Hair care Skin issues

How to get rid of Dandruff: Causes, Symptoms, Best Remedies

Last Updated on 24/09/2023 by Liz @ HealthTenfold

How to get rid of dandruff is the first thing that comes to mind when noticing white flakes sticking to your hair. Sometimes they even fall onto your clothing and shoulders and it can be downright embarrassing! If you’ve had to go through this, then know you are not alone.

Dandruff is a chronic condition that causes the skin of the scalp to flake and it’s typically accompanied by itching. It’s a common condition that affects about 50% of the general population. It can prove to be a headache to get rid of but it can be done.

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Signs and Symptoms of Dandruff

  • Itchy, scaly, or red scalp
  • White skin flakes on your scalp, hair, mustache, beard, shoulders, or eyebrows
  • On babies, a scaly and crusty scalp better known as cradle cap
  • What Causes Dandruff?

Dandruff flakes are dead skin cells of the scalp. The same way skin covering the body sheds cells periodically, the scalp also does the same. Dandruff occurs when dead skin is shed a little faster than normal. Oil on the scalp causes these dead cells to clump together and form white flakes.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, researchers have not discovered the real reason why this happens but several probable causes and risk factors have been put forward:

Fungal infections on the scalp 

There is a yeast-like fungus known as Malassezia that feeds on the oils of the scalp produced by hair follicles. The fungus is found in most adults’ scalps and is not a problem until it starts becoming overactive. The scalp then gets irritated and produces extra skin cells. When these skin cells die, they combine with oil and form dandruff.

Another fungal infection, Tinea capitis or better known as ringworm also increases the possibility of having dandruff.

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Dry skin

People with naturally dry skin are more likely to have dandruff because it flakes easily. During winter, the cold air combines with overheated rooms to cause itchiness and flaky skin. 

Not shampooing hair regularly enough

When you go for too long without shampooing, oil and dead skin cells build up and form dandruff. 

Sensitivity to certain hair products

Some hair care products can cause you to have an itchy, scaly, and red scalp thus causing dandruff. Excess shampooing, for example, daily irritates the scalp and causes dandruff.

Skin conditions 

People with skin conditions such as eczema, seborrheic dermatitis, and psoriasis are more likely to get dandruff because these conditions cause an itchy and flaky scalp. 

Not enough brushing/combing

Combing or brushing hair regularly helps in the normal shedding of skin cells. It also prevents build-up since it gets rid of the shed cells. 

Medical Conditions

Conditions that weaken the immune system make patients more susceptible to dandruff because the ability to fight off fungal infections and healthy cell regeneration is impaired. Such illnesses include HIV, Parkinson’s disease, and cardiological diseases. 


If you don’t eat enough foods rich in vitamin B and zinc you are more likely to get dandruff. These minerals boost the immune system and promote the removal of dead skin cells. 


Stress causes a lot of diseases including dandruff because it suppresses the immune system and interferes with how the body fights off infections.


Dandruff has been observed to make an appearance at puberty and lasts up to about middle age. At puberty, the oil glands start producing more oil which combines with skin cells to form dandruff. 

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Read more:
What Causes Dandruff?

How to get Rid of Dandruff

Dandruff can be easily treated using natural home remedies and over the counter anti-dandruff products. In severe cases, medical help should be sought. 

Anti-dandruff shampoos and scalp products are readily available over-the-counter (OTC) or in online stores. They mostly contain pyrithione which helps remove dandruff and treat underlying causes of dandruff. Coal tar shampoo can also be used although it changes the color of light hair so it should be avoided by blondes and gray-haired people. 

Natural Remedies

Anti-dandruff shampoos tend to have a very strong smell so if it doesn’t please you; natural remedies are a great option. They are just as effective as OTC treatments. Here are some natural remedies you can try:

Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil is used to treat various skin ailments such as acne and psoriasis. It contains anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties that will help treat symptoms of dandruff. It has been observed to help in fighting a fungus that causes dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis.

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Most recommended:

Tea Tree Essential oil

Manufactured by Natural healing oils.

Aloe Vera

Aloe vera has antibacterial and antifungal properties that will help treat dandruff. It can even treat other skin conditions like burns and psoriasis. To get the best results, extract it directly from the Aloe Vera plant and ensure it has a thick consistency. Apply this directly to your scalp and wash it off with a mild shampoo.

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil hydrates the scalp and prevents dryness which is a contributing factor to dandruff. It also used to treat eczema, a disease that can cause dandruff.

Manage Stress

As we saw earlier, stress can aggravate dandruff and other skin diseases so managing stress will allow your body to fight off fungal infections and other conditions that cause dandruff. You can use techniques like deep breathing, meditation, and aromatherapy to keep stress levels down.

Apple Cider Vinegar

The acid in apple cider vinegar helps in promoting the shedding of dead skin cells off the scalp. It also balances the skin pH which discourages the growth of fungi. Mix it with water and pour it into hair after shampooing.  


Increasing your intake of omega-3 fatty acids will regulate your skin’s oil production and hydration and so reduce dryness and dandruff. They also reduce inflammation, dandruff symptoms, and irritation.


Aspirins contain salicylic acid which is used in anti-dandruff shampoos to remove scaly skin and to loosen flakes so that they fall off easily.  

Baking Soda

 It is commonly used as an exfoliating agent so it removes dead skin cells and reduces scaling and itchiness. It also has antifungal properties that reduce dandruff. Add a tablespoon of it into your shampoo and massage your scalp for desired results.  

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Most recommended:

Tea Tree Essential oil

Manufactured by Natural healing oils.

What is the Difference between Dandruff and Dry Scalp?

As discussed previously, dry scalp or skin causes dandruff. However, dandruff and dry scalp are different things.


Dandruff occurs when dead skin cells combine with oil to make flakes and in some cases, fungal infections.

On the other hand, a dry scalp occurs when the scalp does not have enough moisture or cannot retain it. This happens when there’s not enough sebum/oil to lock in the moisture on the scalp and also lubricate it. This causes itching, flaking, and irritation. 

People with dry skin are more likely to experience dry scalp so factors that lead to dry skin can also cause dry scalp such as:

  • dry air on winters
  • too much washing of the scalp
  • skin conditions e.g. eczema


People with dry scalps may observe flakes on their hair but they are smaller and whiter than those of dandruff which are larger, yellowish and also oily. 

In both dandruff and dry scalp, there is itching but in dandruff, the scalp feels oily while the dry scalp feels dry. 


Dandruff can be eliminated by shampooing regularly with an anti-dandruff shampoo or seeking treatment if it’s caused by a fungal infection while a dry scalp can be fixed by cutting back on excess shampooing. 

tea tree

Most recommended:

Tea Tree Essential oil

Manufactured by Natural healing oils.

Dandruff and Hair Loss

Can dandruff cause hair loss? Well, not directly. However, since dandruff causes a lot of itchiness, hair follicles may be injured in the process and some hair loss is experienced. For people with androgenic alopecia (male/female pattern baldness), the itchiness increases hair loss. 

The key to preventing lies in trying to eliminate the itchiness as much as possible. To remove the itchiness, you have to employ the treatment options of dandruff outlined above. If the home remedies and OTC products are not effective, seek medical advice. 

Some conditions cause both hair loss and dandruff so if you’re losing hair, you must find out from a doctor whether there’s an underlying problem. 

Dandruff can be difficult to deal with but all hope is not lost. You can choose out of the outlined easy home remedies and go for the one that works for you. 

Read next:
10+ Most Common Skin Problems and their Best Natural Remedies

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