7 ways to control dandruff, according to dermatologists

chokja/ iStockDandruff can have a variety of causes.
  • Dandruff can be caused by many different conditions, such as an overgrowth of yeast, dry skin, psoriasis, or eczema.
  • There are many different ways to treat dandruff including using antifungal shampoos, shampooing more often, exfoliating your scalp, and applying topical treatments.
  • If you try all of these remedies and your dandruff persists, you should consult a dermatologist.

Dealing with dandruff – and all the white flakes that accompany it – can be a pain. It’s a common condition that’s caused by many different things, Sarika Banker, a dermatologist in New York, told INSIDER. “It can be caused by dry skin or certain skin conditions such as seborrheic dermatitis, psoriasis, or eczema,” she said. “The most common cause, seborrheic dermatitis, is thought to be related to overgrowth of yeast that can naturally live on our skin, Malassezia.”

The bad news? There is no actual “cure” for dandruff. It’s usually a chronic condition, said Banker, but there are ways to control it. Below are seven different ways to keep those white flakes at bay.

Use the right shampoo.

iStockGet shampoo with certain ingredients.

If you’re dealing with a dry, itchy scalp, switching out your normal shampoo for one with dandruff-fighting ingredients can help immensely, said Holly Hanson, a dermatologist in Minnesota. “Shampoos that contain an antifungal component, including Nizoral (ketoconazole) shampoo, Selsun Blue (selenium sulfide) or Head and Shoulders (zinc pyrithione) are helpful,” she told INSIDER. “If someone doesn’t like using this every day, these can be rotated every other day with another shampoo,” she added.

Looking for a more natural approach? “I often recommend washing with dilute apple cider vinegar or tea tree oil-based shampoos,” Banker added.

Whether you choose a store-bought dandruff shampoo or a natural remedy, Banker said to think of your shampoo as a scalp treatment. “They should be lathered in and left in for a few minutes to reach their full treatment potential and then rinsed out,” she said.

Shampoo more often.

iStockIf you have dandruff, wash your hair every day.

Recent beauty advice says that you shouldn’t wash your hair every day. But if you have dandruff, it’s best to shampoo your tresses each day of the week, said Marisa Garshick, a dermatologist in New York. “For many people, just washing the scalp more frequently can help eliminate dandruff as it can help to remove the extra build up of skin,” she told INSIDER.

Avoid keratin treatments.

Parilov/ShutterstockShampoo you’re supposed to use after a keratin treatment doesn’t properly wash the scalp.

Bad news for people who love keratin treatments: They can actually trigger your dandruff, said Anne Marie McNeill, a dermatologist in California. “After the treatment, most people will start using sulfate-free and zinc-free shampoos to preserve the straightening effect,” she told INSIDER. “Unfortunately, these shampoos do not cleanse the scalp well, and many people end up with moderate to severe dandruff a few weeks after straightening treatments.”


ShutterstockA scalp also needs to be exfoliated.

Just like your skin, your scalp can suffer if you have a build up of dead skin. Exfoliating can help remove the excess and keep your scalp clean, said Banker.

“Exfoliating can help dandruff, particularly if there is a build up of dead skin, as it helps to eliminate some of the dead skin but also it allowing the other potential treatments such as shampoos and steroids to also be more effective as they can penetrate the skin better,” she said. Banker added that you can get a shampoo that has salicylic acid in it for an exfoliating scalp treatment.

But overdoing it can hurt more than help, she warned. “Just like anywhere on your skin, over-exfoliating can dry the skin out too much, so I often recommend only exfoliating or using an exfoliating shampoo a few times per week and alternating with another type of shampoo on the other days.”

Consider a topical treatment.

Cushy Spa/FlickrTopical steroid can be prescribed.

If you’re dealing with intense dandruff, you may need more than just a new shampoo. An extra topical treatment could help alleviate the symptoms, said Garshick.

“For people who experience itching or redness with their dandruff, topical cortisone for the scalp can help, which is available in a low-strength version in Scalpicin or a prescription topical steroid can be provided by a board-certified dermatologist,” she said.

Take preventative measures.

Sean Gallup/Getty ImagesStart treatment early.

Dhaval Bhanusali, a dermatologist based in New York, told INSIDER that dandruff is more common in the colder, drier months of winter. One of his best tips? Start treating it early.

“For prevention, I usually have my patients use the shampoos at the end of fall before symptoms to remove the yeast before it becomes an issue,” he said.

See a dermatologist.

ShutterstockSee a professional.

If you’ve tried all of these dandruff-fighting techniques and your symptoms persist, it may be time to see a professional, Banker said. “It is always best to see a dermatologist for an exact diagnosis and focused treatment,” she said.

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