How to treat dandruff, from home remedies to the best shampoos

Scratchy scalp getting you down?

Knowing how to treat dandruff is a bit of a minefield. With so many differing opinions on the internet, we spoke to some of the most in-the-know experts to determine the best course of treatment, and to reveal everything you need to know about the condition.

What is dandruff?

‘Dandruff is a pretty common skin condition that causes flakes of skin to appear on the scalp,’ explains Adam Reed, Hair Stylist and UK Editorial Ambassador for L’Oréal Professionnel.

A common misconception about dandruff is that it produces dry flakes, when they are actually oily; an important factor when deciding how to treat dandruff. ‘Dandruff is almost always oily, and not dry,’ says Anabel Kingsley, Trichologist at Philip Kingsley. ‘Dandruff flakes can also be slightly sticky and yellow in colour, whereas a dry scalp will produce dry and white flakes.’

In addition, an itchy scalp can be a sign of dandruff, as well as a sign of dryness

What causes dandruff?

Kingsley describes dandruff as both a long-term and a chronic issue, as well as a recurring one, that can crop up really at any time. It is however most common ‘when you are stressed, when hormone levels fluctuate, and when you eat certain foods such as full fat dairy products,’ she explains.

The condition is actually caused by an over production of a yeast naturally found on the scalp, which is called Malassezia furfur. ‘When levels rise (which is commonly due to stress and hormones), skin cells on the scalp divide too rapidly. Cells are replaced much faster than they can be shed, leading to a buildup of telltale flakes and itching,’ says Kingsley. 

How to treat dandruff

If you don’t fancy going down the traditional route by trying anti-dandruff shampoos and specific targeted products, there are some home remedies you may want to try. These include single ingredients such as tea tree oil, coconut oil, apple cider vinegar, or aloe vera.

If you believe your dandruff may be stress related, obviously the most effective form of treatment is to try and reduce stress levels — but this is often easier said than done. 

For a more head-on approach (pardon the pun), we recommend opting for a targeted anti-dandruff routine. There are some amazing shampoos, conditioners, and treatments out there now that look so chic on the outside, no one will even suspect you are treating dandruff.

Kingsley recommends keeping styling product use to a minimum, so as not to aggravate a sensitive scalp, and applying an exfoliating scalp mask once a week in order to lift away flakes gently. As for a daily routine, she suggests the use of ‘a soothing, antimicrobial shampoo and a targeted post-shampoo scalp toner.’

Here are some of our favourite anti-dandruff products to try: 

The best dandruff shampoo

Head & Shoulders Clinically Proven Solutions Anti-Dandruff Shampoo, £4.99, Boots

how to treat dandruff

Head and Shoulders is undoubtedly the best known anti-dandruff brand, and while their everyday range is great for mild dandruff, their Clinically Proven Solutions formulas tackle stubborn, severe dandruff that normal shampoos struggle with. This one contains Selenium Sulfide, which powerfully takes on dandruff symptoms, while at the same time being safe enough to use everyday.

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The best dandruff conditioner:

Oribe Serene Scalp Balancing Conditioner, £45, Net-A-Porter

how to treat dandruff

Expert haircare brand Oribe does everything brilliantly, so it comes as no surprise that their dandruff-fighting conditioner is one of the very best. Enriched with the brand’s signature complex, this is lovely to use after shampoo to soothe, nourish, and calm. It also comes in a seriously Instagrammable pale pink tube.

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The best scalp treatment for dandruff:

Living Proof Dry Scalp Treatment, £25, Space NK

how to treat dandruff

This innovative product is a first from Living Proof, and promises to soothe dry, flaky, and irritated scalps. It features a hyaluronic acid based molecular patch, which floods the scalp with instant and sustained hydration, as well as a Vitamin B3-based Microbiome-Balancing complex that rebalances the scalp for long-lasting relief.

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Keep scrolling for the best dandruff-busting products we’ve ever come across.

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