Reader Question: How do I Fight Dandruff with My Natural Hair?

I received this question about dandruff remedies last week, and then recently had a Havana twist client with the same issue, so I thought it might be a more common problem. Luckily, I haven’t had any problems with this, but I can imagine that having dandruff as a natural haired woman can be pretty frustrating. Other women can use dandruff fighting shampoos daily, but we do not have the time, desire, or necessity to wash our hair on a daily basis like women of other ethnicities. So what’s a natural to do when dandruff is messing up her full head of kinks?


Make Sure It’s Dandruff

If our scalp is flaky, most of us assume it’s dandruff. If you don’t shampoo often and use a lot of products in your hair, the flakes you’re seeing may be dried up, leftover product that the natural hair world typically calls product build up. This will look different from dandruff because it will probably be small and white. Dandruff, on the other hand, will more likely be tan or brown as it is your scalp peeling and flaking. You may have a more serious dermatological condition if your dandruff is accompanied by severe itching, redness, or irritation of the scalp; seek medical attention accordingly.

Get a Dandruff Medicated Shampoo

Even if you’re not going to wash your hair daily or weekly, a medicated shampoo will help treat your dandruff problem. For maximum effectiveness, let the shampoo sit in your hair for a few minutes before washing it out. If you find the shampoo too drying, alternate it with a moisturizing shampoo or cowashes. Whenever you condition though, be sure to thoroughly rinse out the product so you don’t exacerbate any build up.

Do an Apple Cider Vinegar Treatment

Apple cider vinegar will help adjust the pH of your scalp, which may be one cause of dandruff. Mix equal parts water and ACV and use an applicator to apply to your scalp after you’ve shampooed. Let sit for a few minutes (put on a shower cap or towel), and then rinse out. Be careful not to scratch so much before doing this – and don’t get it in your eyes – as the ACV may burn slightly.

Choose the Right Oils

You have to be careful of which oils you use on your scalp when you’re battling dandruff, because some oils (especially unnatural ones) can actually cause more damage in the long run, though they may provide temporary visual relief. Coconut oil is great because it’s light and can actually be absorbed by the scalp. Use this as an overnight oil treatment before you plan on washing your hair.

Tea tree oil is a great dandruff buster because of its immense anti fungal properties. Mix several drops of tea tree oil with your regular shampoo if you don’t want to buy a dandruff specific one. You can also mix it in with your coconut oil while massaging your scalp. Be careful, for some people tea tree oil can be strong, so do not use alone unless you’re sure your scalp can handle it.

You DON’T want to use an oil like castor oil if you have dandruff. Yes, you might be trying to grow out your edges, but castor oil is very heavy and may further clog your scalp, worsening your dandruff. Whatever oil you try, make sure to use a pure 100% version – not a blend – so you can accurately determine whether it is helping or worsening your situation.

Soothe with Aloe Vera Gel

While aloe vera gel is not an oil, it has moisturizing and soothing properties that can be helpful for dandruff. If you’ve ever gotten sunburn (no, just me and my desperate tanning attempts to get 50 shades darker?), you know to run for the aloe to help soothe your dry and peeling skin. The same properties apply for dandruff, just massage the gel onto your scalp. Aloe vera is great for your hair too, so you don’t have to worry about getting any in your actual hair.

Massage, Massage, Massage

While this won’t prevent the dandruff from appearing, massaging your scalp regularly and rigorously will help to break up the flakes. A perfect time to do this is before you wash, so that you can rinse out any flakes that pop up. Make sure you’re not scratching with your nails, but rubbing with the tips of your fingers.

If you have dandruff, what remedies do you use to fight it?

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  1. I enjoyed the tips mentioned in this post. I struggled with dandruff when I was relaxed. I am now 4 years into being natural and have started growing locs this year. The dry scalp struggle is different now, but still a present issue. I’ll make sure to test out a couple of these suggestions. Thank you #BLM.

  2. hey girl!

    i cosign the ACV for dandruff…I’ve had this issue even when I had a relaxer. I spray a diluted mix on my scalp then use my finger tips to rub over my scalp and i let it sit, then rinse out. And of course it makes my hair feel great as well.

    I also dilute tea tree oil (like a lot of dilution since it’s so strong) with water and rub that on my scalp as well.

  3. I found that when I use more natural products, I have little to no flaking. Anytime I use something with names I can’t pronounce, the flakes return.