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20 February, 2009

How To-111: "How to Prevent and Treat Dandruff"

How to Prevent and Treat Dandruff

from wikiHow - The How to Manual That You Can Edit

Dandruff, a condition characterized by flaking, itchy scalp, is one of the most common dermatological conditions. Fortunately, while the exact cause of dandruff is not known, there are some things you can do to reduce your risk of getting it, and effective treatments are available. So if it looks like a winter storm is following you--and only you--around everywhere, read on.


  1. Eat a healthy, balanced diet. As if you needed another reason to eat right, it turns out that a healthy diet may ward off the flakes. Make sure to get plenty of zinc, Omega-3 fatty acids, and B-vitamin, and avoid excessive yeast and sugar. Research suggests that dandruff is at least in part caused by a fungus that thrives in yeasty, fatty, sugary environments. Though this does not necessarily directly affect the conditions of your skin, your overall health will help with how your body responds to the fungus causing the dandruff.
  2. Don't worry, be happy. Stress challenges the body's defenses and encourages all sorts of ailments, including dandruff, so relax now and don't worry about wearing a black shirt tomorrow.
  3. Limit your use of hair styling products. Hairspray, mousse, and gel may contribute to dandruff in some people. They may also cause excessive drying of the skin, which can cause flaking--or trigger allergic reactions. If you notice dandruff soon after you begin to use a new product, chances are the product is to blame. The exception to this would be using a therapeutic styling gel or spray formulated with tea tree oil.
  4. Wash your hair regularly. Dandruff seems to thrive in oily hair, so regular shampooing can help you fight it off. If you already have dandruff, washing your hair may help you keep the symptoms (the flakes) under control until it goes away. Massage your scalp so that you clean your skin, as well as your hair. This is one time when the "repeat" directions in "wash, rinse, and repeat" may be useful. The first washing breaks up the waxy sebum, and the second washing helps rinse it all away.
  5. Use a shampoo designed to treat dandruff. If dandruff persists despite regular shampooing, you may need something stronger. There are a variety of anti-dandruff shampoos available at your pharmacy or grocery store, and they usually work. Be sure to follow the instructions carefully, and make a little extra time to shower, as most of these recommend that you leave them in for 5-10 minutes and lather twice.
  6. Oil your hair with herbal oils or use special herbal gels. Gels from India have been known to help. Do this on a regular basis, at least twice a week for improvements.
  7. Be aware that there are different active ingredients in dandruff shampoos. If one does not work for you try another. Ketoconazole (brand name Nizoral) is extremely effective against certain types of dandruff that are caused by a fungus. 1% ketoconazole is available without prescription in the US, 2% requires a prescription. The 2% is available without a prescription in Canada.
  8. Be patient. While anti-dandruff shampoos may produce results after a few uses, it can take a week or two to see the difference.
  9. Switch it up. If one type of anti-dandruff shampoo doesn't seem to work, or if it works for a time but then doesn't, switch to a product with another active ingredient (the active ingredient will be labeled on the bottle).
  10. See your doctor if the problem persists after more than a couple weeks of treatment. There are prescription shampoos available, and prescription steroid creams may also help.


  • Try using a softer shampoo. During an interview, several barbers have said that the cause is often a harsh shampoo kills or drys out the skin.
  • Another possible remedy consists of pouring a generous amount of table salt into your hand before showering and covering your scalp in it. Gently rub it in, covering your whole scalp. Rinse it out in the shower, and shampoo normally.
  • It's best to get your vitamins from food, rather than nutritional supplements. A quick Internet search will turn up foods you can integrate into your diet that are rich in zinc, Omega-3s, and B-vitamins.
  • If anti-dandruff shampoos aren't working, or if you notice redness on the scalp or silvery or yellow flakes, you may not have dandruff at all. A number of other conditions can lead to flaking skin and itchy scalp. See your primary care physician or dermatologist.
  • A quick internet search will turn up all kinds of home remedies for dandruff. While some of these may indeed work, anti-dandruff shampoos are inexpensive enough to be adequate for most people.
  • Wear light-colored clothing (especially tops) while you have dandruff. Most people won't even notice.
  • If you have hay fever, eczema, or other skin or respiratory allergies, your dandruff may be caused in part by an allergic reaction. In this situation, you may find it helpful to shampoo LESS frequently, so the natural oils that protect your scalp aren't stripped away. Allergic people may also react to dandruff shampoos by generating MORE dandruff. If you think this may be the case for you, try washing your hair with conditioner only, or washing less frequently. CAUTION: Try this first during a vacation or a time when you will be less publicly visible, since your scalp will be very oily at first. It will take two weeks to a month for the balance of oils on your hair and scalp to adjust itself.
  • Rinsing your scalp with a rinse of 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar to 3/4 cup water may help the problem. The natural acids will help loosen any sebum (dead skin and oils) that clings to your scalp and flakes to form dandruff. Rinse thoroughly with WARM, not hot, water. If you don't rinse well, you will smell like vinegar. While apple cider vinegar is the gold standard of home remedies, white vinegar or lemon juice should work as well. Lemon juice may lighten dark hair.
  • To treat a bad case of dandruff, wash your hair with your usual shampoo and then rinse with an alcohol-based mouthwash. You can follow with an ordinary conditioner.
  • Tea tree oil has antiseptic qualities that may help kill the fungus, and keep your scalp moisturized. You can buy a small bottle at many groceries and health food stores, and add 5-6 drops to your regular shampoo. Or just purchase a shampoo that contains tea tree oil.
  • Buy and use two or three different types of regular shampoo and don't use the same one two days in a row. This way build up is minimized. For some reason this gets rid of lesser cases of dandruff.
  • Plain old fashioned Listerine (the original amber formula) works wonders on dandruff! In fact, up until the 1980s, the label even mentioned that it was effective on infectious dandruff. Daily or several times a week, saturate a cotton ball with Listerine and swab over your scalp. It really works!
  • Leave-in treatments like Scalpicin may be useful for particularly itchy scalps.
  • If the shampoos with the ingredients below don't work, try others.
  • Wash your hair with cold water.


  • Some anti-dandruff shampoos, such as those containing selenium sulfide or coal tar may discolor light or dyed hair.
  • Discontinue use of any anti-dandruff shampoo or medication if the condition worsens or spreads, or if you notice side effects. Consult your primary care physician or dermatologist if the problem doesn't go away.
  • Tea tree oil may have adverse side effects. A recent article in the New York Times states: "In Boston at the annual Endocrine Society meeting in June, Clifford Bloch of the University of Colorado School of Medicine presented several cases of young men who had developed marked breast enlargement from using shampoos containing lavender and tea tree oils, which are widely used essential oil additives that present no problem for adults."
  • this study was fully rebutted by the Australian Tea Tree Industry Association (ATTIA) and in fact only one of the three subjects was exposed to a product containing tea tree oil in addition to lavender oil. It appears that the real culprit may be the lavender oil or other estrogenic compounds in shampoos. No other environmental or dietary factors were considered. Some foods such as soy and licorice contain very high levels of phytoestrogens.
  • Watch out for shampoos that are packaged to look like dandruff shampoos but only say that they will rinse away loose dandruff. Any shampoo will rinse away loose dandruff.
  • Using more than one anti-dandruff product may cause redness and irritation.
  • Avoid Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS). It's a foaming compound that's a mild irritant. Some people find that using specialist soap without SLS as a shampoo for a couple of weeks makes their dandruff go away. You'll probably get it back if you switch back to ordinary shampoo. [1]

Things You'll Need

  • Shampoo with one of these anti-dandruff ingredients: ketoconazole, zinc pyrithione, selenium sulfide, salicylic acid, coal tar extract, or sulfur. If one doesn't work try another.

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Sources and Citations


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