Dandruff is probably one of the most annoying hair issues because, well, it’s a visible one. I’ve definitely had days where I’m feeling cute until I notice I have some stray flakes of dandruff on my shoulders—not to mention that it’s just the worst when you’re wearing a black shirt! Here are 9 natural treatments for dandruff to balance out your scalp and get rid of the flakes, using ingredients you probably already have!
Just like the skin on the rest of your body can get flaky when it’s irritated, your scalp can start flaking if it’s either irritated, too dry, or too oily, or if you’re sunburned, have a fungal overgrowth, are prone to eczema, or are sensitive to a product you’re using. A healthy scalp also means healthy hair in the long run.
So it’s worth tackling the issue for the health of not just your scalp but also your hair. Most people who experience dandruff think their scalps are just doomed to a flaky existence or that they have to turn to harsh medicated shampoos. Not so!
9 Natural Ingredients to Treat Dandruff
Note that these methods work best when used continuously as a regular part of your hair care ritual. Try them—but maybe not all of them at once!—a couple of times per week for a month, and see if your scalp seems healthier!
1. Tea tree oil
A few drops of antifungal tea tree oil added to your shampoo (or a DIY tea tree shampoo) can help minimize flakes. Tea tree is the ultimate purifying essential oil—it’s antibacterial, antifungal, and promotes healing [source], tackling all sources of dandruff in one fell swoop.
In addition to a tea tree shampoo, you can also massage it right into your scalp—but make sure you dilute it in a carrier oil like olive or jojoba before applying. For a double dose of anti-dandruff power, coconut oil, with its uber moisturizing properties [source], is also a fantastic option as a carrier oil.
2. Baking soda
In addition to its usefulness as toothpaste and body scrub, a baking soda shampoo can help get rid of styling product build-up (which could cause or contribute to your flakes) and get your scalp’s oil levels back to normal if it tends to be super oily (and therefore super dandruffy).
It’s also a natural antiseptic, sweeping away any dandruff-causing bacteria that could be contributing to your flaky scalp. Using a 1:1 ratio, make a paste of baking soda and water and massage into your scalp before rinsing it out. From here, you can do a diluted ACV rinse or go ahead with your regular hair care routine.
3. Fenugreek seeds
To combat dandruff, soak 2 tablespoons of protein- and lecithin-rich fenugreek seeds overnight, then grind them into a paste and apply to the scalp. Leave it on for 30 minutes before rinsing. This remedy can also help with thinning hair.
Fenugreek is an Ayurvedic spice that has been used to treat dandruff and scalp issues for a long time. The seeds can be soaked overnight to enhance their scalp-nourishing abilities. Just don’t forget about them, or else you might discover some little fenugreek sprouts in a day or two!
4. Apple cider vinegar
Rinsing your hair with this wonder ingredient can help nix flakes and balance the pH of your scalp and hair. Try this herb-infused DIY rinse. You can also spritz diluted ACV onto your scalp with a spray bottle, leave in for 15 minutes, and rinse.
When you use ACV for any beauty recipe, it’s crucial that you use unfiltered, organic ACV with the “Mother” in the bottle. In addition to rebalancing pH, diluted organic ACV provides antibacterial benefits and the gentle removal of any product build-up in hair that could be causing or worsening dandruff.
5. Coconut oil
Seriously, is there anything coconut oil cannot do? Massage a few tablespoons of coconut oil into your scalp and let it sit for about an hour before you shampoo—or look for a shampoo that contains coconut oil. This also works with olive oil, although coconut oil’s a little easier to work with.
Coconut oil is incredibly effective at treating two causes of dandruff. First, it intensely moisturizes [source] your scalp. So if your dandruff is caused by plain, old, dry skin, it can help there. Or, if your dandruff is the fungal-induced kind (sorry, but that’s literally what it is!), coconut oil is a natural antifungal. And it has been found to be greatly beneficial for a healthy scalp microbiome [source], preventing pathogens of any kind from disrupting the natural balance.
6. Lemon juice
Like apple cider vinegar, the acidity of lemon can help bring your scalp’s pH back into the normal range. Like the face, our scalp is naturally slightly more acidic than neutral. Put a few diluted teaspoons of lemon juice onto your scalp and massage, then rinse with water. You can also add a little lemon juice into the water you’ll use to rinse your hair after shampooing.
When you use lemon juice, it’s important to ensure it’s properly diluted so that your scalp can get the most out of this amazing natural remedy. Pure lemon juice is too acidic to be used on its own, but when diluted, it’s the perfect way to exfoliate your scalp and soothe dandruff-causing irritation.
7. Aloe vera
If itching is becoming bothersome, aloe can treat that immediate symptom (after all, scratching will only make it worse!) as well as balance your scalp’s oil production over the long term. The aloe gel you can buy for sunburns is fine in a pinch, but it’s definitely worth having an actual aloe vera plant or two around. Not only are they amazing air purifiers, but the gel is a natural healer for so many skin issues [source].
After opening a good-sized leaf, scrape all the gel into a blender, and blend until it’s no longer chunky. I’ve tried mashing it by hand before, but I couldn’t really get the gel super smooth and ended up with aloe chunks in my hair. Apply the gel to your scalp at least once a week for a happy scalp and healthy hair.
Honey has antibacterial and antifungal properties, and DIY-ing a honey hair mask can soothe seborrheic dermatitis and dandruff, as well as many other skin disorders. It is well known for soothing inflammation and healing tissues [source].
9. Licorice root
Nope, not the Twizzler kind! Licorice root is a strong anti-inflammatory that soothes the itchiness in inflamed, flaky scalps, while its amino acids and polysaccharides help protect against a dry scalp [source]. Licorice root is commonly used for hair loss as it also strengthens weakened hair follicles. To get the benefits, add a bit of licorice extract to your shampoo (or get one that already includes it) and try licorice root tea.
What methods do you use to combat dandruff?
Photos by Ana Stanciu