What is dandruff?

Dandruff is a common condition that causes excess shedding of the skin on your scalp, forehead, and parts of your face. Get rid of dandruff fast by using dandruff shampoo or home remedies.
Dandruff is a common condition that causes excess shedding of the skin on your scalp, forehead, and parts of your face. Get rid of dandruff fast by using dandruff shampoo or home remedies.

If you have dandruff, you might have itchy skin and flakes that show up in your hair and clothes. Even though it doesn't cause health problems, this common skin condition can be annoying, and you may want to take steps to get rid of it. Learn how to get rid of dandruff fast. 

Dandruff is a common condition that causes excess shedding of the skin on your scalp, forehead, and parts of your face. The flakes of skin are visible in your hair and on your clothing. If you have facial hair, you may also find dandruff flakes in your mustache or beard. Dandruff isn’t harmful, but it can be annoying and embarrassing.

Symptoms of dandruff

The main symptom of dandruff is flakes of dead skin that come off your scalp. Skin shedding is normal. The top layers of skin flake away to make way for new skin cells. Normally, the shed cells are too small to see. Dandruff flakes are larger than normal, so they are visible.

In addition to dandruff flakes, the skin on your head may feel itchy or dry. 

Causes of dandruff

There is no clear cause of dandruff. It’s more common in men than in women. It often starts in adolescence and early adulthood. It's thought it may be linked to hormones, but it's unclear. It may go away as you get older.

Dandruff is not contagious, so you can’t catch it from another person who has it. It does not lead to hair loss. It is common in people with oily skin or acne, but experts don’t understand that connection.

Dandruff shampoos

Over-the-counter dandruff shampoos are very effective for reducing flaking and itching. Unless you have a known allergy to the shampoo ingredients, you can safely try them at home. Read and follow the directions printed on the shampoo bottle. Some dandruff shampoos need to sit on your scalp for some time to be effective. Others can be rinsed immediately.

Look for shampoos that contain these ingredients:

  • Zinc pyrithione
  • Salicylic acid
  • Selenium sulfide
  • Ketoconazole

Shampoos that contain coal tar are popular dandruff treatments. That can be effective, but it may cause discoloration of your hair. It can also increase sensitivity to sunlight so protect your skin when you go outside. 

You may need to experiment with several different shampoos before you find the one that works for you. Try one shampoo for several weeks and see if your dandruff improves. You can try a shampoo with a different active ingredient if the first one doesn’t help. You may find that alternating between several different dandruff shampoos is the most effective way to tame flakes. Some people need dandruff shampoo every time they wash their hair, while others only need it one or two times per week.

Some experts suggest using an anti-fungal shampoo in addition to dandruff shampoo. Microorganisms such as yeast thrive on the oils on your scalp. If they overgrow on your scalp, they can cause itching and irritation.

If over-the-counter products don’t work, you might need a stronger formula. You can contact a dermatologist to ask about prescription-strength shampoos. They might suggest other treatments as well.

Home remedies for dandruff

There are some home remedies that might improve dandruff symptoms. Most of them are items you might have in your pantry. You can try applying them to your scalp and see if they help, though you should stop using them if you notice any irritation.

Some popular home remedies for dandruff include: 

  • Baking soda: Apply baking soda to wet hair. Let it sit for a few minutes before rinsing.  
  • Apple cider vinegar: Mix vinegar with equal parts water. Apply it to your scalp and allow it to sit for up to an hour, then rinse.
  • Coconut oil: Apply several teaspoons of coconut oil to your scalp. Let it sit for up to an hour. Remove it with shampoo.
  • Aloe vera: Massage a small amount of aloe into your scalp before washing your hair.
  • Olive oil: Massage a few drops of olive oil into your scalp at bedtime and cover with a cap overnight. Shampoo normally in the morning. 

Other scalp issues

If home treatment or over-the-counter dandruff shampoos don’t clear up your problems, you should see a dermatologist to look at your scalp. You may have another condition causing itching and flaking.


This is a chronic skin condition that causes inflammation, itching, and flaking, including on your face and scalp.

Contact dermatitis

This is an allergic reaction that causes a skin rash or red, dry patches.

Seborrheic dermatitis

Similar to cradle cap in babies, seborrheic dermatitis causes greasy-looking scales on the scalp, face, neck, or ears.


This is an autoimmune condition where skin cells grow too quickly and develop into itchy, flaky plaques. Psoriasis can appear anywhere on the body.


A common fungal infection, ringworm causes red, itchy patches on the skin. 

If you have any of these conditions, your doctor can recommend a course of treatment. 


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Medically Reviewed on 1/13/2022

American Academy of Dermatology Association: "Eczema Resource Center," "Eczema Types: Contact Dermatitis Overview," "How To Treat Dandruff," "What Is Psoriasis?" "Ringworm: Overview” “Seborrheic Dermatitis: Overview."

Jamaica Hospital Medical Center: "Home Remedies for Dandruff."

National Health Service: "Dandruff."

UAMS Health: "Is Dandruff Caused by Dry Scalp?"

University Health Service University of Michigan: "Dandruff."