How to Treat Dandruff on Dreadlocks


Let’s talk about Seborrheic dermatitis aka dandruff. This is the inflammatory skin condition which affects almost half the population and which is the main reason for dandruff. So if you thought you are alone, think again!

We’ve put together a guide on how to treat dandruff on locs that will help you stay safe and healthy!

How to Treat Dandruff Starts with the Cause

Nobody is exactly clear on what might be causing the pesky dandruff. However, one thing we know for sure is that dandruff appears as a result of skin cell loss and production in an accelerated way.

What does that mean for you and your dreadlocks?

That your scalp is making and losing skin cells a lot faster than it should.

The culprit could be the Malassezia yeast, a fungus that lives on the scalp. It thrives in environments that produce a lot of sebum.

What is sebum?

An oil secreted by the scalp to protect your skin and hair.

The Malassezia yeast feeds on the sebum and its lipids and then releases a series of substances which then irritate the scalp.

Even if we don’t know the process in which the yeast develops dandruff, we do know that when it develops in an abnormal quantity it releases the irritants that cause dandruff.

How to Treat Dandruff on Locs malassezia

Malassezia furfur: A fungus which causes dandruff

Dandruff and Its Causes

When it comes to dandruff triggers, they differ from person to person, but they can overlap.

Internal triggers

  • Hormonal spikes and lows
  • Stress
  • A bad immune system in individuals who suffered from infections, AIDS or Parkinson
  • A diet rich in acids (sugar, meat, coffee, milk, and alcohol)
  • Some medications (neuroepileptic, etc.)

External triggers

  • Harsh shampoos based on soap. Learn how to treat dandruff on locs with sulfate free shampoos.
  • Not shampooing enough will lead to an accumulation of sebum and a proliferation of the fungus.
  • Failing to rinse well will leave you with residue that will increase the level of sebum and fungi.
  • Wearing caps, motorcycle helmets, and hats will create the perfect humidity and temperature for fungi growth. Learn how to treat dandruff on locs by avoiding them.
  • An imbalanced environment – too hot, too cold or too humid – may lead to dandruff.
  • Too many colouring.
  • Not drying your locs properly. The humidity can lead to yeast development. You can teach yourself how to treat dandruff on locs by creating a hygiene routine.

Types of Dandruff

  • Pityriasis capitis simplex – dry dandruff – a fine white dust which you will notice on your shoulders. It can become stickier and thicker while your scalp can be inflamed, red, and itchy. Shampooing will relieve it.
  • Pityriasis steatoid – oily dandruff – waxy crusts that get stuck between your scalp and your dreads.

How to Treat Dandruff on Dreadlocks

    1. Use an anti-dandruff shampoo such as the Scalp Relief – Calming Dreadlock Shampoo.
    2. Follow the instructions on the dandruff shampoo bottle.
    3. Wash your dreads more often – daily for caucasian hair, once a week for afro hair locs.
    4. Improve your diet by reducing your consumption of dairy, sugar, salt, and fat. You can also incorporate probiotics that would combat the proliferation of the yeast.
    5. Apply our Scalp Recovery Treatment treatment on your scalp. This natural pre-shampoo treatment cares for delicate and irritated scalps, enhanced with potent botanical oils recognised for their purifying, soothing and hydrating properties.
    6. Use our Tea Tree Rosemary Scalp Soothing Solution in between washes. This unique scalp leave-in treatment infused with botanical extracts soothes itchy, irritated, and flaky scalp, and hydrates the scalp to prevent dryness and flakiness.
Scalp Recovery Treatment
Tea Tree Rosemary Scalp Soothing Solution
anti dandruff shampoo dreadlocks
Scalp Relief – Calming Dreadlock Shampoo

Please note that dandruff is a condition that cannot be cured. However, you can use treatments to reduce it.

Wash your dreads more often

According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association:

  1. If you are Caucasian or Asian, shampoo daily and use dandruff shampoo twice a week. If using one dandruff shampoo does not bring relief, try alternating between dandruff shampoos with different active ingredients (zinc pyrithione, selenium sulfide, salicylic acid…)
  2. If you are African-American, only shampoo once a week using a dandruff shampoo. See a board-certified dermatologist for the best product recommendation for your hair type.

Improve your diet

  1. If you’re prone to dandruff, it’s most likely a problem that will continue to recur. You can take preventive actions to avoid flare-ups such as improving your diet.
  2. Reduce your consumption in saturated and trans fats that will cause your sebaceous glands to produce more oil, which makes dandruff worse.
  3. Incorporate varied fruits and veggies that contain zinc and B vitamin.
  4. Consider taking probiotics. These beneficial bacterias that can be found in yogurt or in supplements will help combat the proliferation of the yeast.
Probiotic helps itchy scalp dreads
Probiotic can help with your itchy scalp with dreads

Use an anti-dandruff shampoo

  1. Select a good anti-dandruff shampoo. They will help fighting the yeast that is responsible for dandruff in the first place.
  2. Follow the instructions on the dandruff shampoo bottle. There are many different dandruff shampoos, and each contains different active ingredients for controlling symptoms. To get the best results, always follow the instructions on the bottle. For example, some dandruff shampoos require that you lather the shampoo into the hair and scalp and leave the shampoo in for about five minutes before rinsing. Others should not be left on the scalp.
  3. If you have severe dandruff, please visit your physician. He or she will be able to prescribe you an antifungal shampoo, a medicated foam, a topical cortisone, an ointment or a solution that will help you.

Here are the most common active ingredients you can find in commercial anti-dandruff products for your dreadlocks (read the ingredients’ list):

  • Salicylic Acid
  • Zinc pyrithione
  • Coal Tar. Please be aware that coal tar has a bad odor and stains heavily. It is also forbidden for pregnant women and will increase the skin’s sensitivity to the sun.
  • Melaleuca Alternifolia (Tea Tree) Leaf Oil
  • Selenium sulfide

If you have an itchy, you can also use the essential oils below:

  • Menthol (Mentha arvensis, Mentha piperita or Mentol)
  • Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus, Eucalyptus radiata)

Use our Itch & Dandruff Control Treatment

Once a week, before washing your dreadlocks, apply our plant-infused Itch & Dandruff Control treatment on your scalp.

This natural pre-shampoo treatment cares for delicate and irritated scalps, enhanced with potent botanical oils recognised for their purifying, soothing and hydrating properties.

Love Locs Natural scalp treatment dandruff dry scalp
Itch & Dandruff Control Infused Oil Scalp Treatment

For severe dandruff

If you have severe dandruff, we advise you see a dermatologist who can prescribe you some stronger treatments. Their antifungal agents are much stronger than any you can find in commercial shampoos. Examples include:

  • Clobetasol
  • Ketoconazole
  • Climbazol
  • Cyclopirox
  • Clotrimazol

How to Treat Dandruff on Dreadlocks with Natural Ingredients

Here are some essential oils you can use given their antiseptic properties.

  • Linalol Thyme (Thymus vulgaris CT linalol),
  • Tea trea (Melaleuca alternifolia),
  • Geraniol Thyme (Thymus vulgaris CT geraniol),
  • Bay St Thomas (Pimenta racemosa)
  • Cineole rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis CT cineole),
  • Juniper (Juniperus oxycedrus),
  • Palmarosa (Cymbopogon Martinii var. Motia),
  • Atlas cedar (Cedrus atlantica),
  • Lemon (Citrus limonum),
  • Himalayan cedar (Cedrus deodora).
How to Treat Dandruff on Locs
Essential oils have anti-fungal properties that help then fight dandruff

A natural source of salicylic acid is black willow bark. It will dissolve your dandruff.

Here’s an easy recipe:

  • To your shampoo add 3 drops of Tea tree oil.
  • Wash your hair.
  • Allow it to soak it for 5 minutes.

Caution – do not get it into your eyes!

Please be aware when using essential oils

  • Each essential oil has to be allergy tested before application. Use the inside of your elbow, 48h prior to using.
  • You are not allowed to use essential oils when pregnant or nursing!
  • Please test them on a small section of your scalp first!
  • Avoid any contact with the eyes. Should that happen, rinse with lots of water.
  • If you still have dandruff, please see a dermatologist.
  • None of these suggestions should replace a treatment that has been prescribed for you by your physician.

Do you want to know more on how to treat dandruff on locs? Are you interested in knowing how to moisturize your locs?

dandruff dreadlocks
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Learn more about how to care for your dreadlocks.

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How to wash dreadlocks.

How to moisturize your locs everyday.

How to treat dandruff on dreadlocks.

Things that you should not do with your dreadlocks.

How to keep your dreads healthy.