Skip to Content

How do you get rid of dandruff without ruining your hair?

Dandruff is a common scalp condition that causes white, flaky skin to appear in the hair and on the shoulders. It can be itchy and embarrassing, but the good news is there are ways to get rid of dandruff without damaging your hair.

What Causes Dandruff?

Dandruff is caused by a variety of factors:

  • Dry skin – Insufficient moisture in the skin can cause dead skin cells to accumulate into dandruff flakes.
  • Oily skin – Excess oil production can also cause dandruff for some people.
  • Fungus – A yeast-like fungus called malassezia that lives on everyone’s scalp can overgrow, causing dandruff for some.
  • Irritated, oily skin – Skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis can also cause dandruff.
  • Sensitivity to hair products – Ingredients in hair care products like certain fragrances and preservatives can irritate the scalp and cause dandruff in sensitive people.

While dandruff is rarely serious, having a flaky scalp long term may indicate an underlying skin condition or fungus overgrowth. It’s a good idea to visit a dermatologist if dandruff persists despite home treatment.

Dandruff Shampoos

Medicated anti-dandruff shampoos can be very effective for controlling dandruff without damaging hair. Look for shampoos containing these active ingredients:

  • Pyrithione zinc – This is a antimicrobial and anti-fungal ingredient that helps control fungus growth on the scalp.
  • Selenium sulfide – This slows cell turnover to help reduce flaking.
  • Ketoconazole – This is another broad anti-fungal that kills the yeast-like fungi on the scalp.
  • Coal tar – Derived from coal, this ingredient slows skin cell death and flaking.

Using an anti-dandruff shampoo containing one of these ingredients 2-3 times a week is often very helpful in reducing dandruff. Rotate between a couple different shampoos for the best results. Make sure to really massage the shampoo into the scalp and let it sit for 5 minutes before rinsing out.

Natural Oils

Applying certain natural oils to the scalp can also help moisturize and treat dandruff without harsh chemicals:

  • Coconut oil – Has antifungal and moisturizing properties.
  • Tea tree oil – Helps reduce fungus and irritation due to its antimicrobial effects.
  • Argan oil – Moisturizes and softens the scalp.
  • Jojoba oil – Promotes healthy scalp and hair follicles.

Try massaging a few drops of one of these oils into the scalp before showering. Let it soak in for at least 30 minutes then shampoo as normal. This can help hydrate the scalp and reduce flakes.

Diet and Supplements

While research is limited, some studies suggest that people with dandruff may be deficient in certain nutrients like zinc, B vitamins, and some fatty acids. Ensuring adequate intake of these nutrients through diet and supplements may help:

  • Zinc – Found in oysters, beef, nuts and seeds.
  • B Vitamins – Found in meat, eggs, whole grains and leafy greens.
  • Omega-3s – Found in fatty fish, walnuts, flax seeds.
  • Probiotics – Can help balance yeast levels when taken in supplement form.

A healthy, balanced diet with emphasis on these nutrients may help reduce dandruff for some people. Taking a general multivitamin containing zinc and B vitamins may also be beneficial.

Scalp Brushing

Using a stiff natural bristle brush to brush the scalp can help loosen and remove dead skin cells before they have a chance to flake off into dandruff. Brushing increases circulation and exfoliates the skin as well. Do this before showering and shampooing for best results.

Avoid Irritants

Certain hair products and habits can worsen dandruff for some people. Try to avoid:

  • Excessive heat styling – Causes dryness and irritation.
  • Hair spray, mousse – Chemical ingredients can irritate scalp.
  • Infrequent shampooing – Allows product and oil buildup.
  • Fragrances – Can aggravate sensitive scalps.

Washing hair frequently and avoiding unnecessary chemical products can help minimize irritation and flakes.

The Best Dandruff Remedies:

Remedy How it Works
Pyrithione zinc shampoo Reduces fungus with zinc pyrithione
Selenium sulfide shampoo Slows cell turnover and reduces flaking
Tea tree oil Antimicrobial and helps reduce scalp irritation
Scalp brushing Exfoliates and removes dead skin cells
Omega-3 supplements Anti-inflammatory effects help soothe scalp

Other Tips for Dandruff Relief

  • Let shampoos soak on scalp for 5+ minutes before rinsing.
  • Avoid greasy hair products like pomade or leave-in conditioners.
  • Stay hydrated – drink plenty of water daily.
  • Limit stress which can exacerbate skin problems.
  • Get sunlight exposure which has antimicrobial effects.
  • Consider trying a sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) based shampoo.

When to See a Dermatologist

See your doctor or dermatologist if:

  • Dandruff persists despite home treatment.
  • Flaking and itching are severe.
  • Red, inflamed patches develop on scalp.
  • Hair loss occurs along with dandruff.

A dermatologist can help diagnose the cause of stubborn dandruff and prescribe stronger medicated shampoos or antifungal treatments if necessary.

The Bottom Line

Dandruff can often be controlled and reduced with over-the-counter shampoos, natural remedies, and some lifestyle changes. Using anti-dandruff shampoo several times a week along with brushing the scalp and applying oils can keep flakes under control while maintaining healthy hair. With some trial and error, most people can find a regimen that works for them. But severe, persistent cases may require prescription strength medicated shampoos or antifungal treatments.

While dandruff is rarely dangerous, it’s smart to see a doctor if symptoms worsen or don’t respond to home treatments. This can help identify underlying skin conditions that may be causing recurring dandruff.