Dandruff: how to get rid of it, what causes it and more (2023)

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Dandruff can have many causes, including fungus and too much or too little shampoo. Anti-dandruff shampoos often loosen flakes or target fungal overgrowth.

what is dandruff

(Video) What causes dandruff, and how do you get rid of it? - Thomas L. Dawson

Dandruff is related toseborrheic dermatitis (DE), which causes itching and flaking of the skin, but occurs only on the scalp. It is so common that it affects abouthalfof the world's adult population.

Most people focus on flakes. Itching, on the other hand, can be the most uncomfortable side effect.

So what exactly is your rough scalp trying to tell you? Learn about the most common dandruff symptoms and ways to restore your scalp's health.

Flakes and scaly, itchy scalp are the main symptoms of dandruff. The white, greasy scales usually build up on the hair and shoulders and are often worse during the fall and winter months when the air is dry.

Additional symptoms mayinclude:

  • erythema, which are red patches of skin on the scalp and sometimes on the face
  • dandruff eyebrow
  • hair loss
  • dry scales on the skin of the face

Getting rid of dandruff can consist of taking medications that you can get both prescription and over-the-counter. There are also some home remedies that you can try.


The best way to get rid of dandruff is to use anti-dandruff shampoo and scalp treatments.Association of the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD)recommends the following steps:

  1. Follow instructions.As there are many different types of dandruff treatment shampoos and each comes with its own instructions, it is important that you read and carefully follow the instructions for the product of your choice. Make sure you know whether you should leave the shampoo on your scalp for a certain amount of time before washing it off, or whether you should wash it off right away.
  2. Different skin and hair types require different care.African Americans may only need to wash once a week with an anti-dandruff shampoo. Asian Americans and Whites may need to alternate between different anti-dandruff shampoos that contain different ingredients to get the best results. Your best course of action may be to speak with a board-certified dermatologist who can recommend the best products for your hair and skin type and how often you should use them.

Dandruff shampoos can be medicated (which requires a prescription to purchase) or they can be purchased over the counter. This usually means that the amount of medicine in medicated shampoos is higher.

(Video) Dandruff | How To Get Rid Of Dandruff (2018)

typical ingredientsincludeketoconazole, selenium sulfide, coal tar and zinc pyrithione. These ingredients usually loosen dandruff flakes from the scalp or fight Malassezia fungus overgrowth, which can play a role in the development of dandruff.

Some specific products you might see on shelves include:

  • head shouldersyDandruff Relief by JasonContains zinc pyrithione, which is antibacterial and antifungal. Dandruff is not caused by a fungus, but these shampoos can help reduce the production of excess skin cells.
  • Neutrogena T/GelIt is a tar based shampoo. Charcoal can alleviate conditions ranging from dandruff to psoriasis by slowing down how quickly skin cells on the scalp die and shed. This type of shampoo can discolor your hair, so be careful if you're blonde or gray.
  • Neutrogena T/Salit has a dose of salicylic acid and it can lessen the amount of scale you have. However, it can make your scalp dry. If you find that your scalp is particularly dry, be sure to follow up with a hydrating conditioner.
  • Selsun Azulit has the power of selenium sulfide. It can slow the death of skin cells and also reduce Malassezia. This type of shampoo can bleach lighter shades of hair.
  • NizoralIt is a ketoconazole shampoo, which means it contains a broad spectrum antifungal. You can find this type of wash over the counter or by recipe.

However, theAADwarns against using coal tar shampoo. This type of shampoo can discolor light hair and make your scalp more sensitive to the sun. If you use it, be sure to take extra precautions when exposed to sunlight.

home remedies

If you want to try some natural remedies before resorting to drug solutions, consider the following options:

  • Sodium bicarbonate.Gently rub into scalp in the shower and rinse off after a few minutes.
  • Apple vinegar.Mix 1/4 cup with 1/4 cup water. Apply to hair15 minutes to 1 hourand then rinse. Do this twice a week.
  • Coconut oil.Rub 3 to 5 teaspoons into the scalp and leave for 1 hour. Then wash your hair with shampoo and rinse.
  • Lemon juice.Rub 2 teaspoons into the scalp and rinse. Then rub one more teaspoon mixed with 1 cup of water. Do this everyday.
  • aloe vera. Rub into scalp before washing hair.
  • Olive oil.Rub 10 drops into the scalp. Cover your head with a shower cap and leave it on overnight. Shampoo and wash your hair in the morning.

Many factors can contribute to the development of dandruff, so it can be difficult to pinpoint the exact cause of your itchy and flaky scalp. here are somelikelyguilty:

  • secretions from your sebaceous glands
  • fungal colonization on the surface of the skin
  • not washing your hair enough, which can cause skin cells to build up and create flaking and itchiness, or alternatively, washing and over-drying your scalp.
  • Over-brushing the hair on the head, creating too much friction with the sensitive skin on the scalp
  • yeast called Malassezia, which aggravates the scalp and causes excessive skin cell growth
  • different personal care products can cause contact dermatitis, which makes the scalp red and itchy
  • too muchexposure to sunlight
  • excessive pressure on the scalp from hats
  • What do you usually eat
  • exposure to dust or dirt

Some people may be more prone to dandruff than others for unknown reasons. However, it is known that men develop dandruff more often than women.

People who tend to have oilier hair or live with certain illnesses (such as Parkinson's disease or HIV) are also at greater risk. You may have started to notice symptoms in puberty, but dandruff can develop at any age.

Dandruff vs Dry Scalp

(Video) Is It Dandruff Or A Dry Scalp? Here's What You Need To Know

You may find it difficult to tell the difference between dandruff and dry scalp as both can present themselves in a similar way. Both can cause flaking and itchy scalp.

But while dandruff is related to seborrheic dermatitis, a dry scalp is simplyrelatedyour skin losing a lot of water. This can happen when you aren't getting enough fluids.

But it could also be caused by some hair products you might be using on your scalp that could be stripping your scalp of its natural oils. If you live in a cold, dry climate, you may also be more susceptible to dry scalp.

Treating a dry scalp usually involves switching to a mild, non-medicinal shampoo that contains as few additives as possible that can strip moisture from the scalp.

Here are some tips on things you can do to prevent dandruff:

  • Practice good hygiene.Do your best to resist the urge to touch your scalp, especially if it's already itchy. Scratching can increase irritation and lead to a vicious cycle. When you pick and scratch it, you can also introduce dirt into the mix that can make your dandruff worse.
  • Find the right shampoo balance for your scalp.Wash often enough to avoid greasiness, but don't use too many products on your hair as they can irritate your scalp.
  • Reduce stress.Stress can aggravate or even make dandruff worse in some people. While stress doesn't introduce Malassezia to the scalp, it can thrive if your immune system is compromised, which is exactly what stress does to your body. Do your scalp a favor and relax. Try taking an invigorating walk or practicing yoga. You may even find it helpful to keep track of stressful events. Write down what they are and how they affect your dandruff. That way, you can do everything you can to avoid potential triggers in the future.
  • Breathe fresh hair.Investigationshowsthat including regular exposure to the outdoors, especially where the air is cooler, can help reduce oil buildup on the scalp.
  • Massage the scalp.This can also help prevent dandruff symptoms.
  • Brush those strands.Brush your hair when it's damp (not wet) at least twice a day.
  • Limit friction.Limit the use of hats and scarves, especially those made of synthetic materials.

The good news is that many cases of dandruff can be effectively treated with over-the-counter (OTC) shampoos and other lifestyle measures.

That said, dandruff isn't the only reason you might have itchy scalp. If your dandruff is particularly persistent or itchy, you may have psoriasis, eczema, or a true yeast infection. Your doctor can help.

If the itching doesn't subside or your scalp becomes red or swollen, talk to your doctor. Also monitor if shampoos don't help, if redness and scaling spreads to your face or other areas of your body, or if itching starts to interfere with your daily life.

(Video) HOW TO TREAT DANDRUFF AT HOME - Dandruff Medical and Home Remedies.

Sometimes symptoms canindicateother more serious conditions such as actinic keratosis (AK) or tinea capitis (tinea capitis), and it is best to check the best treatment.

Q: When should I see a dandruff specialist? What kind of specialist treats you?


A: Consider talking to a dermatologist if your scalp flakiness persists even after consistently following the recommended habits below and using over-the-counter remedies.

Use an anti-dandruff shampoo for at least 2-3 weeks. If you don't feel an improvement, switch to a product that has a different active ingredient. It may be necessary to try two or three products before contacting an expert.

Talk to a doctor if you experience:

  • patches of redness or a rash on your scalp or hairline
  • bleeding when the scales come off the scalp
  • signs of infection, such as pain or pus

Angelica Balingit, MD, Board Certified, Medicina InternaResponses represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.

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(Video) The REAL Cause and Cure for DANDRUFF

While dandruff can be irritating and embarrassing at times, it usually doesn't indicate a more serious health issue. Itching and flaking often respond well to over-the-counter shampoos and treatments. Keep trying different brands and types until you find something that works for you.


What causes a lot of dandruff? ›

Dry skin. A yeastlike fungus (malassezia) that feeds on oils on the scalps of most adults. Sensitivity to hair care products (contact dermatitis) Other skin conditions, such as psoriasis and eczema.

What causes dandruff and how do you get rid of it? ›

Dandruff can have many causes, including fungus and shampooing too often or not enough. Dandruff shampoos typically loosen flakes or target fungal overgrowth.

How can I stop dandruff anymore? ›

The best thing you can do is to wash your hair every day or every other day with an over-the-counter anti-dandruff shampoo. Look for ingredients on the label such as: Ketoconazole (Nizoral A-D) Salicylic acid (DCL Salicylic Acid Shampoo, Dermasolve, Neutrogena T/Sal, Selsun Blue Naturals Dandruff Shampoo)

What shampoo is good for dandruff? ›

Healthline's picks of the best dandruff shampoos
  • Neutrogena T/Gel.
  • Nizoral A-D.
  • Jason Dandruff Relief.
  • Head & Shoulders Clinical Strength.
  • L'Oreal Paris EverFresh Sulfate-Free.
  • Harry's Extra-Strength Anti-Dandruff 2 in 1 Shampoo & Conditioner.
  • Dove Dermacare Scalp Anti-Dandruff Shampoo.
Aug 22, 2022

Does hot water cause dandruff? ›

Hot water dries your scalp, which can lead to itchiness and dandruff. Hot water makes your roots weak and as a result, your hair turns frizzy. Additionally, the texture takes a beating and hair can break easily.

Will dandruff go away? ›

Dandruff isn't curable. Most people will have to manage symptoms over the long term. Usually, the flakes will come and go. Treating dandruff with a special shampoo can manage your condition and prevent itching and flakiness.

How does dandruff get worse? ›

Dandruff may get worse when you're stressed or sick. Cold, dry winters can trigger dandruff or make it worse, too. One common cause is seborrheic dermatitis, or seborrhea.

How long till dandruff goes away? ›

It can take several weeks for dandruff to stop, so don't jump to conclusions about shampoos in the first week or two. If you don't see any improvement after about a month, it's worth using another shampoo or moving on to another dandruff treatment.

Should I wash my hair everyday if I have dandruff? ›

The frequency of shampooing necessary to control dandruff varies from person to person. Some need to shampoo twice a week, others more frequently, even daily. Many people forget that the scalp as well as the hair needs to be shampooed.

Does stress cause dandruff? ›

A healthy scalp constantly produces new skin cells and sheds old ones as part of its normal cycle, but an acceleration in this can lead to excess dead skin and dandruff. While stress is not a direct cause of dandruff, it can exacerbate certain triggers which result in scalp itching and flaking.

Why won't my scalp stop flaking? ›

If the skin on your head is itchy and flaking, you may have dry scalp. The condition occurs when your scalp loses too much moisture. Hair care products, the weather, age and various skin conditions can cause dry scalp.

What foods make dandruff worse? ›

"Diets high in sugar, processed food, and 'bad' fats lead to insulin spikes, which in turn lead to stimulation of hormone surges that can trigger the output of oil," Zalka says. "Overall restriction of fatty foods, fried foods, refined sugar, processed food, and gluten may lead to a reduction in flaking."

What foods help dandruff? ›

Include fish, flaxseeds and walnuts in your diet. Omega-3 fatty acids keep your scalp hydrated. Biotin (Vitamin B7) also helps combat dandruff. Foods such as salmon, sweet potatoes, egg yolks and almonds are a good source of biotin..

Is dandruff a fungus? ›

The major culprit of dandruff is a fungus called Malassezia. This fungus exists on most adults' scalps. It feeds on the oils on your scalp, breaking it down and leaving oleic acid in its place.

How do you get rid of dandruff in one wash? ›

Firstly you need to heat 2 tablespoons of coconut oil and mix it equally with some mixture of lemon juice. Once this is done, you can apply this on your scalp and massage your hair gently with it. After this is done, leave it for 20 minutes and then rinse it off with some shampoo.

Does cold water stop dandruff? ›

Cold water will close the follicles of the hair as well as the skin's pores, making it much easier to keep out dirt or any harmful substances that may cause negative effects like dandruff.

Does Drinking Water Clear dandruff? ›

Drinking water, especially hot water is proven to prevent dandruff. Skin is the largest organ in the body and it needs to be kept well hydrated. Drinking more water can help combat dry skin and dandruff, psoriasis and eczema.

Do long showers cause dandruff? ›

Excessive drying can trigger your body into producing even more oil to make up the difference. This can have the unintended consequence of increasing your dandruff. Additionally, when you have a hot shower in the cold weather, it can cause an instant change in the temperature of your scalp.

Does dandruff damage your hair? ›

Dandruff itself does not cause hair loss. However, severe dandruff can cause a person to scratch their scalp so hard that they injure it. Repeated inflammation in the hair follicles can cause damage and scarring, slowing or stopping hair growth. This can cause weak or thinning hair.

Is dandruff harmful for hair? ›

Dandruff is a common skin condition. It's not harmful and you cannot catch it.

Should I ignore dandruff? ›

If your dandruff is persistent, it might be the sign of a bigger problem, like a fungal infection or seborrheic dermatitis (a scaly, itchy skin condition).

Does scrubbing dandruff make it worse? ›

If you do have dandruff, scraping your scalp can end up making the skin red and raw, which can open your skin to bacteria and therefore infection. Plus the more irritated your scalp becomes, the more it'll react with itchiness, soreness, and dry flakes of skin leading to a sort of itch/scratch cycle.

What if my dandruff never goes away? ›

When to see a doctor. If your dandruff doesn't go away or doesn't get better using antidandruff shampoo, you may want to consult a dermatologist. Prescription dandruff shampoos may have the strength you need to overcome the problem. You may also require a medicated topical.

Does scratching dandruff make it worse? ›

Medical professionals strongly advise against(Opens in a new tab) scratching dandruff because irritating an already inflamed patch of skin can only make it worse.

Is Head and Shoulders good for dandruff? ›

Head & Shoulders is highly effective at controlling dandruff flaking, as has been proven in hundreds of clinical studies.

Can shampoo cause dandruff? ›

Shampooing and skin care products

Certain hair care products can irritate the scalp and may cause dandruff. If a person finds that a product is causing irritation, they should try switching to a gentle, non-medicated shampoo.

Does head and shoulders remove dandruff? ›

Head and Shoulders Classic Clean Dandruff Shampoo

The active ingredient, pyrithione zinc, is very effective in helping to control and treat dandruff. Not only is it a gentle shampoo that's designed not to dry out or irritate the scalp, but it's also paraben-free.

Is dandruff related to mental health? ›

The overgrowth of a yeast-like fungus can also cause dandruff, hormones, too much oil on the scalp, or problems with the immune system, but the most serious cause is stress, a dangerous psychological illness.

Is dandruff related to hormones? ›

Hormone levels are high during teen years, which causes more oil production. This may be why dandruff usually begins around puberty. Dandruff isn't contagious.

Should I pick the flakes off my scalp? ›

Try not to scratch if flakes itch. You won't end the flaking and you may cause bleeding or hair loss, making the problem worse.

How do you get rid of dandruff in 5 minutes? ›

Combine green tea, peppermint essential oil and white vinegar and massage it on your scalp for five minutes. Then, rinse it off with a sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner.

What vitamins help dandruff? ›

Vitamin B and vitamin D are two vitamins that will help with your skin care and could potentially reduce the production of dandruff. One of the main vitamins a doctor may recommend is zinc. An increase in zinc has shown anti-fungal progress and could help naturally reduce your dandruff.

Can too much sugar cause dandruff? ›

Sugar can cause flaky skin, itching, and damage to your hair follicles because it encourages the production of androgen, a hormone that shrinks hair follicle sizes. That means you could quickly develop dandruff, and many medicated shampoo options won't treat the source of this issue.

What foods to avoid if you have dandruff? ›

"Reduce bad fats in your diet, particularly chocolate and dairy," says Mancuso of the foods that can cause more oil production, exacerbating dandruff. And add in foods with vitamin B (a deficiency can actually cause dandruff), as well as foods containing good oils, such as green vegetables, protein, and grains.

What vitamin deficiency causes dandruff? ›

Dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis may be caused by many factors, with a nutrient-poor diet being one of them. For instance, low blood levels of zinc, niacin (vitamin B3), riboflavin (vitamin B2), and pyridoxine (vitamin B6) may each play a role (13, 29 , 31).

Why do I have a lot of dandruff even though I wash my hair? ›

It's probably caused by a fungus. Hair follicles and oil glands make an oil called sebum, which may be a breeding ground for yeast or the fungus. This fungus usually lives on your skin, but too much fungus may lead to dandruff. Too much sebum also may cause dandruff.

Is dandruff caused by stress? ›

Causes of dandruff

Dandruff is not caused by poor hygiene, although it may be more obvious if you do not wash your hair regularly. Stress and cold weather may also make dandruff worse.

How often should you wash your hair with dandruff? ›

The frequency of shampooing necessary to control dandruff varies from person to person. Some need to shampoo twice a week, others more frequently, even daily. Many people forget that the scalp as well as the hair needs to be shampooed.

Should I use conditioner if I have dandruff? ›

If you're prone to dandruff, make sure to use an anti-dandruff conditioner as the final step in your wash routine. While products won't cause dandruff itself, they could make some scalp conditions worse. So try a few products out to see which ones work best for you.

How long does dandruff last? ›

It can take several weeks for dandruff to stop, so don't jump to conclusions about shampoos in the first week or two. If you don't see any improvement after about a month, it's worth using another shampoo or moving on to another dandruff treatment.

Can dandruff cause hair loss? ›

Dandruff itself does not cause hair loss. However, severe dandruff can cause a person to scratch their scalp so hard that they injure it. Repeated inflammation in the hair follicles can cause damage and scarring, slowing or stopping hair growth. This can cause weak or thinning hair.

Can lemon remove dandruff? ›

Yes, you can use lemon juice for dandruff. Thanks to lemon's composition of Citric Acid, it can treat dryness and dandruff effectively. It does this by balancing the scalp's pH level. Since the plant is antimicrobial, it excels at curbing the growth of fungus on the scalp too.


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