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Dandruff, a common scalp problem, is characterized by itchiness and flakiness of the scalp. It is a mild form of seborrheic dermatitis, an inflammatory skin disorder that causes increased dryness, scaling, and shedding of dead skin cells from the scalp.
Dandruff can occur due to various reasons, including weather, stress, hormone imbalance, and even infection of the scalp, particularly the hair follicles, with a yeast-like fungus known as Malassezia.
While it is generally a cosmetic problem, in some cases, dandruff may cause pain and severe itching, becoming a source of concern. Dandruff also makes the hair appear lifeless and dull, and the visible skin flakes on the scalp can cause social distress in some people.
Treatments for Dandruff
Similar to other common skin problems, dandruff can be managed through various cosmeceutical products, such as specially formulated serums and shampoos. However, these products are laden with chemicals such as sulfates, which can damage your hair in the long run.
It is suggested to use hair masks for treating mild dandruff. Several natural ingredients possess antimicrobial and nourishing properties that can help manage the problem.
Using these natural ingredients to make DIY hair masks can provide an all-around treatment by relieving the dandruff, nourishing the hair, repairing the damage, hydrating the scalp, restoring hair shine, and rejuvenating the hair.
Caution: Make sure to conduct a patch test for all hair masks before using to check for any allergy or sensitivity.
Natural Hair Mask for Dandruff
Here are some DIY hair masks that you can try for dandruff management.
1. Neem hair masks
Neem is a popular dermatological agent, owing to its antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, and antifungal properties. Therefore, neem can help in the treatment of different scalp problems, (1) including dandruff and dryness. It is suggested to use neem masks in the summer months for higher efficacy.
You can try the following neem-based hair treatments:
- Plain neem rinse: Boil a few neem leaves in water for 10–15 minutes to make a neem rinse. Cool the solution and use it to rinse your hair shaft and scalp.
- Neem and coconut mask: Coconut oil contains lauric acid, which helps increase moisture in the scalp. Moreover, the linoleic acid present in coconut oil is anti-inflammatory and helps soothe the scalp. You can prepare a neem and coconut mask by grinding 10–20 neem leaves with coconut oil to form a thick paste.
- Neem and henna mask: Henna is a natural antifungal agent. To prepare this mask, presoak 2 tbsp of henna powder in warm water. To this solution, add 20 clean neem leaves and grind to make a fine paste.
2. Yogurt hair masks
Yogurt contains lactic acid bacteria that exhibit an antifungal effect on the skin. (2) Moreover, yogurt is rich in proteins and is therefore considered to be an excellent conditioning agent.
In addition, yogurt acts as a natural exfoliant, owing to its lactic acid content, thus helping cleanse the scalp of dirt and dead skin cells.
Try the following yogurt-based masks to manage dandruff and improve your hair health:
- Yogurt and honey mask: Mix 1 tbsp of honey and 2 tbsp of fresh, plain yogurt to form a paste. (3)
- Yogurt and lemon mask: Add 1 tbsp of lemon juice to 2 tbsp of fresh, plain yogurt. If the mask is too runny, mix in cornstarch or bentonite clay as required.
You can also add rice water to either of these masks as it contains selenium, which helps inhibit the growth of Malassezia. (4)
3. Fenugreek hair masks
One study showed that fenugreek extracts are effective in controlling the growth of Malassezia. (5) Another study concluded that fresh fenugreek seeds help fight dandruff, manage hair fall, and prevent hair thinning and baldness. (6)
Fenugreek can be combined with different ingredients to form hair masks, such as:
- Fenugreek and coconut oil mask: Soak 2 tbsp of fenugreek seeds in water overnight. Grind the mixture to form a paste, and add 2 tbsp of coconut oil to it.
- Fenugreek and yogurt mask: Presoak fenugreek seeds in water and leave overnight. In the morning, strain the mixture and blend the fenugreek seeds with 2 tbsp of yogurt. Add a few drops of patchouli essential oil to the paste.
- Fenugreek and hibiscus mask: Soak 1 tbsp of fenugreek seeds overnight. Strain the seeds and blend them with hibiscus leaves. To this paste, add ½ cup yogurt and mix to form a smooth paste.
4. Tea tree oil hair masks
Tea tree oil can be used in the following ways:
- Tea tree oil and oatmeal mask: Mix 2 tbsp of oatmeal with water to form a paste, and add a few drops of tea tree oil into it.
- Tea tree oil and carrier oil mask: Dilute a few drops of tea tree essential oil with 1–2 tbsp of carrier oil such as olive oil or coconut oil. Use this mixture to massage your scalp and roots.
- Tea tree oil and green tea rinse: To ½ cup of green tea, (9) add 4–5 drops of tea tree oil. Mix in 1 tsp of white vinegar, and use this mixture as a rinse.
Note: You can substitute tea tree oil with peppermint essential oil if required or if you are allergic to tea tree oil.
5. Apple cider vinegar hair masks
A study demonstrated that apple cider vinegar (ACV) acts as an antibacterial and antifungal agent, (10) owing to its phenolic content.
You can use ACV to combat dandruff in the following ways:
- ACV rinse: Dilute 4–5 tbsp of ACV with 1 cup of water. To this solution, add 3 drops of tea tree oil diluted with a carrier oil such as almond oil, and mix well.
- ACV and honey mask: Mix 2 tbsp each of ACV and honey. Add 2–3 tbsp of curd and a few drops of lemon juice, and mix well to form a paste.
6. Aloe vera gel hair masks
Aloe vera gel is an excellent anti-inflammatory agent and can therefore help in the treatment of various inflammatory skin conditions, including seborrheic dermatitis.
The topical application of aloe vera helps lower scaliness, soothes itching, and also prevents the spread of infection with its antifungal properties. (11)
You can try the following aloe-vera based remedies for dandruff control:
- Plain aloe vera gel mask: Simply extract some aloe vera gel from a freshly cut aloe vera leaf, and use it to massage your hair and scalp.
- Aloe vera gel and honey mask: Mix 4 tbsp of fresh aloe vera gel with 2 tbsp of honey. Crush one medium-sized garlic to extract the garlic juice and add it to the mixture.
7. Lemon juice hair masks
Lemon is an anti-fungal agent and can therefore help fight dandruff problems. (12) You can prepare the following hair mask using lemon:
Lemon and egg mask: Whisk one egg (13) and mix in the juice of half a lemon.
8. Onion hair masks
Studies show that water-based extracts of onion juice possess fungicidal properties. (14) It is thought that this antifungal nature of onions is due to the presence of saponins, such as ceposides A, B, and C. The higher the concentration of these saponins, the higher is their efficacy. (15)
- Simple onion hair mask: Grind a large onion to obtain a smooth paste, and apply it to your scalp, roots, and hair shaft.
- Onion and garlic mask: You can also add a clove of crushed garlic or garlic juice to the onion paste. The sulfur content of garlic helps fight infections and thus increases the efficacy of the mask. (16)
How to Use the Hair Masks
Following these steps when applying the natural hair masks to reap maximum benefits:
- Shampoo your hair as usual, making sure to cleanse your scalp properly. You can use an antidandruff shampoo for this.
- Use a muslin cloth to pat your hair dry, and allow it to air-dry further. Avoid the use of hairdryers.
- Gently detangle your hair using a wide-toothed hairbrush, starting at the ends and working your way up.
- Apply the hair mask/rinse/oil mixture to your scalp and hair root. Further, spread the mask through the length of your hair, up to the tips.
- Gently massage the mask on your scalp for a couple of minutes.
- Leave the mask for 15–20 minutes. You can use a shower cap to cover your hair. This step can be avoided with hair rinses.
- Rinse your hair with lukewarm water.
- Condition your hair, especially if there is a lingering smell. You can avoid conditioning the hair if you are using a hair rinse.
- Pat your hair dry and allow it to air-dry. Avoid using rough towels.
- Use the masks once or twice a week to see improvement.
Dandruff, accompanied by an irritated, itchy scalp, can be a constant source of strain. This shedding of scalp skin can occur due to different reasons, including nutritional deficiencies, infection, malfunction of the sebaceous glands, and stress, to name a few. However, it can generally be treated with different at-home hair masks.
These natural masks are chemical-free, easy to use, and more cost effective than over-the-counter products. If you do not see improvement after regular use of hair masks, application of OTC products, and proper hair care, make sure to visit a doctor, as an underlying medical condition may be involved.