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What is it?

Dandruff remains a mystery and there is no commonly agreed upon theory about what actually causes dandruff. Hormones may play a role in dandruff and since it seems to run in families, genetics may be a factor.

While a dry scalp can cause flakes, dry scalp and dandruff are not the same things. We know that true dandruff is not caused by a "dry scalp," because people with oily scalps tend to suffer from dandruff the most.

Since the treatments for dry scalp versus dandruff differ, it is important to learn to tell the difference between the two. A quick look at the flakes may give you the answer. If you are suffering from dry scalp, the flakes are smaller in size, have a whitish in color and fall off the hair and scalp easily. Dandruff flakes are larger and due to the oil content have yellowish tint and tend to stick to the hair and do not fall off the scalp as easily.

Symptoms of Dandruff

What to Look For

The symptoms of dandruff are easy to spot--white flakes of dead skin that are visible your hair and shoulders. The scalp may also be red and feel irritated and itchy.

Symptoms Vary Depending on the Cause

  • Contact dermatitis: This is a skin inflammation that occurs when the skin comes in contact with a substance that is an allergen or irritant. Ingredients in harsh detergent shampoos, hair care products or hair dyes can often cause a red, itchy, scaly scalp.
  • Infrequent Shampooing: How often you need to wash your hair varies from person to person. For some, infrequent shampooing allows hair oils and dead skin cells to build up, which results in flaking or dandruff.
  • Seborrheic dermatitis:This condition, one of the most frequent causes of dandruff, is a skin condition that causes white-to-yellow greasy scales to form on the scalp and may affect the ears, eyebrows, nose and other places rich in oil producing glands. If it occurs on the scalp in babies, it is called "cradle cap." While researcher don't know the exact cause, some believe it may be due to a yeast-like fungus called malassezia that is in the natural oil secretions on the skin and scalp.
  • Malassezia (a fungus): Dried skin that flakes off the scalp is often caused by an overgrowth of a fungus called Malassezia. While Malassezia is a normal inhabitant on the scalp, for some, this yeast-like fungus grows out of control, irritates the scalp and causes excess skin cells to grow. As these extra skin cells are shed, you see the white flakes in your hair or on your clothes.
  • Dry scalp: The flakes we see on our shoulders may not be dandruff, they may be due to a dry scalp. While dry skin flakes can be annoying, they are generally smaller and less oily and there is usually no redness or inflammation.

Treating Dandruff

Treatment Varies Depending on the Cause

Treatment Varies Depending on the Cause

Contact Dermatitis: One of the causes of dandruff is actually, contact dermatitis--your scalp is experiencing an allergic or sensitivity reaction to a hair care product. Natural hair care products can help decrease the chance of contact dermatitis. 

Grab your nearest bottle of shampoo and check out the ingredients. If your scalp reacts to any of the ingredients listed, the results could be hair loss, dandruff, dermatitis or an irritated scalp. For more information click here to read "Why Use Natural Shampoo Bars."

Dry Hair: Commercial shampoos, conditioners, and hair styling products are loaded with synthetic chemicals. Although detergent based shampoos will clean the hair and scalp well, they often cause over-drying which will make the condition worse. Read "Help Me Choose Products for Dry Hair."

Oily Hair: Oily hair, the result of overactive oil glands, can also be a problem. Excessive production of sebum can clog the hair roots and may cause excessive shedding, hair loss, and dandruff. Read "Help Me Choose Products for Oily Hair."

Neem & Tea Tree Oil

Neem & Tea Tree Oil

The ancient healing properties of Neem and Tea Tree Oils are well known. Neem oil has countless benefits for the hair and scalp. It is used to treat dry, itchy, irritated scalps, dandruff and other scalp problems. Tea tree oil has natural antibacterial and anti-fungal properties that are especially helpful in treating dandruff or seborrheic dermatitis caused by a yeast-like fungus called Malassezia.

Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple Cider Vinegar

Another popular treatment for dandruff is apple cider vinegar (ACV). ACV has natural antibacterial and antifungal properties that help treat a dry itchy scalp without harsh chemicals. ACV has a low pH due to malic acid. This creates an acidic environment that helps destroy seborrheic dermatitis causing fungus.

ACV also removes scaly build-up and residue from hair shafts to cleanse and clarify the hair and scalp without stripping the hair of its natural oils. As residue builds up on the scalp it can clog hair follicles which can lead to or exacerbate scalp issues.

Herbal Hair Tea Rinses

Herbal Hair Tea Rinses

Herbal hair rinses have been used for centuries to treat scalp conditions. Our dandruff blend herbal hair rinse is designed to relieve flakiness and calm the itchy scalp. This blend of specially selected organic herbs and botanicals will help soothe the irritated and inflamed scalp from conditions such as dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis.

Things to Avoid

Overdrying hair

Many believe that drying out their oily scalp will help decrease dandruff. However, oily hair is actually made worse by drying shampoos. The chemicals in these products strip natural oils and dry out the scalp, which then encourages the oil glands to produce more oil. It becomes a vicious cycle.

Customer Tips for Dandruff

Seborrheic Dermatitis/Oily Scalp

I am 51 years old and have been in and out of dermatologist offices since I was nine years old. I've been prescribed almost everything under the sun to treat my Seborrheic Dermatitis (I was first diagnosed when I was in my early twenties). SD is a very frustrating condition and even worse when you have very thick, wavy, long hair. I finally found relief by shampooing 3X a week (one lathering) with the Neem and Tea Tree shampoo soap. I lather and leave it on while rinsing the rest of me, then rinse, comb out my hair, and use one of your vinegar rinses. I do not rinse out the vinegar rinse. I have found when I follow this routine, my scalp is healing, is less oily, and I can go 2-3 days without having to shampoo again. I do not use the vinegar rinse every time I shampoo - only once a week or so. Hope this helps someone else with the same frustrating condition!


Medical Disclaimer

The content and information on this website, provided by The Chagrin Valley Soap & Salve Company, is for educational purposes only and is in no way intended and should not be construed as medical advice to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease or health condition. The information regarding folklore or health-related benefits of certain ingredients is for educational purposes only. The information provided is not intended to prescribe or be taken as medical advice.

The information provided is not meant to substitute the advice provided by your personal physician or other medical professionals. Do not use the information found on this website to self-diagnose any medical conditions or treat any health problems or diseases. If you have medical concerns regarding yourself or your family you should seek the advice of qualified, licensed health professionals. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This notice is required by the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.

Read our Full Medical Disclaimer. 




People with severe allergies--please note: If you have severe anaphylactic-type reactions to ANY of the ingredients in ANY of our products, please do not buy our products. We have dedicated soap rooms and product rooms that are kept meticulously clean, but we cannot guarantee against possible cross-contamination of individual ingredients.

Chagrin Valley Soap & Craft is not responsible for any individual reaction to any particular ingredient. Each product description on our website includes a complete list of ingredients. People with sensitivities to any listed ingredient should not use the product. In case you are in doubt always try an allergy patch test and if at any time irritation occurs, discontinue use of the product.