Dandruff affects up to 50% of people (1).
An itchy scalp and flakiness are the hallmark signs of this condition, but it may also cause other symptoms like greasy patches on the scalp and tingling skin.
Underlying causes of dandruff include dry skin, seborrheic dermatitis, sensitivity to hair products and the growth of a specific type of fungus that lives on the scalp (2, 3).
While there are plenty of over-the-counter products designed to treat dandruff, natural remedies can be just effective.
Here are 9 simple home remedies to naturally get rid of dandruff.
Historically, tea tree oil has been used to treat ailments ranging from acne to psoriasis.
It is also proven to have powerful anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties, which may help alleviate symptoms of dandruff (4).
In fact, according to one review, tea tree oil is effective at fighting the specific strain of fungus that can cause both seborrheic dermatitis and dandruff (5).
Another 4-week study examined the effects of tea tree oil on dandruff by treating 126 people daily with a shampoo containing either 5% tea tree oil or a placebo.
At the end of the study, tea tree oil reduced the severity of symptoms by 41% and improved greasiness and itchiness (6).
Note that tea tree oil can cause irritation in those with sensitive skin. It’s best to dilute it by adding a few drops to a carrier oil like coconut oil before applying it directly to the skin.
Tea tree oil has anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties that may help reduce the severity and symptoms of dandruff.
Well-known for its multiple health benefits, coconut oil is often also used as a natural remedy for dandruff.
Coconut oil may help improve skin hydration and prevent dryness, which can worsen dandruff.
A small study of 34 people showed that coconut oil was as effective as mineral oil in improving skin hydration (7).
Other research has found that coconut oil could aid in the treatment of eczema, a skin condition that may contribute to dandruff.
One study compared the effects of coconut oil and mineral oil on atopic dermatitis, a type of eczema characterized by itching and inflammation.
Applying coconut oil to the skin for eight weeks reduced symptoms by 68%, compared to just 38% in the mineral oil group (8).
Coconut oil and its compounds have also been shown to have antimicrobial properties in some test-tube studies, although the effects on the specific strain of fungus that causes dandruff have not yet been examined (9, 10).
The potential antimicrobial properties of coconut oil may improve skin hydration and reduce symptoms of eczema and dandruff.
Aloe vera is a type of succulent that is frequently added to skin ointments, cosmetics and lotions.
When applied to the skin, aloe vera is believed to help treat skin conditions like burns, psoriasis and cold sores (11).
It may also be beneficial in the treatment of dandruff.
According to one review, the antibacterial and antifungal properties of aloe vera could help protect against dandruff (12).
Similarly, a test-tube study found that aloe vera was effective against several species of fungi and may help control fungal infections that cause hair loss from the scalp (13).
Test-tube studies have also found that aloe vera can reduce inflammation, which may relieve symptoms (14).
Despite these promising results, additional studies are needed to look at how aloe vera may directly affect dandruff.
Aloe vera has antibacterial and antifungal properties. As a result, it may help reduce inflammation and decrease dandruff symptoms.
Stress is believed to impact many aspects of health and well-being. It can influence everything from chronic conditions to mental health (15).
While stress itself doesn’t cause dandruff, it can aggravate symptoms like dryness and itching (16).
Sustaining high levels of stress long-term may suppress the activity of the immune system (17).
A weakened immune system can reduce your body’s ability to fight off some of the fungal infections and skin conditions that contribute to dandruff.
In fact, one study of 82 people with seborrheic dermatitis, one of the most common causes of dandruff, showed that the majority of dermatitis episodes were preceded by a stressful life event (18).
To keep stress levels under control, try some stress reduction techniques, such as meditation, yoga, deep breathing or aromatherapy.
Stress can weaken the immune system and decrease the body’s ability to fight off infections that cause dandruff. Stress also often precedes episodes of seborrheic dermatitis, one of the most common causes of dandruff.
Apple cider vinegar has been associated with a variety of health benefits. These include improving insulin sensitivity and increasing weight loss (19, 20).
Apple cider vinegar is also often used as a natural remedy to get rid of dandruff.
The acidity of the vinegar is believed to help stimulate the shedding of dead skin cells on the scalp.
Apple cider vinegar is also said to balance the pH of the skin to reduce the growth of fungus and thus fight dandruff.
However, there are no studies to support these claims and many of the benefits of apple cider vinegar for dandruff are based on anecdotal evidence.
That said, test-tube studies show that apple cider vinegar and its compounds can prevent the growth of certain types of fungus (21, 22).
If you’d like to give apple cider vinegar a try, add a few tablespoons to your shampoo or combine it with other essential oils and spray directly onto hair.
Apple cider vinegar is said to help remove dead skin cells and balance the pH of the scalp. Moreover, test-tube studies show that it may prevent the growth of certain types of fungus.
Salicylic acid is one of the primary compounds found in aspirin that is responsible for its anti-inflammatory properties (23).
In addition to being found in aspirin, salicylic acid is also found in many anti-dandruff shampoos.
Salicylic acid works by helping get rid of scaly skin and loosening flakes so that they can be removed (1).
In one study, 19 people with dandruff used two shampoos containing either piroctone olamine combined with salicylic acid or zinc pyrithione.
Both shampoos were able to decrease dandruff after four weeks, but the shampoo containing salicylic acid was more effective in reducing the severity of scaling (24).
Another study showed that a shampoo containing salicylic acid was similarly effective as a prescription medication in treating seborrhoeic dermatitis and dandruff (25).
For an easy dandruff remedy, try crushing two tablets of aspirin and adding the powder to your shampoo before washing your hair.
Aspirin contains salicylic acid, an ingredient found in many anti-dandruff shampoos. Salicylic acid has been shown to be effective in the treatment of seborrhoeic dermatitis and dandruff.
Omega-3 fatty acids play an important role in the body.
Not only do they make up the cell membranes that surround your cells, but they are also crucial in the function of your heart, immune system and lungs (26).
Omega-3 fatty acids are also vital to skin health. They help manage oil production and hydration, promote wound healing and prevent premature aging (27).
A deficiency in omega-3 fatty acids can cause an array of symptoms, including dry hair, dry skin and even dandruff (28).
Omega-3 fatty acids can also reduce inflammation, which may help relieve irritation and dandruff symptoms (29).
Fatty fish like salmon, trout and mackerel are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids. You can also take a fish oil supplement or increase your intake of other omega-3-rich foods like flaxseed, chia seeds and walnuts.
Omega-3 fatty acids are important to skin health and can help reduce inflammation. Deficiency can cause dry skin, dry hair and dandruff.
Probiotics are a type of beneficial bacteria that are good for your health.
There are many potential probiotic benefits, including protection against allergies, lower cholesterol levels and increased weight loss (30, 31).
Probiotics may also help enhance immune function, which could help the body fight against the fungal infections that cause dandruff (32).
In fact, one study showed that taking probiotics for 56 days significantly reduced dandruff severity in 60 people (33).
Probiotics have also been shown to help decrease symptoms of skin conditions like eczema and dermatitis, especially in infants and children (34, 35, 36).
Probiotics are available in supplement form for a quick and convenient dose.
They can also be found in many types of fermented foods, such as kombucha, kimchi, tempeh, sauerkraut and natto.
Here’s a list of 11 foods that are loaded with healthy probiotics.
Probiotics may help enhance immune function and have been shown to reduce dandruff severity.
Found in kitchen pantries around the globe, baking soda is a quick, convenient and readily available remedy to help treat dandruff.
It’s believed to act as a gentle exfoliant to remove dead skin cells and reduce scaling and itchiness.
Baking soda also has antifungal properties that could be beneficial in the treatment of dandruff.
One test-tube study measured the antifungal effects of baking soda on some of the most common strains of fungus that cause skin infections.
Impressively, baking soda was able to completely inhibit fungal growth in 79% of specimens after seven days (37).
Another study looked at the effects of baking soda on 31 people with psoriasis. Treatment with baking soda baths was found to significantly reduce both itchiness and irritation after just three weeks (38).
Treatment guidelines for other conditions like atopic dermatitis also note that baking soda baths can help provide relief from itchiness (39).
For best results, try applying baking soda directly to wet hair and massaging it into your scalp. Let it sit for a minute or two, then continue shampooing your hair as usual.
Baking soda has antifungal properties and may help relieve itching and skin irritation.
Although dandruff can be a frustrating problem, there are plenty of natural remedies available that can reduce symptoms and provide relief.
Next time you start spotting flakes, give a few of these natural remedies a try.
Use these remedies on their own or pair them with over-the-counter products like anti-dandruff shampoos to maximize treatment effectiveness.
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