If you’ve ever had dandruff, it becomes your top priority to figure out a way to get rid of it. Nobody wants to see white flakes in your hair or on your clothes, especially you! Dandruff is the result of an imbalance on the scalp. There are many causes, including hormonal imbalances, allergic reactions to certain hair products, excess sweat and perspiration that’s allowed to sit on the scalp for too long, and nutrition imbalances. The ultimate goal for all dandruff treatments and shampoos, is to restore the balance on your scalp.
The most common treatment for dandruff is using specialized shampoos. They may work, and not to diss them, but most contain harsh ingredients, such as parabens and synthetic fragrances and colorings. Your skin will absorb anything you put on it, circulate through your body, and into your organs. It’s scary because some of those harsh chemicals are irritants, linked to cancer, and endocrine disrupters. If you’re chemical-conscious about what you put on your hair and skin, here are a few natural remedies to consider first.
Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil is an essential oil that comes from the leaves of Australian’s native tree, Melaleuca alternifolia. One major component in tea tree oil (terpinen-4-ol) shows strong antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. Tea tree oil has been used for hundreds of years to fight skin infections caused by bacteria, viruses, fungus, and protozoa. You’ll often see tea tree oil shampoos in health food stores, and many people report it helps reduce dandruff by unclogging hair follicles and cleaning up bacterial and fungal infections.
There has been little research on the use of tea tree oil for dandruff. One study of 126 people with mild to moderate dandruff, used either a 5% tea tree oil shampoo or a placebo daily for four weeks. At the end of the study, the tea tree oil shampoo significantly reduced dandruff and was well tolerated by participants. Although promising, further research is needed to confirm these results.
If you’re feeling DIY, another option is to add a few drops of tea tree oil to your favorite shampoo and wash normally.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Dr. Oz swears by apple cider vinegar as a dandruff treatment because the acidity of apple cider vinegar changes the pH of your scalp, making it harder for yeast to grow. Mix ¼ cup apple cider vinegar with ¼ cup water. Pour this mixture into a spray bottle and spritz it on to your hair and scalp, being careful to avoid the eye and ear area. Wrap your head in a towel. After 15 minutes to an hour, remove the towel and wash your hair. This is generally done twice per week.
Zinc and Biotin
Nutrition plays a critical role in the health of your skin. Severe zinc deficiency is associated with a variety of skin conditions, including dandruff. Zinc may not be the end-all, be-all solution for dandruff, but combining zinc with another treatment method is worth a try.
Biotin is a B-vitamin, and has shown promising results when it comes to preventing and stopping dandruff. Biotin is essential for enzymes that regulate fat metabolism. Proper fat production is critical for the health of skin, since skin cells are rapidly replaced and in constant contact with the external environment. The best sources of biotin is egg yolk and liver, and other good sources include swiss chard, romaine lettuce, almonds, walnuts, soy, brewer's yeast, and royal jelly.
A biotin deficiency causes hair loss and scaly, red, and inflamed skin around the mouth and other areas of the face and scalp. In infants, biotin deficiency often appears as “cradle cap,” which is scale skin on the scalp.
While true biotin deficiency is rare, making sure you get adequate amounts can help prevent problems with dry, inflamed skin.
Dandruff can seems like it’s never going to go away, but there are a number of effective ways to manage it and lessen its severity, if not eliminate it. Even better, these remedies don’t involve harsh chemicals or expensive trips to the dermatologist.
In Health and Happiness,
Kelly Harrington, MS, RDN
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist for Healthy Goods
1. Mayo Clinic. Diseases and Conditions: Dandruff.
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3. Satchell AC, Saurajen A, Bell C, Barnetson RS. Treatment of dandruff with 5% tea tree oil shampoo. J Am Acad Dermatol. (2002) 47(6) :852-855.
4. Bae YS, Hill ND, Bibi Y, Dreiher J, Cohen AD. Innovative uses for zinc in dermatology. Dermatol Clin. 2010 Jul;28(3):587-97.