There are different factors that can be causing dandruff in your scalp. I’m not going to get too deep into the science but rather give you different natural solutions that will improve your hair condition regardless.
Is dandruff a permanent condition?
Unfortunately, yes. If you suffered from dandruff before you had dreads, then you are more likely to have it while you have dreads. The problem is that you cannot treat your hair in the same way as you did before. Medicated shampoos will leave a lot of residue on your hair, so using them will actually be substituting one problem for another.
It’s also possible that you only begin to experience dandruff once you get dreads. The problem could be the result of a change in washing frequency, the kind of shampoo that is being used, the pH level of your scalp, product buildup, or not enough blood stimulation to the scalp (as is usually experienced when you wash and brush your hair daily).
Dandruff will not go away on its own but don’t let this discourage you. If you have dandruff, there are several ways to treat, or at least lessen it, naturally. Note that not all flaking of the scalp is dandruff. Also, the root problem of your dandruff may require a different treatment than the ones I list below.
It’s important to understand that whatever is happening on the outside of your body can possibly be the result of something happening internally. You should take care of your internal wellbeing as a means to cure your outer being.
Suggestions for reducing dandruff
1. Drink more water
Drinking plenty of water is vital to maintaining your scalp hydrated. Your skin is the largest organ in your body and it needs to be replenished often. Dehydration will produce dry skin, at the scalp and elsewhere. You’re more prone to dry skin during the winter season, so drink a cup of water every time you start feeling your head itch.
2. Gain control of the overproduction of sebum
Sebum is an oily secretion of the sebaceous glands. When too much sebum is produced, you risk clogged pores and a flaky scalp. This can contribute to dandruff.
Many things can cause overproduction of sebum, such as hormones, stress, diet, and digestion.
Improving your diet will help balance out your body in more ways than one. I recommend doing the following things to kick start healthy habits.
- Drink more water!
- Eat more raw and cooked veggies, especially leafy greens.
- Substitute sugary treats with fresh fruits, especially fruits with lots of antioxidants.
- Include more healthy fats in your diet, like salmon, mackerel, avocado, and nuts.
- Eat and drink more probiotics, like sauerkraut, pickles, kefir, yogurt, and kombucha. It’s best to make your own, rather than buying these from the store.
- Take supplements for minerals you may be lacking, such as zinc, vitamins, and omega 3 fatty acids.
- Reduce the number of carbohydrates you eat.
- Say no to processed foods.
- Say goodbye to salt and trans saturated fat.
As part of a healthy routine, reduce stress by exercising and meditating. Stress can wreak havoc on your overall health. Your hair and scalp are no exception.
3. Keep a regular washing routine
Transitioning from normal hair to dreadlocks can be a challenge for your scalp. For one, your scalp is receiving a lot less attention than it did before. When you wash your hair daily, you lose vital oils. Your scalp compensates by producing extra oils. When you transition to dreads and you start washing your hair once a week, your scalp continues to produce an excessive amount of oil. It takes a period of time for it to adjust. This can cause oil buildup which can be a contributor to dandruff.
The best remedy is to try to keep a consistent washing schedule so your scalp adjusts properly and your oil production balances itself. The recommended lapse between washes is once every 5 or 7 days. Do not wash dreadlocks daily.
4. Make an aloe vera gel
In a previous blog, I wrote about all the benefits of aloe vera for your scalp. It’s one of nature’s best remedies for dandruff as well. In my blog, you can get the recipe that I recommend for scalp health. I recommend you use this aloe blend daily on the affected spots and wean yourself off of it once you no longer experience symptoms.
5. Use baking soda once in a while
Baking soda can be very beneficial in fighting off dandruff but some have experienced adverse effects with constant use. One option is to make a homemade shampoo by diluting baking soda with water and mixing in a few drops of rosemary and tea tree oil. A second option is to add a little bit of baking soda to your dreadlock shampoo. After you’ve rinsed it, follow up with an apple cider vinegar rinse.
6. Rinse with apple cider vinegar
Rinse your scalp with a diluted apple cider vinegar solution once a week. After every wash, neutralize the pH levels in your scalp with an ACV after-wash, especially if you add baking soda to your shampoo. A healthy scalp should have a pH level of 4.5 to 5.5. It should be slightly acidic.
Mix 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar with 3 cups distilled water. Pour it all over your roots (after rinsing off the shampoo) and let it sit for five to ten minutes. Then, rinse that off with cold water. It stinks but your scalp will love it. If you feel this is helping to reduce your dandruff, you can increase the dilution to half ACV and half distilled water. Always start with a more diluted treatment since a higher concentration initially may irritate your scalp.
7. Deep clean your hair
Although a deep clean isn’t recommended more than four times a year, it is necessary once in a while – twice a year is ideal! A deep cleanse is important for removing any buildup that has collected on your hair over time. If the shampoo hasn’t been washed out entirely, or any other products were used, it’s very possible that your dreads have accumulated dirt inside the locs and possibly other things too. A deep cleanse with baking soda and ACV rinse as a follow-up will help to clean the scalp, remove dandruff, and restore your scalp to a healthy pH creating an environment where dandruff is less likely to occur.
8. Add essential oils to your moisturizing spray and shampoo
There are several essential oils that have wonderful dandruff-fighting properties. All essential oils should not be applied directly to the skin to prevent irritation. We recommend you add them to your daily moisturizing spray, shampoo or combine them with a carrier oil like jojoba, coconut or olive oil.
- Tea Tree Essential Oil: Tea tree oil contains anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and anti-fungal properties. It helps to heal skin infections, relieves an itchy scalp, and soothes inflammation on the skin.
- Rosemary Essential Oil: Rosemary oil has antimicrobial properties that help to treat dandruff and keep it away.
- Peppermint Essential Oil: Peppermint contains antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties that help to keep dandruff away. Peppermint will also leave your scalp feeling fresh and tingly. Combine it with other essential oils.
- Neem Essential Oil: Neem oil contains anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory properties. It helps to remove buildup in the scalp, nourishes your hair follicles and stimulates blood flow. Neem oil has a strong smell so you may want to add a few drops in a hair mask or oil treatment a couple of hours before washing your hair.
- Patchouli Essential Oil: Patchouli oil contains antibacterial, anti-fungal, and antiseptic properties. It helps to heal wounds and infections quickly while preventing them from coming back. Keep dandruff away by massaging a few drops of patchouli oil and a carrier oil onto your scalp.
- Frankincense Oil: Frankincense helps to soothe dry skin at the scalp and reduces inflammation.
- Lemongrass Essential Oil: Lemongrass is often used in hair treatments because of its antiseptic and antimicrobial properties. Combine lemongrass essential oil with lavender and rosemary essential oils (plus a carrier oil) for best results.
9. Make a witch hazel tonic
Witch hazel has many scalp-related benefits. It helps to stabilize the amount of oil being produced in your head while maintaining the scalp’s moisture. It also helps with other conditions, such as inflammation, redness, and eczema. Always dilute witch hazel.
Make sure to read the ingredients on the back label before buying. Some brands use synthetic or isopropyl alcohol and/or fragrances which dries out the skin more. My top choice is T.N. Dickinson’s Witch Hazel. You should be able to find it at your local pharmacy or on Amazon.
For a simple tonic, combine 4 tablespoons of witch hazel + 2 oz. distilled water + 5-10 drops of tea tree essential oil + 10-20 drops of rosemary essential oil + any other essential oil mentioned in #7.
I spray this directly onto my scalp and let it air dry. It drastically relieved the itchiness and after using it every other day for about a week, my dandruff was almost gone. I hope it works the same for you! [Tip: This tonic also works nicely as a facial spray toner!]
10. Massage your scalp
Since you’re no longer brushing your hair daily, gently massage your scalp with the tips of your fingers or a massage brush. Doing this once a day will help to generate blood flow to the scalp. There is a difference between gently massaging and scrubbing.
Coconut oil and extra virgin olive oil are also great for retaining moisture and maintaining a healthy scalp so you can use them in your massaging routine. Be careful how much you use because too much can create buildup- a little will go a long way. Add a few drops of tea tree and rosemary essential oil for extra benefits.
Another option is to tease your hair with a fine-tooth comb. This will help maintain your roots (rather than letting them get unruly) as well as stimulate your scalp.
11. Install a water softener in your shower head
This is perhaps the most expensive option on the list but it’s worth it. You can find some good options for about $35 and up. Hard water contains minerals which disrupt the pH balance in your scalp. The harder the water is, the more minerals it contains, and consequently the higher the pH will be.
12. Protect your hair and head
- Use residue-free shampoo. If you’ve had dreads for a while, this is probably the single most popular thing you’ll hear people say. Don’t wash your hair with any kind of shampoo. Make sure you use a residue-free shampoo without sulfates because they will cause buildup. Once every four washes or so, wash with a clarifying shampoo. There are dreadlock-friendly anti-dandruff shampoos on the market, just do your research to make sure they won’t leave a residue. One of the most popular options is Neutrogena’s T-Gel Therapeutic Shampoo, although many people complain about its repugnant smell. Also, using T-Gel too often can loosen your roots, so keep that in mind before you decide on this option. It certainly wouldn’t be my top choice since it’s a chemical option.
- Use a head wrap: Since you wash your hair less frequently than usual, cover your hair when you’re working in dusty environments. With dreads, your scalp may be more exposed to the sun than before (especially right after a re-twist). Cover your head to prevent sunburning your scalp.
- Stop using salt. Salt is very drying to the skin and hair. If you’re using a sea salt locking spray and are experiencing dandruff or itchiness, stop using it altogether or until your symptoms improve.
- Take note of any product allergies. Read the product labels and research any unknown ingredients. Some ingredients are known for causing contact dermatitis, such as Hydroxyisohexyl 3-Cyclohexene Carboxaldehyde and Dimethicone. I have found both of these ingredients in popular dreadlock products. Such ingredients may contribute to your dandruff problem.
13. Try a pre-shampoo garlic syrup
I know what you’re thinking: “Garlic in my dreads? Never!!”
The idea alone sounds crazy and to be honest, I almost didn’t want to add it to this list, hence why I put it at the end.
This is an effective treatment if your dandruff gets really out of control. Applying it before you shampoo your hair will make it possible to remove the smell. Garlic is an effective natural remedy for dandruff because when crushed it produces allicin, a liquid with anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties.
To make this syrup, mix 2 tablespoons of garlic juice (strained), 1 tablespoon of honey, and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice (also strained).
Most recipes out there will recommend you to crush the garlic and apply it directly to the scalp, but with dreads, you can’t do that…you’ll never be able to get all the garlic pieces out of your hair. Instead, crush 5 cloves of garlic and let it sit for about 15 minutes so it has time to make the allicin. Once it has produced some juice, strain it well. Mix this juice with 1 tablespoon of honey and lemon juice.
Honey has antioxidants as well as antibacterial and antiseptic properties that help fight off fungal activity in your skin. It also promotes scalp health by providing the much-needed moisture your skin needs, thereby reducing dandruff. Lemon has vitamins and minerals that help to restore your scalp back to health. It has been used as a natural dandruff treatment for ages.
Back to the garlic mask – you’ll want to leave this on your scalp for about 20 minutes. Wash it off with your regular residue-free shampoo and follow up with an apple cider vinegar rinse. [Always dilute the ACV!]
If any of these treatments irritate your scalp any further, discontinue their use immediately. These are all-natural remedies but even natural ingredients won’t always have the same effects on people. Everyone has different scalp sensitivity.
Can you remove dandruff flakes from dreads?
Getting dandruff flakes out of your locs can be quite the challenge. I don’t know of any miracle treatment but there are a couple of things you can try.
A diluted apple cider vinegar solution could help to dissolve the flakes.
A second option that has worked for some is by applying rosemary tea to the targeted areas. Get a handful of rosemary (fresh if possible but dried will work too- just don’t use the powder). Put it in a pot and cover it with water. Bring the water to a boil and then lower the heat so it simmers for about 15 minutes. Once the color of the tea has reached a dark tint, let it cool completely, then strain it.
To use, take a piece of cotton cloth and dip it in the tea. Then, dab it on your scalp, especially around the irritated portions and in part of the loc to remove the already-existing dandruff flakes. This solution should help alleviate the itchiness and remove flakes. Use it every other day and you should start to notice changes within the first week. You can save the leftover tea in the fridge.
I hope one or a combination of these remedies will help cure your dandruff problem for good! Dandruff could have other underlying issues, so if none of this works, consult a doctor for professional medical advice.
Have you won the battle over dandruff? What natural remedies have you used to combat this common dreadlock problem?
Have you been able to remove dandruff flakes from your hair? If so, what method proved the most successful? Let me know in the comments!