10 Natural Home Remedies for Dandruff

By Jennifer Nadel, MD
Medically reviewed checkmarkMedically reviewed
September 14, 2022

Dandruff is a common scalp condition that includes flaking and itchiness. It affects as many as 3% of adults worldwide. There are many home remedies that can control the symptoms of dandruff. Some home remedies may work better for some than others.

In this article, we’ll cover 10 natural remedies for dandruff that you can try at home. We’ll also discuss how to know when you should see a medical provider.

Coconut Oil

A popular natural remedy, coconut oil can be found in the beauty section as well as the food section of most grocery stores. It can help hydrate the skin and reduce the dryness that leads to flaking. One small study found that coconut oil improved scalp conditions over the course of 12 weeks

Older research looking at how coconut oil impacts eczema, a skin condition with dry and itchy skin, found that using it for 8 weeks led to fewer symptoms. To try it for dandruff relief, massage a small amount into the scalp before sleep, or apply it and leave it on for a few hours before washing hair.

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Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil is an essential oil that has antimicrobial properties, which may make it helpful for certain types of dandruff. Large clinical studies have not been done to determine how effective tea tree oil may be for dandruff, but an older review showed that tea tree oil was effective for fungal infections that may cause dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis. Another older study found that a shampoo with 5% tea tree oil was more effective than placebo at reducing dandruff severity and symptoms. Tea tree oil and other essential oils can irritate the skin if used undiluted. Pair it with a carrier oil, like coconut or jojoba, and apply to the skin.

Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar has not been studied as a dandruff treatment. Some evidence even shows that ACV can lead to skin irritation when used topically. Even without evidence, other than the risk of skin irritation, there is little harm in trying apple cider vinegar for dandruff. Dilute it with water or a carrier oil, and test a small area of the skin to ensure that it does not cause skin problems before using all over the scalp.

Baking Soda

Baking soda might not seem like a logical choice to get rid of itching and flakiness. It can work as an effective scalp exfoliant, sloughing off dead skin cells and reducing itchiness. Clinical studies have not been done to evaluate baking soda as a dandruff treatment, but there is some limited evidence showing potential for baking soda to positively affect itching and irritated skin in psoriasis.

Many healthcare providers recommend baking soda baths for irritated skin and eczema, so it may help soothe an irritated scalp, too. To use baking soda, wet your hair as if you will wash it and apply baking soda directly to the head. Massage it in and allow it to sit for 1-2 minutes. It will form a thick paste when mixed into wet hair. Follow with normal hair washing.

Lemon Juice

Lemon juice is potent and rich in antioxidants like vitamin C. Hair and beauty products use lemon and vitamin C frequently, although studies have not been done to determine whether lemon juice can effectively address dandruff. Like apple cider vinegar, lemon juice as a dandruff remedy may not be effective, and may even cause irritation to the skin or hair, as it can have a bleach-like effect.

If you do want to try lemon juice as a dandruff remedy, be sure to dilute it with water in a ratio of 1 teaspoon of lemon juice to 1 cup of water. Test a small area to ensure that it does not cause irritation or change the color of your hair, which is most likely if it remains in hair and is exposed to heat from styling or direct sunlight.

Aloe Vera

Aloe vera has a broad spectrum of medicinal uses. It can be applied to sunburned skin, eczema, psoriasis, and more. Some evidence suggests that aloe vera may also help to prevent dandruff. However, large clinical studies have not been done, and while aloe is unlikely to cause harm or irritation, it may not be effective either.

Probiotics

Probiotic supplements have been studied for a wide range of health benefits, although many of these studies are small, show inconclusive results, or have low-quality evidence. One small placebo-controlled study of 60 people found some benefits for a strain of probiotics, L. paracasei, in improving symptoms of dandruff over 56 days. While this may be promising, larger studies would need to replicate the same effects to determine if this or other strains can improve dandruff.

Probiotic supplements are available in most stores and are not associated with a high risk for side effects. However, they can be expensive and they take time to work, if they will be effective at all. You can also support good bacterial balance in the gut by consuming foods that contain natural probiotics. These include sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, and other fermented foods. You can also eat prebiotic foods, like bananas, as well as a diet high in fiber, to support a healthy microbiome.

Dandruff Shampoo

Dandruff shampoo is widely available in most drug stores. It is over-the-counter and comes in many types and brands. Dandruff shampoo typically contains at least one antifungal or antibacterial active ingredient. These products are usually designed to provide relief within a few weeks. These may include:

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are the anti-inflammatory fats that are necessary for many aspects of health. Everything from the brain, heart, lungs, and more rely on adequate amounts of omega-3 fats. The skin also benefits from omega-3s. These fatty acids support proper wound healing and hydration. When levels are low, it can result in dry skin, dry hair, and other skin conditions.

While omega-3s have not been studied in the direct prevention or cure for dandruff, if a diet is too low in these essential fats, that’s a good place to start. Foods like salmon, trout, mackerel, walnuts, chia seeds, and flaxseeds are all good sources of omega-3 fatty acids.

Dietary Changes

While evidence is not clear on specific foods that may cause or prevent dandruff, an overall well-balanced diet may help. Diets that contain too many inflammatory or processed foods, and not enough vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, may be associated with more skin conditions or microbiome problems.

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When to See a Medical Provider

Dandruff can be an embarrassing and frustrating problem. If home remedies do not address symptoms, see a medical provider. They may be able to prescribe stronger medicated shampoo or look into other underlying causes of your symptoms.

How K Health Can Help

Did you know you can have a primary care doctor online? Check your symptoms, explore conditions and treatments, and if needed, text with a healthcare provider in minutes through K Health. K Health’s AI-powered app is HIPAA compliant and is based on 20 years of clinical data.

Frequently Asked Questions

What causes dandruff?
Dandruff can be caused by more than one thing. Common causes of flaky or itchy scalp include dry skin problems, reaction to hair products, seborrheic dermatitis, or a type of scalp fungus.
What removed dandruff fast?
Dandruff can respond to OTC medicated shampoos as well as some home remedies. Most over-the-counter products work within 1-2 weeks.
How do anti-dandruff shampoos work?
Anti-dandruff shampoos usually contain active ingredients that fight fungal or bacteria on the skin’s surface. While not all dandruff is caused by these, many types improve with these medicated products.
Does shampoo dry out the scalp and cause dandruff?
Not all dandruff is caused by the same thing. If you are allergic to or sensitive to a shampoo or other hair product, it could lead to scalp irritation that could result in dry, flaky skin or other irritation.

K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

K Health has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.

Jennifer Nadel, MD

Dr. Jennifer Nadel is a board certified emergency medicine physician and received her medical degree from the George Washington University School of Medicine. She has worked in varied practice environments, including academic urban level-one trauma centers, community hospital emergency departments, skilled nursing facilities, telemedicine, EMS medical control, and flight medicine.

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