Dandruff…..the annoying white flakes that can pepper one’s shoulders and cause embarrassment.  So, exactly what is Dandruff?  It is a chronic condition characterized by flaking skin and an itchy scalp. There are multiple causes, including:

  • An ultra-dry scalp
  • A very oily scalp, also known as seborrheic-dermatitis.
  • Sensitivity to product ingredients – contact dermatitis
  • Poor hygiene
  • Malassezia – a naturally occurring genus of yeast that can infect hair follicles.

Scalp conditions based on yeast and fungi can be treated with essential oils for dandruff, but not every essential oil is appropriate in this area.

How can you use Essential Oils to Treat Dandruff?

Our position has always been to follow the actual research on essential oils versus internet promos and ads. We recommend turning to PubMed for your initial research, and you will be amazed at how much is there. For example, one highly research essential oil for dandruff is Lemongrass (Cymbopogon flexuosus).

In 2015, there was a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 30 volunteers aged 20-60 with moderate to severe dandruff.  Lemongrass was used at 5, 10 & 15% levels in a base hair tonic.  The most significant improvement was noted at the 10% strength.  Additional studies targeting the Malassezia yeast were also successful using Lemongrass.  For the full study and others, visit PubMed at https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26566122/.

Another essential oil that has been receiving acclaim for dandruff is Tea Tree Essential Oil. Since it is widely known for its anti-fungal benefits, it works well for yeast issues and the accompanying itch.  A 5% dilution added to an unscented shampoo has been shown to reduce dandruff significantly.  For the full study, visit PubMed at https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12451368/.

We have formulated both a shampoo and a hair mask using Tea Tree and Peppermint if you noticed.  Peppermint is an awesome oil as it leaves a cooling sensation and loves both the skin and the hair. It is a perennial herb (Mentha Piperita). The Asian Journal of Pharmaceutical and Clinical Research did an in-depth review of Peppermint Essential Oil. It was one of the reports we relied on upon choosing that formulation for our product.  You can check it out here:

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/237842903_A_REVIEW_ON_PEPPERMINT_OIL

Hair Care Ingredients

Citrus oils have a long history in hair care.  Citrus, being acidic, contributes to healthy, shiny hair.  An acid pH helps the hair cuticle to lie flat, giving shiny, smooth hair.  Whereas an alkaline-based shampoo will cause the cuticle sheath to expand, frizz, and look dull. The issue with Citrus in hair products is a short functional life.  Citrus essential oils all have a short shelf life, as they are volatile and react when in the presence of light, heat, moisture, and oxygen. The anti-fungal and anti-bacterial benefits have been shown to work well in limited studies, but more research is needed.  We have yet to find a verified study for citrus oils in hair care. My personal family experience with Citrus oil and dandruff has convinced me that it is effective and safe.

My advice for your hair is not to stray outside of oils that have been verified in studies.  Not all essential oils are “scalp” friendly despite being anti-fungal.  The ever-knowing internet many times recommends Rosemary, Thyme, Ginger, and Cinnamon for hair issues. I respectfully disagree as each of these oils are quite powerful and are known to cause sensitization, severe in some cases.

We provide the links to research so you can read legitimate studies and develop your own opinion. We are always here for questions about essential oil dandruff treatments!