Dandruff is a common condition of the scalp that often manifests as itching and flaking. It is a multifactorial hair and skin concern and can stem from an inflammatory response to the yeast pityrosporum, a normal part of skin flora. It can be not very pleasant, we know. Still, there are ways to control and minimize the problem with some homemade and all-natural dandruff treatments – although these shouldn't be used as a primary remedy in the case of serious skin conditions.
We spoke to hair health expert Shab Reslan and dermatologist Jenny Liu to get deep on this matter with the best tips and on how far we can go with the ingredients we already have at home. Keep scrolling for some of the best DIY dandruff shampoos for a cleaner scalp.
Baking Soda Dandruff Shampoo
Baking soda's gritty texture grabs and removes the dirt and excess oil from your hair as well as the loose skin cells from your scalp that cause dandruff. Unlike many commercial dandruff shampoos, this will not strip your scalp of its much-needed natural oils. Over time, this may lead to a healthier scalp and healthier hair.
Combine one tablespoon baking soda for every cup of water and mix well. Add two to three drops of rosemary essential oil to give this shampoo a light fragrance. It's not a necessary ingredient, but a nice addition. Pour over your hair and massage it into your scalp, then rinse your hair thoroughly.
While not really a shampoo, use this trick once a week or every four to five shampoos. According to Reslan, it should not be done very often and instead done only for an occasional extra deep cleanse. "Baking soda has an alkaline pH level, and that throws off the natural pH of hair. It can dry it out and raise the cuticle, which exposes your hair and makes it susceptible to damage over time," she says. Initially, your hair will probably feel quite dry. After a few weeks, your scalp will begin to produce more natural oils, and your hair's softness will return.
Use an empty (and clean) shampoo bottle to make this mix and have it ready in the shower for regular use. If you want to skip the mix, you can also rub a handful of baking soda directly into your wet hair and scalp.
Apple Cider Vinegar Rinse
Another way you can use a DIY dandruff shampoo is not as a shampoo but as a last rinse. "Apple cider vinegar can help remove build-up on the scalp, balance the pH level of the scalp and hair and help close the cuticles for shinier hair," says Reslan. The vinegar may also help wash away dead skin cells and soothe the scalp at the same time. It's great for healthy hair, too!
Add one part of apple cider vinegar to one part of warm water, and that's it! Most people can use one cup, but those with long and thick hair may need to use one or more cups. Pour the vinegar water over your hair and gently massage it into your hair and scalp for three to five minutes. Rinse with clean water. Just be careful not to let the vinegar get into your eyes!
It is very easy, but you will have a distinct aroma until you shower again. For that reason, it's best to do this treatment a couple of hours before bed and take a regular shower in the morning. Do this rinse up to twice a week until your dandruff is under control. After that, consider making it a weekly or bi-weekly routine.
Lemon and Sweet Almond Oil Dandruff Shampoo
Similar to the vinegar rinse, lemon can be used as an inexpensive treatment for dandruff as the citric acid is meant to help clean the scalp of excess oil. Reslan notes that lemon is too alkaline and can damage hair or sensitive scalps, so it is best to use lemon essential oil to get the citric acid benefits instead. Sweet almond oil works as a leave-in conditioning treatment.
Simply mix a few drops of lemon essential oil to two tablespoons of sweet almond oil and massage into the scalp before jumping in the shower and shampooing it out. Do this daily until no longer needed.
Honey Dandruff Shampoo
Using honey in a homemade anti-dandruff shampoo can balance scalp pH and eliminate flakes while leaving hair soft and shiny: "Honey makes a great scalp cleanser as it's antibacterial and antifungal and gentle on the scalp," says Reslan. For this, you should use unprocessed raw honey.
Combine one tablespoon of raw honey with 1/4 cup of water in a mug or squeeze bottle. You can also add one tablespoon of aloe vera gel to get extra soothing benefits. Just shake well, and your honey shampoo is ready to be massaged on wet hair for a minute, and then rinse thoroughly. Repeat it weekly for better results.
Coconut Oil Dandruff Shampoo
Coconut oil is a great ingredient for moisturizing hair and scalps. Plus, its essential vitamins E and K and its high percentage of lauric acid may help manage dandruff.
This DIY dandruff shampoo just uses one part of coconut oil and one part of jojoba oil mixed in a container. Apply the blend to your scalp and hair as needed. Massage for a few minutes and cover hair with a shower cap for at least 30 minutes. Wash off with a good shampoo and repeat at least once a week.
"Coconut oil has some anti-inflammatory effects and can help hydrate [your] scalp, but keep an eye on it: if dandruff is severe, it will not work well. Best talk to your doctor," says Liu.