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Got Dandruff? How Natural Therapies Can Help You

Stress, nutrition | March 26, 2017 | Author: Naturopath

Skin conditions, allergy

Got Dandruff? How Natural Therapies Can Help You

Dandruff is more common than you think, estimated to affect more than 50% of the population. It can be a sign of nutrient deficiencies in the body or a reaction to chemicals in products such as shampoos. The three completely natural products, clinically proven to be effective against dandruff might surprise you—one of which could be hiding in your pantry already!

What is dandruff?

The top layer of skin on the scalp is constantly being shed and renewed. In a healthy scalp this usually goes unnoticed as cells are shed in regular amounts one at a time. However, if there is inflammation present, skin cells can clump together and shed at the same time. This can cause visible flakes, that can be seen trapped in the hair or on a person’s shoulders—especially if they are wearing dark clothing.

Seborrhoeic Dermatitis

Some people with dandruff may also have an underlying skin condition referred to as seborrhoeic dermatitis. This causes a red, itchy, scaly reaction on the scalp. It is considered a more severe form of dandruff, where the scaling is more obvious and the scalp is also inflamed. It can also affect other areas of skin including the face, central chest area, eyebrows, beard and even eyebrows. Seborrheic dermatitis occurs on the skin where there is a large concentration of oil producing glands.

When this occurs in babies it is referred to as cradle cap. It causes thick yellow crusts on the scalp which may also be accompanied by splits in the skin, red facial pustules and persistent nappy rash.

Symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis include:

  • Dry or greasy scaling of the scalp
  • Plaques over large areas
  • Itchy scalp
  • Mild redness of the scalp
  • Hair loss can sometimes occur

What causes it?

The exact cause of seborrhoeic dermatitis in unknown. It is thought to be due to a combination of hormone levels, weakened immune system, lack of certain nutrients and nervous system problems. Irritation from a yeast called Malassezia may also lead to this condition. Seborrhoeic dermatitis also appears to run in families.

Risk factors include:

  • Stress or fatigue
  • Weather extremes – symptoms are usually worse in winter
  • Oily skin, or skin problems such as acne
  • Infrequent shampoos or skin cleaning
  • Obesity
  • Weakened immune system such as people with HIV
  • Neurologic conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, stroke and paralysis
  • Allergies/sensitivities to food and chemicals in the environment and personal grooming products

Essential Fatty Acids

Consider taking essential fatty acids internally to help from the inside out. These can be found in omega-3 fish oil supplements, flaxseed oil, cod liver oil and evening primrose oil. Foods high in these nutrients include squid, fish, eggs, wholegrains, walnuts, almonds and leafy green vegies.

Other nutrients to consider

Zinc, vitamin E and Vitamin A are other nutrients important for skin health and may also be helpful to improve the health of your scalp.

These nutrients are antioxidants in the body, reducing oxidative stress which is thought to be a cause of seborrheic dermatitis.

Taking a good quality probiotic or a healthy yeast called saccharomyces boulardii may also help to reduce symptoms by improving immune health and digestive function.

Topical applications

It is important to avoid chemical laden shampoos and conditioners and opt for natural, low-allergenic products. It is possible that the products you are using could be contributing to your problem. The following products listed below have been clinically proven to be effective for seborrhoeic dermatitis of the scalp and are definitely worth a try.

Emu Oil

Emu oil when applied topically to the skin has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties while also helping to hydrate the skin. It is rich in vitamins A, D and E and Omega 3, 6, 7 and 9 which promotes wound healing and improves recovery of damaged skin. It is low-allergenic, ideal for sensitive scalps. One study found emu oil a useful agent that significantly improves itching, redness and scales that were associated with seborrheic dermatitis. Although it was found to be less effective than hydrocortisone and clotrimazole (an anti-fungal cream) it still showed a significant improvement and offers a safe, long-term alternative to medicated creams. It was however, more effective than clotrimazole in reducing redness, irritation and redness on the scalp. It is best to use a 100% pure emu oil and apply sparingly to the scalp 1-2 times daily. An emu oil shampoo and conditioner can also be used to maximise benefits on the scalp and to reduce flaking.
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Tea tree shampoo

Tea tree oil has anti-fungal properties against Malassezia spp. and may be useful in the treatment of dandruff. One study found that the use of 5% tea tree shampoo showed a 41% improvement in the total severity of seborrheic dermatitis on the scalp—including itchiness, greasiness and scaliness. 


Honey naturally contains antibacterial, antifungal and antioxidant properties.

One study found a significant improvement in the symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis when applied every other day for four weeks. The honey was diluted with 10% warm water, gently rubbed in for 2-3 minutes and left on for 3 hours before rinsing off. After the four weeks, the honey was then applied in the same manner, once a week for 6 months.

Individuals who used the honey topically reported a significant decrease in itching and scaling with complete removal of skin lesions.

It was also reported to reduce hair loss. What they did find is that when the honey treatment was stopped after 4 weeks, most people experienced a relapse of symptoms 2-4 months later. None of the people who continued the once weekly application experienced a relapse, suggesting an effective long-term treatment for chronic seborrheic dermatitis. When selecting a honey it is best to choose a manuka honey for a stronger antimicrobial action. There are also manuka honey shampoos and conditioners available for people wanting something easier to use.
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So when looking for a natural option for dandruff, look no further. Honey, tea tree shampoo and emu oil have all been shown to work a treat. Also… don’t forget to hydrate from the inside out by increasing your essential fatty acids and anti-oxidants that help to heal the skin.  Australia’s best online discount chemist


Satchell AC, et al. Treatment of dandruff with 5% tea tree oil shampoo. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2002 Dec;47(6):852-5

Attarzadeh Y, et al. Comparing the efficacy of Emu oil with clotrimazole and hydrocortisone in the treatment of seborrheic dermatitis: A clinical trial. J Res Med Sci. 2013 Jun;18(6):477-81

Al-Waili NS. Therapeutic and prophylactic effects of crude honey on chronic seborrheic dermatitis and dandruff. Eur J Med Res. 2001 Jul 30;6(7):306-8

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