Natural Remedies for Dandruff: How to Heal Your Dry Scalp

By Justin Fowler-Lindner

Dandruff can be embarrassing and difficult to get rid of, and it’s more common than you may think. Roughly 50 percent of the adult population is affected by some form of dandruff, and 1-3 percent suffer from a severe form called seborrheic dermatitis. (1)

Harsh winter weather, a nutrient deficient diet, stress, and chemical shampoos can exacerbate the condition, leading to dry, itchy skin and a flaky scalp. (2)

Believe it or not, even salicylic acid anti-dandruff shampoos that are supposed to treat dandruff can sometimes make it worse.

Fortunately, there are several effective natural remedies for dandruff without the side effects:

  1. Coconut oil
  2. Essential oils
  3. Hemp seed oil
  4. Stay hydrated
  5. Reduce stress
  6. Omega-3 fatty acids
  7. Fenugreek

After a quick primer on the basics of dandruff and its triggers, we’ll explore these seven natural treatments in greater detail.

What Is Dandruff?

Dandruff is a skin condition that causes the scalp to become dry and itchy and to produce large white flakes of dead skin.

Dandruff vs. Seborrhoeic Dermatitis

In general, regular dandruff is non-inflammatory in nature and develops due to the abnormal cohesion of dead skin cells. Symptoms usually respond swiftly to topical treatments. (3)

Seborrhoeic dermatitis, on the other hand, is an inflammatory autoimmune condition that results in an itchy, dry scalp and white-to-yellowish flakes. Flaking can spread to greasy scaling on the face, nose, and eyebrows. In severe conditions, it can even spread to the breastbone, armpits, and groin. Seborrhoeic dermatitis tends to respond best to anti-inflammatory treatments.

Other autoimmune conditions like eczema can also cause dandruff as a side effect.

Common Dandruff Triggers

  • Dry, cold weather
  • Excessive exposure to sunlight
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Washing your hair too much
  • Not washing your hair enough (washing every 2-3 days is best)
  • Frequent combing
  • Chemical-heavy shampoos
  • Malassezia (yeast-like fungus that lives on the scalp) (4)

7 Natural Remedies for Dandruff

Although regular dandruff tends to be non-inflammatory, inflammation can still be a minor contributing factor. That’s why the best natural remedies for dandruff reduce inflammation, inhibit microbial growth, and contain healing compounds that rejuvenate the skin.

Here are seven of the best natural remedies for dandruff:

1. Coconut Oil

Coconut oil has antimicrobial, antifungal, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory properties that make it an ideal foundation for any DIY dandruff treatment. It contains healing nutrients like capric acid, lauric acid, and medium-chain fatty acids that soothe inflammation and eliminate fungus living on the scalp.

According to a 2019 study published in The Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine, “Clinical studies have revealed that virgin coconut oil improves the symptoms of skin disorders by moisturizing and soothing the skin.” (5)

Similarly, a 2010 rodent study found that the antioxidant properties of topical coconut oil can speed wound healing. (6)

2. Essential Oils

Essential oils like lavender, oregano, lemongrass, and thyme are similar to coconut oil in that they can reduce inflammation, control the growth of yeast, heal infections, and treat dandruff.

For example, a 2015 double-blind placebo-controlled study found that topical lemongrass oil significantly reduced dandruff after just seven days. (7)

However, tea tree oil may be even more effective…

In a recent Australian study conducted by the Department of Dermatology at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Camperdown, researchers treated 126 participants with mild-to-moderate dandruff. After four weeks of treatment with 5 percent tea tree oil shampoo, 41 percent of participants reported significant improvements compared to 11 percent in the control group. No adverse side effects were reported. (8)

3. Hemp Seed Oil

Hemp seed oil is extracted from the seeds of the hemp plant. It contains no THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) or CBD (cannabidiol), and has zero psychoactive effects. Instead, hemp seed oil is harvested for its healthy profile of omega-6 and omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, which can have an array of benefits, including:

  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Moisturization
  • Skin cell repair
  • Balanced oil production

According to a recent report by the Department of Dermatopathology at the University Hospital of Liège in Belgium, studies show that, “Anti-dandruff formulations exhibiting some direct or indirect anti-inflammatory activity can improve both dandruff and its subsequent hair cycle disturbance.” (9)

For example, one recent study found that dietary hempseed oil can significantly improve symptoms in patients with dermatitis. (10)

When combined with tea tree oil and other anti-dandruff ingredients, hemp shampoos can heal the scalp and strengthen hair.

4. Stay Hydrated

Sometimes dandruff is simply caused by dehydration, and drinking plenty of water is a simple solution.

Electrolytes like magnesium, sodium, chloride, calcium, and potassium are essential to staying hydrated and removing waste from the cells. That’s why it’s important to take a well-balanced electrolyte mix and to eat electrolyte-containing foods like cucumber, celery, and broccoli. (11)

5. Reduce Stress

Stress is a common dandruff trigger, so it goes without saying that stress reduction can be helpful. In fact, skin irritations of all sorts, including eczema, psoriasis, and dermatitis, can be triggered by anxiety, depression, and stress. (12)

Some of the best ways to reduce stress are through activities like exercise, yoga, meditation, and massage. At the same time, diet can have a big impact on stress. By avoiding inflammatory foods like sugar and eating anti-inflammatory foods like leafy greens, you can normalize the stress response and potentially reduce dandruff.

6. Omega-3 Fatty Acids

The omega-3 fatty acids found in wild-caught fish like salmon and sardines are potent natural anti-inflammatories.

Not only can fish oil supplements reduce inflammation in the gut and brain, but they can also heal and hydrate the skin from within. (13)

7. Fenugreek

Fenugreek seed is a bitter-tasting herb that possesses antidiabetic, antimicrobial, and antioxidant properties.

When applied topically as a poultice, it can reduce inflammation to treat wounds, ulcers, sciatica, eczema, and dandruff. (14)

Just make sure to test it before applying it to a larger area because it can cause a mild-to-moderate burning sensation in some cases.

Make Your Own DIY Anti-Dandruff Shampoo

Want to make your own DIY home remedy?

Whisk together coconut milk, castile soap, purified water, coconut oil, essential oils, apple cider vinegar, baking soda, and crushed fenugreek seed, then blend them together thoroughly.

Although some natural remedies, like aloe vera gel, olive oil, apple cider vinegar, and lemon juice didn’t make this list, that doesn’t mean they aren’t worth a shot. For example, one small 1998 study found that topical aloe vera gel may treat dandruff from seborrhoeic dermatitis. (15)

Overall, lifestyle and nutrition can treat many of the underlying causes of dandruff. Ask your dermatologist today about these natural remedies for dandruff.


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