avoid using too many hair products to prevent your scalp from becoming irritated.24
Patience and Natural Methods Are All It Takes To Be Dandruff-Free
We all know that dandruff is an embarrassing skin condition to have, but you shouldn’t settle for chemical hair products just to treat this problem as soon as you can.
Getting rid of dandruff requires time, effort and patience in order to achieve long-lasting results. The natural remedies that I recommended are proven to be effective, but they may not give any miraculous result overnight. Most of them have to be used on a regular basis until you notice an improvement.
By doing these holistic treatments religiously and embracing a healthy lifestyle, you can enjoy a dandruff-free life without putting yourself and the environment at risk of harmful substances.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Dandruff
Q: Is dandruff contagious?
A: No. Dandruff is not a contagious skin condition since the yeast-like fungus that causes it is not transmissible.25
Q: Why do I have dandruff?
A: There are a variety of possible factors that may trigger dandruff, including chronic skin conditions, sensitivity to chemicals in hair products, neurological illness, poor diet, age and poor hygiene.
Q: How do you stop or reduce dandruff?
A: You can stop or reduce dandruff by using natural remedies that contain antifungal and antibacterial properties. Some of the best remedies include apple cider vinegar, tea tree oil and coconut oil.
Q: How do I tell the difference between dandruff and lice?
A: The easiest way to differentiate lice and dandruff is to check whether the white specks on your hair strands fall out easily or not. If the white particles fall as you blow on them or as you comb your hair, then it's highly likely that you have dandruff. However, if the white specks are stuck to the hair shaft, then it may be nits or empty eggs left by lice.26
Q: How do you know if you have dandruff?
A: The most common way to tell if you have dandruff is by checking your hair, scalp and shoulders for flakes of dead skin. Scalp itching and redness is another common symptom of this skin condition.
Q: Is dandruff curable?
A: There is no permanent cure for dandruff,27 but the good news is you can keep it under control with the help of organic anti-dandruff treatments and homemade dandruff shampoo.
Q: Can dandruff lead to hair loss?
A: Dandruff itself does not directly cause hair loss. However, scratching your itchy scalp because of dandruff may cause the hair strands to fall out over time.28