Prevent and Treat Dandruff

Dandruff or seborrheic dermatitis is a common skin condition that can affect your scalp, your ears, your eyebrows, the sides of your nose and your beard. You can develop dandruff when you are a baby, known as “cradle cap” and in your teen and adult years. Dandruff appears as dry, fine flaky skin on your scalp or other areas of your body, with pink or red inflamed skin.[1] If you have dandruff, you may notice white flakes on your shoulders or chest, especially when you wear dark clothing. Severe dandruff or chronic dandruff can be frustrating and embarrassing, and it can also be very itchy and uncomfortable. You can treat your dandruff using professional products and home remedies, and take the necessary steps to prevent dandruff from developing on your scalp or other areas of your body.


Using Professional Products

  1. Try over-the-counter dandruff shampoo that contains zinc or salicylic acid. If your dandruff is severe, you can try anti-dandruff shampoos that contain certain ingredients that kill the fungi partly responsible for dandruff. Look for shampoos at your local drugstore or pharmacy that contain:[2]
    • Zinc pyrithione: This ingredient helps to kill the malassezia fungi that is partially responsible for the development of dandruff. You can find zinc pyrithione in the brands like Head & Shoulders and Jason Dandruff Relief 2 in 1.
    • Salicylic acid: This ingredient helps to soften dead skin cells on your scalp, causing them to shed and release from your scalp and can be found in Neutrogena T/Sal. Be aware you may experience dryness on your scalp after using a shampoo that contains salicylic acid. You can use a conditioner after the shampoo to keep your scalp moisturized.
    • Selenium sulfide: This ingredient helps to slow down the production of skin cells on your scalp and kill dandruff causing fungi. It can be found in Selsun Blue. However, this shampoo is not recommended for individuals with blonde or chemically treated hair, as it can discolor your hair.
    • Ketoconazole shampoo: This shampoo has a powerful antifungal effect that can treat and prevent dandruff. This ingredient can be found in Nizoral.
    • Coal tar shampoo: This shampoo can help to slow down the production of dead skin cells and prevent dandruff. This ingredient can be found in Neutrogena T/Gel.
    • You should not use certain types of anti-dandruff shampoo if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Always read the instructions on the label of the shampoo before use and talk to your doctor if you have concerns about using the shampoo.
  2. Apply the shampoo according to the label instructions. Once you decide on an anti-dandruff shampoo, it’s important that you apply it properly for the most effective treatment. You can apply all of these shampoos once a day or every other day until your dandruff is under control. The exception is Ketoconazole shampoo, which only needs to be applied twice a week.[2]
    • Apply the shampoo by massaging it into your scalp and leaving it on for at least five minutes so the ingredients have time to work. If you notice one type of shampoo has lost its effectiveness, try alternating between two different types of dandruff shampoos.
    • If the dandruff shampoo appears to be working, reduce your use of the shampoo to two to three times a week. If the shampoo does not work after several weeks and your dandruff is still severe, you should talk to your doctor about prescription treatments.
  3. Use over the counter medicated creams to treat your dandruff. In addition to anti-dandruff shampoos, you may want to try medicated creams that you can apply to your scalp to treat dandruff. There are two creams you can use:[3]
    • Corticosteroid creams: These can reduce any inflammation or dry skin and are available over the counter in either 0.5% or 1% concentrations. You can use them on your scalp on damp hair after you have used anti-dandruff shampoo.
    • Antifungal creams: These creams are effective as they can reduce the amount of yeast organisms living on your skin, including your scalp. Look for over the counter creams that have 1% clotrimazole and 2% miconazole cream. You can apply antifungal creams one to two times a day.

Using Home Remedies

  1. Apply aspirin to your scalp. Aspirin contains salicylates, which is an active ingredient in anti-dandruff shampoos that contain salicylic acid. Aspirin is a quick and easy way to treat dandruff at home.[4]
    • Take two tablets of aspirin and crush them into a fine powder. Then, add them to your shampoo.
    • Apply the shampoo with the aspirin to your hair, lathering and massaging it into your scalp. Let it sit on your hair for one to two minutes and then rinse it out.
    • Wash your hair again with just shampoo to remove any lingering powder.
  2. Use natural oils to moisturize your scalp. Natural oils like coconut oil, almond oil, and olive oil can help to keep your scalp moist and prevent the development of dandruff.[4]
    • Warm up one cup of your chosen natural oil in a bowl so it is warm to the touch but not boiling hot. Then, apply it to your entire scalp, massaging it in well.
    • Use a towel to wrap your hair and scalp and leave the oil in overnight.
    • In the morning, rinse your hair out, removing the oil.
  3. Rinse your hair with apple cider vinegar. Apple cider vinegar is a natural astringent and can prevent your scalp from becoming flaky and full of dandruff causing fungi. You can rinse your hair and scalp with apple cider vinegar after you have shampooed your hair.[4]
    • Mix two cups of apple cider vinegar with two cups of cool water.
    • Bend over a sink or tub and rinse your hair with the mixture.
    • You can also apply white vinegar to your scalp and wrap your head in towel. Leave the vinegar in overnight and then rinse your hair with regular shampoo the following day.
  4. Use baking soda. Baking soda is a great home treatment for dandruff.[4]
    • Instead of using shampoo, use baking soda to wash your hair. Simply take a handful of baking soda and rub it into your hair and scalp. Rinse well with warm water.
    • You can continue to use baking soda instead of regular shampoo to wash your hair and treat your dandruff.

Preventing Dandruff

  1. Wash your hair regularly. Practicing good hair hygiene can help to prevent the development of dandruff and keep your scalp and hair healthy. Try to wash your hair once a day, especially if you have an oily or irritated scalp.[5]
  2. Avoid hairspray and hair gel. Styling products like hair spray, hair gel, mousses, and hair wax can lead to a build-up of oil on your hair and scalp, leading to the development of dandruff. Cut down on your use of styling products, especially if you already have an oily scalp or are starting to develop dandruff.[5]
  3. Spend more time outdoors in the sun. Studies have shown that sunlight can help to prevent dandruff. But you should always put on SPF or sunscreen on your whole body before you go outside to avoid unhealthy sun exposure.[5]
  4. Practice stress management. Stress has been shown to trigger dandruff or make your dandruff worse. Focus on reducing any stress or anxiety you are dealing with at home, at school, or at work.[5]
  5. Maintain a diet high in zinc and B vitamins. A diet high in zinc, B vitamins, and healthy fats can help to prevent the fungi that causes dandruff.[5]

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Sources and Citations