Why am I Getting Dandruff? How to Get Rid of Dandruff

How to treat dandruff
Medically reviewed by Dr. Mandy Liedeman


Dandruff is a common scalp disorder that results in itching and flaking of the scalp’s skin. This condition is not contagious or dangerous but can affect aesthetics and cause itching. However, this condition may cause embarrassment and be challenging to manage if left untreated.

Here in this article, you will get comprehensive knowledge about dandruff, its causes, types, and the best way to get rid of dandruff.

What is Dandruff?

Dandruff is the most common scalp disorder and is generally not considered unsafe. Still, it may indicate underlying causes or embarrass you in public. 

Several factors, including a dry scalp, excessive oil production on the scalp, and a fungal infection, can cause dandruff.

To prevent dandruff outbreaks, a healthy hair care routine is the first line of defense. Moreover, if a healthy hair routine does not work, it is best to consult a doctor.

The doctor will prescribe medicated shampoo as per your scalp condition. Note that the recovery time varies with the severity of dandruff, as mild dandruff may take days to go away, but severe cases may require aggressive treatment and take longer to settle down.

Composition of Dandruff

A dandruff scale comprises clusters of corneocytes that do not adhere well to one another and eventually detach from the stratum corneum surface. Most of the time, dandruff flakes caused by different scalp conditions are the same. However, it is easier to identify dandruff type if you closely observe how the flakes appear and notice other potential symptoms related to skin and hair disorders.

Dandruff-affected sites

When we hear the word “dandruff,” the only thing that comes to mind is the scalp. However, dandruff is not limited to the scalp and can affect other areas.

Because dandruff is commonly caused by sebum, dryness, or fungal infection, it can occur anywhere on the skin affected by sebum, dryness, or disease, as previously discussed. The following are some common sites where dandruff can appear:

  • Scalp 
  • Eyebrows 
  • Eyelashes 
  • Forehead 
  • Beard 
  • Ear 
  • Hands

Let’s look at some common causes of dandruff and some associated conditions that play a part in dandruff outbreaks.

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Types and Causes of Dandruff

Dandruff has several types, each with a unique underlying cause. It can be caused by dirt, sebum, or dryness, but it can also result from a fungal infection. For an accurate diagnosis, it’s essential to consult your doctor first.

Improving your hair care routine or trying dandruff home remedies can ease the symptoms of some types. Still, in other cases, prescription medications are needed to treat dandruff. Check out the underlying causes of dandruff and the types.

Dry Dandruff

Dandruff on the skin is commonly known as “dry dandruff” or “dry skin dandruff.” In cold weather and indoor heating during the winter, your scalp and skin tend to become more dehydrated.

Hot water for frequent hair washing can also lead to dry skin and dandruff. Too much dryness can cause irritated skin and the loss of skin cells. White dandruff flakes appear on dry skin. Itchy skin may indicate a more severe skin condition that requires medical attention.

Using a moisturizing shampoo can help prevent dandruff on dry skin. Coconut oil scalp massages may also relieve itchiness and prevent dry scalp skin.

Wet Dandruff

Oily skin dandruff is also called wet dandruff. You have glands beneath your skin that produce sebum, an oily substance that moisturizes and protects your skin. You may experience oily hair if these glands produce too much sebum.

Moreover, excess oil can clog your scalp, causing dandruff and irritation. Dandruff flakes on oily skin tend to be larger than those on dry skin. The fragments may have a yellowish tint and appear oilier than white. In comparison to oily skin dandruff, seborrheic dermatitis is more severe.

Fungal-Induced Dandruff

As its name suggests, it is a fungal infection that causes fungal dandruff. Malassezia is a common fungus found on the skin of every human being. It may trigger an inflammatory response in some individuals, resulting in dandruff or other conditions such as eczema.

A shampoo with Malassezia-inhibiting ingredients, such as zinc pyrithione, may help. Antifungal shampoo with bioactive ingredients like zinc pyrithione may inhibit Malassezia growth and treat fungus-related dandruff.

Medical Conditions Associated With Dandruff

The following medical conditions are commonly associated with different types of dandruff:

Atopic Dermatitis 

Flaky, itchy skin patches indicate atopic dermatitis or eczema and sometimes a red rash. Atopic dermatitis can cause flakes that are a bit larger than those produced by dry skin. In the early stages of dandruff, when a condition is mild, a daily moisturizing shampoo may be helpful; however, if the situation does not improve, your doctor may prescribe stronger medications.

Seborrheic Dermatitis

Seborrheic dermatitis is more likely to occur in people with oily scalps. In this condition, scaly red patches on the scalp’s skin appear that ultimately cause itching. A zinc pyrithione shampoo can be effective in the treatment of dandruff caused by seborrheic dermatitis.


A person with psoriasis may also suffer from wet dandruff. In psoriasis, the immune system fails to distinguish between healthy cells and pathogens, resulting in an autoimmune condition. In some people with psoriasis, hair loss may result, although the condition is not always associated with it.

Talk to a doctor about dandruff and get a proper treatment

How To Treat Dandruff?

Dandruff can affect any age group, whether you are a child or an adult. Knowing the suitable treatment options for dandruff can help you eliminate it at any stage. Prescribed medications, daily hair care, and lifestyle modifications are the best ways to treat dandruff.

Let us explore all the possible treatments commonly used to fight dandruff.

OTC (Over-the-Counter) Therapies

Wet dandruff can be managed and reduced with anti-dandruff shampoos. Your scalp can also get clogged up with oil when you use certain types, so look for ones that can help.

One study discovered that zinc pyrithione, selenium sulfide, and ketoconazole are effective remedies for treating dandruff and are all commonly found in OTC shampoos. It has been shown that pyrithione and clotrimazole effectively reduce scalp oil secretion and inflammation.

Some of the ingredients that you should look for in a shampoo if you are suffering from dandruff include: 

  1. Tar-based Shampoos: These shampoos have coal tar ingredient, which belongs to the class of keratoplastics drugs and play a role in removing the layer of dead skin cells from the scalp. However, it may cause discoloration if you have light-colored hair and make the scalp more light-sensitive. 
  2. Salicylic acid: It is one of the hot ingredients in skincare nowadays. Like its benefits for oily skin, it also has enormous potential to treat oily scalp conditions. It helps in eliminating excess oil and breaking down the dead skin cell layer, which ultimately softens keratin (skin protein) to make new skin cells. It’s a win-win, right? 
  3. Pyrithione Zinc: We already emphasized its importance. It regulates sebum production, which means everything keeps the conditions where dandruff thrives in check. Therefore, it acts as an antifungal and antibacterial agent. 
  4. Fluocinolone: It belongs to the topical steroid group and helps reduce inflammation, itching, and flaking via steroids like corticosteroids.
  5. Selenium sulfide: It controls dandruff via its anti-Malassezia effect by reducing the yeast cell turnover number and its growth to a minimum. 
  6. Ketoconazole: It works by reducing inflammation and killing the dandruff-causing fungus that lives on the scalp. Reduced inflammation also reduces hair fall. 

There are many good options in the market. Still, when dealing with a skin condition, it is best to consult a doctor before applying anything to your skin and after a proper diagnosis.


The type of medication prescribed for wet dandruff will depend on its cause. In the case of seborrheic dermatitis, for example, antifungal shampoos will be prescribed by a dermatologist. The above treatments can address the overgrowth of fungus on the scalp.

For the treatment of seborrheic dermatitis, ciclopirox, and ketoconazole are some of the specific antifungal medications that can be used. It is suggested that you use these shampoos according to your doctor’s advice.

To slow down the growth of skin cells, your doctor may prescribe anthralin for psoriasis. The doctor may also recommend you use medicated shampoos and lotions on your scalp. In severe cases, UV light therapy or phototherapy may be used with other possible treatments.

Home Remedies

Home remedies are considered very effective and play a significant role in treating dandruff. Several botanicals have antifungal and hydrating properties, which make them valuable ingredients in herbal home remedies for dandruff. Besides that, some other nutrients have active ingredients that can fight dandruff.

Let us explore some effective home remedies to help eliminate dandruff and its underlying cause.

Olive oil

Olive oil is a folk remedy for common types of dandruff. Use about ten drops of olive oil to massage your scalp. Cover it with a shower cap, then go to sleep. Wash it off in the morning. If you need more time, use a shampoo containing olive oil.

Aloe vera 

Aloe vera is supposed to soothe the itching caused by dandruff. Therefore, use aloe vera gel to massage your scalp before shampooing.


A natural remedy for dandruff, white vinegar is an excellent option. In addition to preventing fungi from growing, white vinegar can reduce itching. Pour the vinegar into the water and mix well. After shampooing your hair, rinse it with the mixture. The effectiveness of this mixture can be improved by adding one tablespoon of olive oil to three parts of water and two tablespoons of white vinegar. For about 10 minutes, massage the mixture into your scalp. Once that’s done, wash it off.


Salt is a common ingredient that is good at scrubbing out dandruff flakes. Apply salt to your dry scalp, gently massage it, and work it through your hair. Then wash your hair with a suitable shampoo.

Coconut oil

Coconut oil is a perfect remedy for all skin problems, including dandruff. Apply 3 – 5 spoons of coconut oil to your scalp. Gently use your fingers to massage it. Wait for about an hour, then shampoo. You can also use a shampoo containing coconut oil for the same effect.


It is possible to treat various skin and health issues with garlic. It contains antioxidants and phytonutrients, which boost your immune system and prevent skin infections. It prevents disorders such as seborrheic dermatitis and dandruff. Applying garlic to the scalp can reduce sebum production and increase blood circulation. In this way, it strengthens the roots of your hair and gets rid of flaky skin. You can also use garlic juice to prevent hair loss and make your hair look thick and luscious.

Baking soda

Baking soda can make your scalp free of flakes. Damp your hair, then rub the baking soda into your scalp. Then rinse it off with water. Baking soda can reduce fungi that cause dandruff. First, your hair can be dry. However, your scalp will produce natural oils after a few weeks.


There is nothing more common in the kitchen than lemons. It is possible to reduce dandruff by using lemon juice, as it may balance the scalp’s pH. Use two tablespoons of lemon juice to massage your scalp. Rinse it off with water after massaging it gently. Until you see results, repeat it daily.

Apple cider vinegar

Dandruff can be effectively treated with apple cider vinegar. Changing the pH of the scalp makes it difficult for yeast to grow. You need some apple cider vinegar and some water. Mix it up and apply it to your scalp. Let your hair air dry for about an hour, then wash it. You may get a satisfactory result by using it once or twice weekly for the best results.

It is possible to reduce dandruff with tea tree oil. Tea tree oil is ideal for keeping your hair healthy, so add a few drops to your shampoo.


Aspirin contains salicylic acid, an essential ingredient for dandruff treatment. Make a powder from two aspirins by crushing them finely. Add it to your favorite shampoo, and you’re good to go. Be sure to rinse your hair well.


You can treat dandruff with raw eggs. Take two eggs and apply them to your scalp. Wait for a few minutes, then rinse it off. Apply a raw egg twice a week for better results.

Diet and Lifestyle Modifications 

A healthy diet and lifestyle may be vital in dandruff management and treatment. Here are some lifestyle modifications that can help you deal with dandruff and related diseases.

Bath More Often

If your scalp is oily and causing wet dandruff, you should wash your hair and scalp more frequently. The more frequently you wash your hair and scalp, and the less sebum accumulates on your scalp.

Give Your Hair a Rest

It is important to note that many styling products contain harsh chemicals that harm the scalp. The presence of harsh chemicals may complicate the treatment process. In addition, a skin rash is caused by contact with a particular substance. Therefore, it is recommended that you avoid styling products if you experience wet dandruff. 

A Healthy Eating

Diet plays a crucial role in developing skin disease, so if you suffer from skin conditions like seborrheic dermatitis or psoriasis, eating a healthy diet can help eliminate wet dandruff. Lean proteins, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables may be healthier alternatives to heavily processed foods.

When to Consult a Doctor Regarding Dandruff

Dandruff is in its early stages and can be eased with daily hair care and ensuring that your scalp is clean. When it is uncontrollable and makes you feel embarrassed or shatters your self-confidence, it is time to consult a doctor and get rid of dandruff. Dandruff outbreaks can be an indication of extreme dehydration or excessively oily skin. You can consult our online doctor at Your Doctors Online for the proper diagnosis and prescribed medication or hair care products.

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FAQs About Dandruff Answered By Your Doctors Online Team.

What’s the best treatment for wet dandruff?

To treat dandruff effectively, it is crucial first to identify its cause. Treatment generally involves washing your hair more frequently with mild shampoos and refraining from using styling products since the condition is caused by oil build-up on your scalp. You should consult your doctor to treat wet dandruff caused by skin disorders.

Why is dandruff dry and wet?

Wet dandruff flakes off and blends with oils, dirt, and debris, while dry dandruff is often flaked off a dry scalp. When excess oil accumulates on the scalp, it mixes with flakes of dandruff and sticks to the hair shaft.

Is dandruff a sign of psoriasis?

The presence of dandruff can be considered a sign of psoriasis, but it can also indicate another condition. Psoriasis lasts for a long time, but dandruff comes and goes.
Additionally, psoriasis usually has a scaly texture rather than a flaky one. In contrast to scalp psoriasis, dandruff affects only the scalp; it may not spread to other parts of the face or neck.

What is the feeling of dandruff?

A person with dandruff typically has an oily or dry scalp. Because of the dry air, you might notice your symptoms worsening in colder months. Hair is not affected by dandruff but rather by the scalp. A close look at the scalp will reveal white or yellow flakes that fall off easily.

Is there a treatment for dandruff that works effectively?

Salicylic acid effectively fights resistive cases of dandruff. Additionally, it is cost-effective and suitable enough for daily use.

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