9 Hair Washing Mistakes That Can Cause Dandruff

Dandruff and dry scalp can easily be brushed off — literally and figuratively — along with every other stubborn ailment that might seem easier to just live with than prevent altogether. However, getting rid of dandruff is entirely possible to do — and it doesn't take a major lifestyle overhaul, either. You can begin to prevent flaky scalp dandruff with just a few product switch-ups come shower time.

However, there are also habits and ingredients that exacerbate dryness and flaking, so how does one figure out which techniques stop the dandruff, and which hair-washing mistakes make dandruff worse? It really just comes down to some good old-fashioned research in order to treat dandruff at home.

One of the most interesting things I learned during my research was that dandruff is often caused by an overgrowth in yeast. Also known as candida, it’s fueled by an excess of sugar in the body, and it can wreak havoc on your overall health. Dandruff can also be caused by skin allergies, autoimmune diseases, and sensitivity to harsh ingredients in beauty products. With those points in mind, I scoured the internet for dermatologists’ best advice on dandruff — what causes it, what can prevent it, and what to do if you’re faced with those stubborn flakes.

Avoid Washes That Fuel Yeast

DHS Zinc Shampoo, $18, Amazon

Zinc is particularly tough on the yeast overgrowth that causes dandruff, and DHS Zinc Shampoo is especially effective because it contains 2 percent zinc pyrithione, which leaves your scalp feeling smooth, healthy, and itch-free. According to dermatologist Melissa Piliang, MD., it's that overgrowth of yeast on your scalp that produces the body's inflammatory response of itching and flaking. Reviewers say that this particular shampoo works wonders without drying out your hair or leaving a waxy residue like other brands, and even those who have been suffering from dandruff since their teen years found that this shampoo helped out right away.

Don’t Encourage Fungus And Infections — Fight Them Naturally

Avalon Organics Tea Tree Mint Scalp Normalizing Shampoo, $13, Amazon

Tea tree oil is another amazing solution to candida overgrowth (yeast), as well as other dandruff-causing fungi or infections, and it’s entirely natural. Avalon Organics tea tree mint scalp normalizing shampoo contains nothing but organic ingredients like aloe, rosemary, eucalyptus, peppermint, chamomile, spearmint, and of course, tea tree oil — all without any parabens, sulfates, preservatives, or synthetic colors or fragrances. It effectively cleans hair while leaving it soft and hydrated, and because tea tree oil is known to invigorate the scalp and promote cell growth, it’s also a great option when it comes to naturally thickening your hair. Reviewers say it’s wonderful for scalp health and hair health alike, which can be pretty rare in the world of dandruff-free shampoo.

Don’t Rule Out Psoriasis When You See The Symptoms

Art Naturals Scalp18 Coal Tar Shampoo, $15, Amazon

Sometimes when dandruff is an issue, it’s a sign of a deeper problem. Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease that causes dry, red patches on the surface of your scalp, and dermatologist Melissa Piliang suggests giving coal tar a shot. Art Naturals Scalp18 coal tar shampoo contains coal tar (a liquid produced from the distillation of coal), as well as other soothing and healing ingredients like argan oil, jojoba oil, lemon oil, and rosemary oil. Some reviewers say it helped clear their psoriasis in as little as one bottle, and because it’s safe for color treated hair, controls oil, lathers well, and smells mild in comparison to other coal tar shampoos, this one is a definite win.

Don’t Forget To Moisturize And Protect

Vizeri Moroccan Argan Oil Shampoo, $16, Amazon

According to dermatologist Dhaval G. Bhanusali, “Argan oil is commonly known as ‘liquid gold’ around the world,” and that’s because it’s highly moisturizing and nourishing thanks to its high levels of vitamin E, fatty acids, and protective antioxidants. It makes an excellent hydrating shampoo for a dry and itchy scalp, and that’s why Vizeri Moroccan argan oil shampoo is one of the highest rated washes available. It contains high-quality, natural ingredients like argan oil, rose hip, lemon balm, bark extract, sage leaf, aloe, and witch hazel. The formula works to soothe the scalp, hydrate the hair, ease frizz, and make both your hair and your skin significantly more manageable. It works wonderfully for both thin and thick hair alike, and because argan oil strengthens and heals strands from the inside out, this is a shampoo that won’t make you give up style in the name of no-flakes.

Check Your Labels For Abrasive Allergens

Renpure Cleansing Conditioner, $9, Amazon

According to Chris Challis of, it’s really important for those with sensitive skin to stay away from chemicals like sulfates, parabens, alcohol, and synthetic colors and fragrances. Renpure's cleansing conditioner is my go-to cleansing conditioner, as it doesn’t contain any parabens, sulfates, dyes, or harsh salts. Instead of stripping away your scalp’s naturally-produced moisturizing oils, it strips away only the dirt and build-up using cleansing oils like coconut, shea, and lavender. I find that my hair is so much softer, stronger, and more manageable, and my scalp no longer feels dry and itchy. Challis pointed out, “These irritant and allergic reactions you get from your cosmetics are called Contact Dermatitis, and so few of us know we even have it. It took me years and numerous dermatologist visits before I understood what was happening with my skin."

Heal Skin From The Inside Out

Aloe Vera Moisturizing Shampoo, $15, Amazon

Dr. Surbhi, MD told, “Aloe vera not only helps in keeping your skin young, healthy, and radiant but also is useful in many skin problems; it is aptly the versatile skin healer.” Aloe vera has more than 150 nutritional ingredients that heal and promote cell growth, like amino acids, vitamins, and minerals, and that’s why a shampoo like Carapex's aloe vera moisturizing shampoo is especially good for dandruff. Along with aloe leaf juice, it also contains derivatives of coconut oil, vitamin E, and chamomile to soothe and rejuvenate the skin on your scalp, and it's an especially good option for damaged or color-treated hair. It helps to reverse the effects of dry, cracked skin, and it protects the scalp from further harm. Reviewers say it has no noticeable smell, a slight lather, and an easy rinse-out, making this one of their favorite dandruff shampoos.

Fight Build-Up With Enzyme-Rich Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple Cider Vinegar & Herb Conditioning Hair Rinse, $27, Amazon

Because of the enzymes and cultures that naturally appear in it, apple cider vinegar makes a great remedy when it comes to dandruff. This particular apple cider vinegar hair rinse uses ACV and herbs like nettle and marigold to balance the pH of your scalp, clean hair of any oily residue or dead skin, strengthen strands from the inside out, and replace your hair’s natural softness and shine. Best of all, it does so without stripping your head of its natural oils, which helps to keep moisture present and flakes at bay. One reviewer said, “My hair feels really clean, but also nourished for the first time in ages.”

Don’t Just Treat The Surface — Penetrate Skin Cells With Natural Oils

Olive Oil Creamy Aloe Shampoo, $5, Amazon

Oils are essential to healthy skin because they “deliver active ingredients deep into the skin without irritating the surface,” says Dermatologist David Colbert. Olive oil has been a tried-and-true solution for dandruff for years, as it’s loaded with natural antioxidants, vitamins, and fatty acids that heal, moisturize, and protect the scalp from further damage. Olive Oil Creamy Aloe Shampoo contains nothing more than olive oil, aloe vera, and panthenol, which help to invigorate skin, promote growth, and moisturize both the scalp and hair for smooth, flake-free style. It produces a creamy lather that won’t strip your hair, and reviewers say that it’s so rich and moisturizing, they often don’t need to follow up with a conditioner.

Don’t Forget The Home Remedies

Alba Botanica Hawaiian Coconut Milk Conditioner, $7, Amazon

Coconut Milk is one of the best things for your hair because much like coconut oil, it’s filled with essential fats and proteins to nourish and hydrate hair, as well as enzymes to reduce the production of yeast (but it’s much less greasy-feeling and more manageable). Alba Botanica's coconut milk conditioner leaves hair silky and smooth while reducing dryness and loss of proteins, as it’s filled with great ingredients like coconut milk, jojoba oil, and macadamia seed oil, (skipping parabens, phthalates, and synthetic fragrances). Reviewers say that fragile, breaking hair and tangles are a thing of the past, and hair feels moisturized and smooth without feeling weighed down.

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Images: Malina_Bogdanovskaya/Pixabay; Amazon (9)