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How To Eliminate Dandruff Naturally

Affiliate Disclosure | in Natural Remedies | by | with 53 Comments


Nana, Omi, Bunny, or Yaya

Grandmothers go by very different names, but when it comes to home remedies they seem to share the same handbook. These days, science is taking a few pages from that book.

We now know that honey works better than antibiotic cream for burns, and homemade honey cough syrup allows children (and their parents!) to sleep better than over-the-counter meds. And when it comes to Malassezia – which despite how it sounds is NOT a tropical island – they seem to know a thing or two about that as well.

If you haven’t heard of it, Malassezia is a type of fungus that causes dandruff. (source) Usually it’s pretty harmless, but when immune defenses are down it can become an opportunistic pathogen. (source)

Unfortunately, store-bought dandruff shampoos usually contain highly toxic ingredients. Coal tar, which carries a level 10 hazard warning from the Environmental Working Group (the highest possible), has been banned from cosmetics in Canada and the European Union. (source 1, source 2) What does the FDA say about it? Why, that it’s “safe and effective,” of course! (source)

Another common ingredient – recorcinol – has been shown to cause thyroid problems (including goiter) and effects on the central nervous system. (source) And of course, there are so many more ingredients that are thought to be toxic to us and/or the environment: polyvinylpyrrolidone (PVP), ketoconazole, formaldehyde, selenium sulfide, zinc pyrithione, sodium lauryl sulfate, detergents, artificial colors, and fragrance.

Fortunately, there are home remedies that are very effective for clearing dandruff up.

Natural Treatments For Dandruff


Raw honey is a natural humectant that helps hair hold onto moisture while delivering a powerful infusion of vitamins A,C,D,E, B-complex, beta-carotene and tons of minerals including iron, magnesium, potassium, manganese, calcium, and phosphorous. Grandmas have long recommended it to prevent thinning hair, which makes sense if you think about it. Dandruff can plug hair follicles and prevent new hair from growing in, and honey eliminates dandruff.

In this study thirty patients with seborrheic dermatitis and dandruff were asked to rub diluted honey on their scalp and massage for 2-3 minutes every other day, then leave it on for 3 hours. Itching was relieved and scaling disappeared within one week, while skin lesions were healed and disappeared completely within 2 weeks – those who continued the treatment once per week had no relapses. Twelve of the 15 patients who did not continue the honey regimen relapsed within 2-4 months. More on treating the root cause of dandruff at the bottom of this post.

How To Use It

Wet hair, apply diluted raw honey (90% honey and 10% water). Massage into scalp for 2-3 minutes, then let it sit for three hours while you catch up on your favorite show, read, or fold laundry. Rinse with warm water. If desired, follow with 1/4 cup vinegar and 3/4 cup water to seal the hair cuticle and make hair shiny.

Repeat every other day for about two weeks. In the study, participants reported that their dandruff was gone within two weeks. Those who continued the honey treatment once a week after that had no relapses, while those who did not relapsed in 2-4 months.

Bonus Remedy: Apple Cider Vinegar

Though there’s not a study to explain why, grandmas have long recommended rinsing with vinegar for a healthy scalp and shiny hair. According to this article, the “acidity of apple cider vinegar changes the pH of your scalp, so it’s not an ideal environment for yeast [a type of fungus] to grow.” While that’s true, the reason it works may also have to do with the natural probiotics contained in raw apple cider vinegar, which help fight bacteria and fungi. It also contains enzymes that may help open clogged hair follicles.

Whatever the reason, the participant in this informal experiment rated apple cider vinegar as one of the most effective home remedies for dandruff. The other winner – baking soda – is not one I prefer due to the potential for causing hair breakage. (When used infrequently as part of the ‘no poo” method it may not cause a problem, when used frequently to manage dandruff it might.)

How To Use It

Mix equal parts apple cider vinegar and water together. Pour mixture into a spray bottle and apply to freshly washed scalp and hair. Make sure not to get in in your eyes – ouch! Put on a shower cap and allow the mixture to sit for 15 minutes to two hours, then rinse with warm water. Repeat twice per week until dandruff is gone, then use as needed.


While honey and apple cider vinegar are very effective at eliminating dandruff, they do not address possible imbalances that could be the cause of dandruff. In a small study, supplementation with probiotics provided a 70% reduction in dandruff after 4-5 weeks. (Here’s the probiotic I use)

Disclaimer: This blog is intended for educational purposes only and cannot diagnose, treat, or cure any disease. None of these statements have been evaluated by the FDA. Please see my full disclaimer here.

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53 Responses to How To Eliminate Dandruff Naturally

  1. sarah says:

    My husband uses diluted raw acv for seborrheic dermatitis on this face and scalp (which looks like dandruff), and it’s amazing how quickly and how well it works – sooo much better than than the medicines prescribed by his doctor. And so much better for him, too!

  2. Sara says:

    I’ve been doing the honey treatments for about 6 days now and love that it takes away the itch! I’m not sure if I have dandruff or dermatitis but my scalp itches if I don’t wash it every day, that’s my only symptom and some flakes if I scratch it. But I’m confused b/c your e-book says to do the honey for four weeks every other day but here you say two. I’m happy if two is enough but just wanting to make sure. Also, does the ACV need to be sprayed on or is a squirt bottle ok? And can it just be left on or does it need to be rinsed off?
    Thank you SO very much for ALL your help over the years!!! You’re a lifesaver and my Hero!!! <3

    • Heather says:

      So glad you’re finding it helpful, Sara! I cannot diagnose or treat anything, but 2 weeks seemed to be enough for folks in this study. I personally wash the ACV off. A squirt bottle seems fine to me :)

      • Melissa says:

        Hmm…I’m confused. Above, in the article, you say “Repeat every other day for about two weeks.” But here, in this comment, you say it should be every day for two weeks. Which do your recommend? Thanks!

    • Sara says:

      I’ve only done 4 treatments, so it’s been 8 days and already I can’t find any flakes and my scalp is significantly less itchy! Well worth the hassle of having honey-filled hair for three hours! I thought I had “dry scalp” and had just been accepting the insane itchiness for at least 7 years now! THANK YOU SOOO MUCH HEATHER!!!!!!

  3. Krista says:

    I used to wash my hair with honey shampoo, I think the ratios were reversed – 1tbsp honey per 1 cup water. It left hair very sticky and uncombable. From memory, I think it did help with dandruff.

    • Sara says:

      This leaves my hair feeling VERY soft!!

    • Darcy says:

      Krista – I think this is different from the honey shampoo, which is meant to take the place of a regular shampoo. Maybe we can get some input from the author, but this looks more like a soak or treatment rather than a shampoo. The diluted version you are suggesting rinses the hair, but if the honey is left undiluted (or barely diluted as the article suggests) it will actually stick to your scalp instead of running off of it and the increased exposure time will allow your scalp to soak in all the benefits!

  4. Darcy says:

    Used to do honey shampoo and it worked as a good transition into no shampoo at all [did BS/ACV before honey shampoo and didn’t care for it]. Now I only rinse my hair with water and occaisonally do an acv rinse or add EVCO to the ends to keep them from getting dry (I have curly and very long hair so the natural oils from my scalp don’t really make it to my ends). My ONLY complaint has been the dandruff! Back when I used traditional (aka store bought) shampoo, I used dandruff shampoo at least once or twice a week to prevent the occaisional flakes. The dandruff did begin when I transitioned off regular shampoo, but the honey shampoo is very diluted and not meant to soak in your hair. Now that I have been off shampoo entirely for several months, my scalp has adjusted some but I still have a relatively scratchy and itchy scalp in comparison to before. And the flakes aren’t tiny snowflake-looking ones either, they’re big chunky ones (maybe around the diameter of a pencil; gross, I know).
    I had not heard of this study, but I think I will return to the honey and try doing a raw honey soak once a week! For those that are weary of having a greasy scalp, just know that it may only look greasy for a day (just go with a ponytail or bun for the day!) and that it helps if you brush your hair from scalp to ends to distribute the oils. And another perk, your hair will feel wonderfully soft the first couple times.
    I hope to report back with the success!

  5. Jennifer says:

    Wow, is there anything honey doesn’t do? :) We’ve found that castile soap with tea tree oil is great for dandruff as well. My husband suffered from dandruff for years – even though he used every dandruff shampoo he could find. When he finally succumbed to my crunchy ways and started shampooing with the tea tree castile soap, the dandruff was gone within a week.

    • Heather says:

      I know, right? Honey fixes just about everything in my house. And if it doesn’t, coconut oil, clay, vinegar or essential oils probably will :)

      • kristy says:

        my son has has what seems to me as a fungal type of dandruff , it’s so severe im thinking of cutting his hair to better manage it. he’s 12 and is going through a long hair faze but he also hates the dandruff! any suggestions????

      • patricia says:

        Pls Heather can I use this remedy for my daughter? She is just a year old, nd each time she braids she experiences dandruff. Thanks

  6. Angela Bergeron says:

    Thank you! I’ve had dandruff for years and I’ve tried a bunch if natural remedies without success and the chemical store bought ones don’t work for me either. I have found that when I use white vinegar with water that it works as long as I continue using it. I have also noticed that I get less dandruff by double washing my hair. First I do a quick shampoo and rinse to get rid of the dirt and then I do a thorough shampoo with massaging my scalp (a shampoo I used recommended it). That and properly brushing my hair has worked great fir controlling the dandruff and it not getting as oily as fast. I’ll give honey a try too to see what I like better.

  7. Becky says:

    I was a little confused as to whether you were talking about malassezia or chronic seborrheic dermatitis which are different causes of dandruff (or dandruff-like symptoms). Vinegar is good for the first. I know from personal experience it doesn’t have to be raw. It’s the pH that keeps the pathogens down – think of pH related to kombucha. Also, I’ve had success with coconut oil which would be understandable for seborrheic dermatitis. It conditions the scalp so oil production declines. Lastly, I know a lot of people advise not to wash hair everyday. I definitely can’t do that. I get unbearable dandruff when I can’t wash out dead skin cells and dirt-filled oils. I believe with proper conditioning with coconut oil, then there’s no problem in washing hair every day.

  8. A says:

    Kefir works wonders for dandruff. I tried everything until I tried home made kefir on my scalp. Kefir worked wonders. Dandruff Is gone. ACV and honey worked partially for me for a while but then stopped working. I apply the kefir all over, let Stand for one hour and wash hair.

    • T says:

      Hi, was wondering whether do you drink kefir everyday? Does it worsen dandruff / seborrheic dermatitis on face?


  9. Dani says:

    I have constant dry scalp and have tried many things including ACV. One thing I noticed about ACV is it doesn’t last long and I get the itch in less than 24 hours again. I instead use coconut oil with several drops of tea tree oil (leave on for an hour) wash out with shampoo. It works great and lasts the whole week.

  10. Monica says:

    I wonder if this would work on cradle cap?

    • Chan says:

      I was wondering the same. My two-year-old still has cradle cap. I just never got around to it but now I’m ready to work on this.

  11. Kevin says:

    This is a very helpful article! Thank you for sharing. I would personally try the honey, but maybe not the vinegar simply because I do not like how it smells like, and having that on my head for a while would make my family tease me a lot. Lol. Great post! I’ll let you know how it goes!

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  13. What I'm Reading Around the Web 5-9-2014 - 20 something allergies and counting...down says:

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  14. Sarah says:

    I cannot thank you enough for posting this! My son has severe dandrif and cradle cap, he’s now 14, and he picks it until it bleeds. I’ve massaged olive oil into his scalp, now I will be trying these. Thank you thank you thank you! :)

  15. N. says:

    Hi Heather
    Can you recommend a good book as a guide to holistic remedies for babies and children? I’m almost going to be a first time mom and I’m very interested in this subject. Hope you can help me.

  16. Anna says:

    I have not tried this, but coconut oil works really well as well! I’ve had dandruff most of my life. I rub a little bit of coconut oil all over my scalp, let it sit for a few minutes, then wash my hair with shampoo and conditioner…no itch, no flakiness!

  17. Marikate says:

    Is this supposed to be used in conjunction with regular shampooing or INSTEAD of shampoo?

  18. Juniper says:

    Great post, 2 questions!
    1. Is it ok to do this on dry hair (not getting all my hair & ends wet first)? My hair is thick and long and having it wet and pulled up on my head for 3 hours is logistically tough. Does having wet vs dry hair make the natural peroxide in honey change the color of my light hair more or less?
    *I was trying a pure honey shampoo & this method for awhile and it seemed to be lightening my ashy blonde hair. I’m a recovering chronic hair-dyer and the leftover lighter blonde, color treated, part that hasn’t grown out yet seemed to turn brassy before when I was trying this method. I was wondering if that’s the honey’s impact?
    Thanks so much to anyone who can help… my recovering chemically treated hair is fragile and finicky! (1+ year post chemicals and counting!) :)

    • Heather says:

      Hi Juniper, I believe water activates some of the beneficial properties of honey so I’m not sure you’d get similar results with dry hair. Unfortunately, for those who do experience lightening (many don’t, including me, and I have almost black hair), water can also contribute to that :(

  19. sage says:

    I’m so happy to have found this post! I’ve been doing it for one week now and already see a complete difference in my scalp! I’m planning to continue it for the following week as well and then on once a week. I am wondering how long after the two weeks I should do it once a week….for a month, two months, or just forever and always ha. :)

    • Heather says:

      So glad you are finding it helpful, Sage. How long the treatment is needed will vary from person to person. The good news is if you start skipping the honey and begin to see flakes you know what to do :)

  20. How To Eliminate Dandruff Naturally … – Mommypotamus | Dandruff Cure Technique says:

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  22. Peter says:

    Hy everyone, thanks for all the helpfull info, furthermore i have to add that my dandruf got a lot worse since i moved to the US, i am from east Europe and i guess the water treatment is different here, home even a regular fructies anti dandruff shampoo did the job, also over the last two years as i developed different stages of autoimmune diseases, for example colitis…my dandruff went havoc and it is out of control…so i guess its kinda of a fungus and i will have consult a medic to find out what it is…then treat it with some natural treatemnts/advices from above, also when i try a new shampoo the effect lasts only a couple of days, i tried Dove soap with high PH value and the one with moisturing effect, this lasted the longest, for about two weeks there was no itching and dandruff but after that my scalp relapsed.

  23. Ashley says:

    Should I pre-wash my hair, before or after adding the honey? Or should I be washing my hair on the days I’m not doing the honey treatment? Just want to be totally clear on the process.

    Mommypotamus you rock! Thank you for all of your natural remedies!

  24. Abhilash says:

    Can i use any honey available in market or only raw honey. Is there any difference in these two.

  25. Yuvraj Mehta says:

    Hello Heather :)

    This article seems very interesting and moreover its comments. You are doing a good job.
    However, could you please let me know that if i apply a Paste of (Honey + olive oil + coconut oil + yogurt), will this work better or just honey is fine ?

    Your help will really be appreciated!!!

    Looking to hearing from you soon.

    • andrea says:

      I tried honey and coconut oil last night – and it really did help. However, I have tried a lot of things that helped once and then stopped helping. I am going to try again tonight. I have been battling this for a year.

  26. Arti says:

    Hi heather
    I m suffering from severe dandruff for years reasently I have started washing my hairs on alternate days with my home made shampoo of alma reetha and shikakai but still got itching on scalp does honey before wash helps.

  27. Ashley says:

    Hi Heather
    I am so happy to find this post. But just a little confused. Do I wash my hair with regular shampoo on the days I am not doing the honey treatment? Or would I go without shampooing for straight 2 weeks.
    Thanks a lot.

    • Heather says:

      I don’t remember whether or not the researchers mentioned their approach in the study, but I would wash my hair. :)

  28. linda uodyke says:

    My Dermatologist recommended the Lady Soma Somaluxe Shampoo after a prescription ketoconizole shampoo cause a bad skin reaction and after minimal results with Selsun Blue. I LOVED the smell right away AND it worked so well at clearing up my scalp. I’m using it once a week to keep the seborrheic dermatitis under control

  29. sheha says:

    try BL cream.. over the counter pharmacy for only 25-30 pesos.. it works, promise.. my hair dandruff evaporate on earth in just 3 days..

  30. andrea says:

    I have been battling this for over a year now. I have a combination of dry, itchy scalp and also scalp psoriasis in spots. I have bad reaction to the over the counter shampoos that contain tar or other chemicals – causing even more flakes – all I have to do is shake my head and it’s like a snow globe. It’s so awful. I tried the honey last night and mixed it with coconut oil- I left it on overnight, washing it out this morning. It really did help. Not completely, but definitely an improvement. I will do this for a week and see how it goes and let you know.

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