Essential Dandruff Treatments to Prevent Hair Loss
Lately you’ve been spending a lot of time leaning close to the mirror and examining your hairline. You’ve also been pulling a lot of hair out of your comb—and I mean a lot. Your hair is definitely thinning, and when you lean up to the mirror, you can see a lot of dry flakes peeling off of your scalp. You have dandruff … and you have hair loss.
Could one of them be causing the other? Or could there be a common underlying cause for both? What is the link—if any?
It is understandable that you might assume that dandruff and hair loss would be connected. This is especially true if both have shown up at the same time. It only seems natural to associate them, since both are unexpected and both are unpleasant.
But there actually is no underlying cause which causes both dandruff and thinning hair. This surprises a lot of people, since so many men and women display both of these symptoms together.
Now, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a link. It just isn’t what you probably are expecting.
Some Treatments for Hair Loss Can Cause Dandruff
Basically, if you are losing hair and you are aggressively treating it, there is a chance that your treatments could be causing your dandruff in the first place. Here are some common mistakes that both men and women make:
- You may assume you are losing hair because you are overwashing. This may lead you to quit washing your hair altogether. While there are some benefits to washing your hair less, it can also lead to a buildup of dandruff on your scalp.
- Some medications for hair loss such as minoxidil (Rogaine) can create an effect similar to dandruff. This flaking is actually dry skin. Usually if this happens, the effect begins after several months of use.
So what can you do if your treatment for thinning hair is leading to dandruff? Well, one important thing to know about dandruff is that it is not a serious problem. You can think of it as a “cosmetic disease.” It isn’t going to pass to anyone else, and it isn’t going to cause any health problems. Leaving it alone is a bad idea, though, as it can spread and lead to itchy, inflamed skin on your scalp. That condition may also spread to your face and other parts of your body. When that happens (and even before), it is often called seborrheic dermatitis. Another name for the same condition is seborrheic eczema.
Even though dandruff is not a serious problem, it isn’t one you want. Itching is no fun, and flaking can look pretty gross.
Here are some ideas for fighting your dandruff and your hair loss:
Switch to Another Medication for Your Hair Loss
The most common medication for hair loss is minoxidil. Usually minoxidil is prescribed for men, but women sometimes use it as well. While it can garner excellent results for thinning hair, it may cause dandruff. If the dandruff is not too bad, then you may be able to simply start using a dandruff shampoo and just tolerate it (what is worse—dandruff, or bald patches?).
But if you really cannot stand it and the dandruff is too severe, then you may want to switch away from minoxidil to another medication that isn’t going to cause you the same problem.
One example would be finasteride, sold under the common brand name Propecia. Finasteride works by decreasing the amount of DHT produced by your body. When you have less of this hormone, you can slow down hair loss and in some cases, re-grow hair. Note that this is an option for men only, not for women. Men will want to think carefully too before deciding to use it, since it may lead to a slight increase in your risk for prostate cancer. Finasteride does not cause dandruff.
This all may sound a bit bleak. While switching to a medication like finasteride might be a viable solution for some, it is something that many men will want to avoid. And if you are a woman, it isn’t even an option. But you shouldn’t let this get you down. There are other treatments for hair loss and dandruff.
Start Using Dandruff Shampoo
As mentioned just now, dandruff shampoo is another thing you can try. You can do this in lieu of medication or alongside medication; it’s your choice. Dandruff shampoo will not make your hair fall out, but will treat the flaking and itching.
There are a lot of different dandruff shampoos out there, but here are a few that you can try. All of these have great customer reviews on Amazon.com and are popular purchases:
- Maple Holistics Argan Oil Shampoo: This product is actually designed more for a dry, itchy scalp than dandruff, but the two conditions are very easy to mix up (dandruff usually involves an oily scalp, but doesn’t seem to always). This product is free of sulfates, and contains a healthy combination of argan oil, almond oil, peach kernel oil, jojoba oil, avocado oil, and camellia seed oil. All of these oils will gently soothe and cleanse your scalp. Remember, an oily scalp is often (counterintuitively) the result of using a shampoo that dries out your scalp (like one with sulfates). If you replace it, your scalp stops trying to overcompensate. Once your sebum production is normalized, your dandruff may go away.
- Art Naturals Scalp 18 Coal Tar Anti-Dandruff Shampoo: Coal tar? In a shampoo? Yes, you read it right. It does sound strange and unpleasant, but coal tar is actually very effective for getting rid of dead skin cells and moisturizing your scalp. This can normalize sebum production and get rid of dandruff. Whether your scalp feels dry or oily, you should notice improvements switching to this shampoo.
- Neutrogena T/Gel Shampoo: This shampoo has the same active ingredient in it as the one mentioned above, and works the same way on dandruff. It is a well-known product for a couple of reasons. Firstly, you should see improvements in your dandruff from the very first use (I can attest to this personally). Secondly, those improvements tend to last longer between washings. This is great, as you should avoid overwashing your hair. Unfortunately, however, it does contain sulfates.
It may take you a while to identify a dandruff shampoo that you like. Make sure that you follow the directions on the shampoo carefully. A lot of people just rub the shampoo through their hair and rinse it out right away and wonder why it isn’t working. Most of the time, you need to be patient. You have to be willing to stand in the shower with the shampoo in your hair for 5-10 minutes, and then rinse it out.
If your dandruff is severe, you probably will need to wash daily for a week or two. After that, you may notice enough improvement that you can switch to just washing with the shampoo a couple of times a week. Start with a shampoo like the T/Gel and you may be able to skip that initial phase of daily washings.
Choose an All-Natural Approach to Fighting Hair Loss
What if you manage to get rid of your dandruff, but you still don’t want to use a medication to fight hair loss? A lot of people just don’t want to use minoxidil or finasteride, but they aren’t happy with bald patches and thinning hair either!
Thankfully there are a lot of natural solutions which you can try to combat hair loss without ending up with a head full of dandruff. Here are a few you can consider:
If you are going to choose just one thing to try and tackle hair loss, this is what I recommend! Peppermint essential oil is amazingly powerful stuff. It is so potent in fact that a recent study published in Toxicological Research found that it works faster and more effectively than Rogaine! Just to give you an idea, after four weeks, the group which was assigned to use Rogaine had 55% hair growth. The group which was using peppermint oil showed 92% hair growth. That is an astounding difference.
To top it off, peppermint oil is extremely soothing and is the perfect treatment for an itchy, irritated scalp! So it will work well to calm your dandruff (for as long as you still have it) while also growing your hair! I have written about using peppermint oil in your hair in-depth here.
Other Essential Oils
While peppermint is my top recommended choice for preventing and treating hair loss, there are a number of other essential oils which may also offer a promising alternative to hair loss medications like Rogaine. Here are a few of them:
- Ylang ylang
You can read about each of these essential oils for hair growth in-depth in this post. Many of them have other benefits for your hair as well. They may be able to add body to your hair, which may assist with styling. Some of them will make your hair softer, silkier, and shinier as well. Plus, they are all natural and won’t have any adverse effects on your scalp. And they smell good, which is an awesome bonus! If you are thinking of trying these without reading about them in-depth, please note that rosemary may darken your hair, so don’t use it if you want to keep your hair a lighter blonde or brown.
Other Popular Natural Treatments for Hair Loss
There are a number of other popular natural hair care treatments you can try, backed up by a combination of scientific research and anecdotal evidence. Some options include apple cider vinegar (I am a huge proponent of this in general when it comes to hair), coconut oil, olive oil, and jojoba oil. You will find some of these in dandruff shampoos, like those that I introduced you to earlier.
If your shampoo doesn’t contain any of these ingredients, you can take the alternate route of adding them to your hair directly. You can rub a little olive, jojoba, or coconut oil directly into your hair and scalp, let it sit for a few minutes, and then wash it out.
What about the apple cider vinegar? Water it down so that it is significantly diluted (a couple of tablespoons of ACV in a glass of water is perfect), and then just pour it over your hair and scalp. You do not even need to rinse it out. It has a wonderful conditioning effect, and once it dries, you will not smell it.
Make Lifestyle Changes
While you are at it, you may want to consider making some lifestyle changes to slow or prevent further hair loss. If you start using a natural hair care treatment like peppermint oil and you couple that with positive changes to your lifestyle, you will see the most effective results.
What are some changes you can make? Well, first of all, you should ask yourself whether you might have an underlying medical condition causing your hair loss (unlikely), and if you do, treat it. Sometimes, for example, hormonal imbalances may cause hair loss.
Next, look for gaps in your nutrition which could be causing your hair to suffer. While the hair shaft is “dead” on a biochemical level, the follicles of your hair are alive, and they require nourishment in order for healthy hair to grow.
Eat a diet which is nutritionally complete, and think about taking a multivitamin for healthy hair growth while you are at it. If you are a chronic crash dieter, stop! Rapid weight loss can make your hair fall out!
Your hair needs nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B5, vitamin A, iron, protein, and vitamin C. Check this post to discover some of the best foods you can add to your diet for healthy hair growth.
None of these steps will stop age-based hair loss, but they can all slow it down and improve the body and volume of the hair that you do grow!
As you can see, you do not need to resort to minoxidil to fight hair loss in every case. Many people see massive improvements if they take some of the natural suggestions above and stick with them. You need to be diligent and consistent in order to see great results.
Choose an All-Natural Approach to Fighting Dandruff
While you are at it, you do not necessarily need to fight dandruff using a dandruff shampoo! If you want to save some money and also steer clear of sulfates, then you can try one of the following natural treatments:
- Grind up some aspirin: It might sound weird, but aspirin contains an ingredient called salicylic acid, which is in many dandruff shampoos. All you need to do is crush up a couple of aspirin tablets into a powder and then add it to your shampoo! Just make sure it is evenly distributed, and you will be good to go.
- Tea tree oil: This essential oil has proven benefits for dandruff—just check out this research trial! Note that tea tree oil is dangerous to use undiluted, so be sure to use a carrier oil (like olive oil). Alternately, just add a few drops to your shampoo.
- Apple cider vinegar: That’s right—not only can ACV combat hair loss, but it can also balance the pH of your scalp, which can make it harder for yeast that cause dandruff to thrive.
- Lemon juice: Like ACV, this can help to balance out the pH of your scalp.
- Mouthwash: That’s right, the same stuff you use to kill bacteria in your mouth. As it turns out, mouthwash is anti-fungal as well, and therefore you can pour some on your scalp to great results.
- Baking soda: It could be that the magic cure you need to fight your dandruff is already waiting for you in your kitchen cabinet. Baking soda has antifungal properties. Just watch out with this one because it can dry out your hair quite a bit. Many people say that if they use it regularly, their oil production normalizes after a few weeks. I tried this and did not find it to be the case, so apparently it depends on the person.
- Aloe vera: Aloe vera is awesome stuff, one of the best all-around skincare treatments you are going to find. It is effective for treating dermatitis. Dandruff is a form of dermatitis. It is also very soothing, so you should feel some relief on that itch. I have written in-depth about the wonders of aloe vera here.
Sometimes when you treat your dandruff, you can keep using minoxidil or another medication for hair loss without problems!
What Do You Do if Dandruff Spreads to Your Face?
In some situations, dandruff can actually spread to your face. You may notice it along your hairline or in your eyebrows. You also will commonly find it in creases, like the creases of your nose or behind your years. It may occur elsewhere on your body as well. When it does, it is usually referred to as seborrheic dermatitis.
If this happens, be careful what treatments you use on sensitive skin. Some treatments are suitable for your scalp, but it should be avoided on your face. This page contains an excellent in-depth overview of different treatment options for dermatitis and where on your body you can use them safely and effectively. If you end up with dandruff on your face, reference that table to figure out what you can use (sometimes the dandruff shampoo you are using on your scalp is also suitable for your face—this may be the easiest solution).
Conclusion: Hair Loss Treatments May Lead to Dandruff … But There Are Plenty of Solutions
So now you know all about dandruff and hair loss! Using Rogaine and some other hair care treatments may cause you to develop dandruff, but you have options. You can try treating your dandruff and continuing to use your hair loss medication, and you may see success. Or you can switch from your current medication to another one or a natural hair loss treatment. Whatever you decide to do, be consistent, and hopefully you will see great results!