How to Get Rid of Dandruff in Dreadlocks?

Dandruff in dreadlocks

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Sick and tired of dandruff buildup in your dreads? It may feel like a never-ending battle, but you are not alone.

There are different causes as to why you have dandruff. In this post, we’ll list all the causes of dandruff and what you can do to get rid of the itch and flaking.

What is Dreadlock Dandruff?

Let’s  talk about Seborrheic Dermatitis aka dandruff. This is the inflammatory skin state that influences almost half the population and  the primary cause of dandruff.

Dandruff is a waxy, flaky peeling of skin and oil from the scalp. This is due to an overreaction to yeast found on the skin. As a result, there is an overproduction of oils producing irritation and oily, waxy flakes.

Several people think Dreadlock Dandruff is solely produced by a dry scalp, but that’s not the case at all. Applying too much product on your scalp (although moisturizing) can choke your scalp and lead to other dandruff issues.

Another thing to remember is that dandruff can potentially cause hair loss. That’s because the sebum is discharged through the same pore where the hair is sprouting.

When there’s an overproduction of sebum, and it’s not extracted from the pore, it can lead to inflammation and scarring that causes hair loss.

What Causes Dandruff in Dreads?

There are many reasons people with dreadlocks develop dandruff, which can also lead to other hair issues. Here are some of them:

Sebum Buildup

Overproduction of sebum can be due to various factors like diet and stress. On the other hand, regulating sebum production on the scalp can reduce the yeast buildup, subduing Dreadlock Dandruff.

Yeast Overgrowth

Malassezia is the usually occurring fungi (or yeast) that support the sebum. Generally speaking, an oversupply of sebum ends in yeast overgrowth. Luckily, you can reduce yeast growth by retaining your scalp’s pH level.

Oleic Acid Sensitivity

The yeast that supports the sebum then provides oleic acid as a waste byproduct. The oleic acid then produces more skin cells to flake off and end in added flakiness of your scalp. Therefore, an overproduction or sensitivity to oleic acid will likely lead to Dreadlock Dandruff.

This is the last and main contributor to dandruff because nearly 50% of the population is sensitive to oleic acid.

Poor Diet

Diets high in processed foods, sugars, yeast, and unhealthy fats can lead to shifts in hormones that can also trigger overproduction of sebum in the scalp. On the other hand, foods that are high in vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids improve skin health.

Poor Digestion and Diet Absorption

In addition to unhealthy diets, there are people who cannot absorb nutrients properly. This can lead to hormone imbalance.

If you’re dealing with some type of digestive problems like acid reflux, leaky gut, candida, SIBO, food sensitivities, or IBS, it’s possible that your digestive tract has issues. You’ll need nutrient and mineral supplements that can contribute to healthy oil production on your scalp.

Chronic Stress

Stress doesn’t significantly cause dandruff but it can be the cause of worse dandruff symptoms. Lengthy periods of stress impair the natural defenses of the body, reducing the body’s ability to dispense yeast that causes dandruff in the first place.


As mentioned earlier, your oil production is regulated by your hormones.

High pH Levels

When your scalp has a healthy pH limit of 4.5 to 5.5 it is slightly acidic, which can eliminate yeast and bacteria. Therefore, a healthy pH level will contribute to a normalized level of yeast on your scalp. This lessens the likelihood of Dreadlock Dandruff buildup.

Unfortunately, several people produce higher pH levels due to a variety of circumstances, allowing an overgrowth of yeast on the scalp.

Hard Water

The pH of your water plays a significant role than you probably realize. Water is normally considered hard at a pH of 8.5 and soft at a pH of 6.5.

Keep in mind that your scalp must have a pH level of 4.5 – 5.5. When you pour hard water on your head, combined with inadequately formulated shampoo, this can lead to dandruff buildup.

Discontinued Application of Conditioner in New-Formed Locs

Conditioners are typically created to be acidic to bring the pH level of your scalp back to healthy levels after applying an alkaline shampoo. But since conditioners stop knots from developing and cause residue buildup, they are not approved for dread use. The discontinued application of conditioners then leaves your scalp to settle at a higher pH level due to shampoo, hard water, and other external factors.

Castile Soaps

Castile soaps and shampoos formed with Saponified Oils are high in pH. They are also very weak at cleaning the hair in hard water and can also leave a film layer on the hair.

Even when Castile Soaps are diluted correctly with tap water, the pH will still be too high. Hence, they must be diluted accurately with purified water to aim for an ideal pH level.

This double-whammy of hard water and high pH Castile Soap can be circumvented by simply applying a proper shampoo instead. 

Frequent Application of Baking Soda

Now and then we come across someone applying baking soda and Apple Cider Vinegar on their dreads as a shampoo alternative. But baking soda is extremely harmful to your scalp and should only be applied as a Deep Cleanse no more than four times per year. 

Although it can help you get rid of dirt and dust, the baking soda has a high pH level. Hence, you should use an ACV rinse afterwards to lower your scalp’s pH level. Otherwise, it can cause Dreadlock Dandruff.

Shampoo with High pH

The pH level of your shampoo is only one more piece of this mad pH puzzle. The majority of shampoos have a high pH level, which isn’t ideal for your scalp. Unfortunately, pH levels are not indicated on the shampoo’s label.

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Powerful Surfactants

Shampoos that possess strong surfactants, such as Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, are extremely powerful for normal washing of your scalp. These powerful ingredients remove so much oil from your scalp that it causes an imbalance, triggering your scalp to overproduce sebum. So you may encounter a dry itchy scalp after the oils have been removed and then oily flaking when your scalp draws out extra sebum to compensate.

Shampoo with Added Ingredients

Shampoos with silicone coating for the hair can unnaturally lock in the oil and sebum. Parabens in shampoo can imitate estrogen, which may lose your hormones off and lead to dandruff issues. Some people are also susceptible to some ingredients and are not even aware of it, creating contact dermatitis that is often confused with dandruff.

Washing Inconsistency

Most people think that you cannot or should not wash dreadlocks. This is an absolute misconception.

However, some people wash their dreadlocks too often and others don’t wash often adequately or not at all. Shampooing too often can lead to dryness and irritation, while washing rarely will lead to sebum buildup. This can lead to yeast overgrowth on the scalp.

It’s critical to find a wash frequency that works great for your scalp and with the shampoo you’re using. It’s also necessary to adjust your frequency since the sebum production of your scalp shifts slowly. The most typical wash cycle for dreadlocks is once per week. If your dreadlocks are brand new, however, we suggest washing them twice per week.

New Dreadlocks

Acquiring new dreadlocks, particularly ones that are professionally done, will leave some people feeling very itchy and (in some instances) flaky.

Even if you’ve never dealt with dandruff in the past then your fresh dreadlocks may produce some itching. This occurs because of a major alteration in wash frequency, switching shampoo, lack of conditioner, a general shock to the scalp.

Fresh Maintenance

For some people, it’s normal to encounter an itchy scalp right after fresh maintenance. This is just part of the maintenance procedure and something you’ll have to deal with to some degree.

Tension on the Dreadlocks

This precise cause is based on skill only. It appears that when the dreadlocks are braided or tied tightly and there is tension produced on the scalp, dandruff symptoms tend to get worse in those spots. Another reason is that your dreadlocks are too long and heavy.

If your dreadlocks are constantly braided or tied up tightly, try not to do it for a week or two to see if it relieves your Dreadlock Dandruff issues. Meanwhile, consider reducing the length of your dreads.


Dehydration may head to a dry itchy scalp with dreadlocks. If you’re encountering very dry dandruff problems, keeping yourself well-hydrated can be a simple solution. But if you’re having an oily feel with your itchy scalp then it’s most likely a sebum issue and not a dry scalp issue.


Younger people are likely to have dandruff issues the most since puberty and teenage years contribute to extreme hormonal changes. Old age may also provide higher cases of dryer scalps but lower cases of dandruff since sebum production declines as we get older.

Other Scalp Condition

Skin conditions like psoriasis, contact dermatitis, and eczema may be involved with dandruff or make Dreadlock Dandruff more critical.

How to determine the difference?


Dandruff ends in loose flakes of skin that are typically white. Mild itching is normal but not severe and supplemented by oiliness.


Eczema, same as dandruff, is normally a greasy scaling on the scalp. The key differentiator is that it is usually red and inflamed accompanied by yellowish flakes with more severe itching. It can also show up in other parts of your body. Eczema is a more exaggerated variant of dandruff.


Psoriasis is distinguished by thick, red, scaling plaques and is usually seen in other areas of the body such as elbows, knees, back, hands, and legs.


Sebo-psoriasis is generally regarded as an overlap of seborrheic dermatitis (eczema) and psoriasis.

Contact dematitis

Contact Dermatitis is produced when the skin is irritated and scaly due to an allergic reaction typically produced by chemicals in hair dye, shampoo, conditioner, and other products.

If you think you have a condition other than mild dandruff, we highly suggest doing more reading on the other conditions listed above and consulting a dermatologist.

How to Treat Dandruff on Dreadlocks

How to Treat Dandruff on Dreadlocks
How to Treat Dandruff on Dreadlocks
  • Apply an anti-dandruff shampoo such as the Scalp Relief – Calming Dreadlock Shampoo.
  • Follow the directions on the dandruff shampoo bottle.
  • Wash your dreads more frequently – every day for caucasian hair, once a week for afro hair loss.
  • Enhance your diet by lessening your consumption of dairy, sugar, salt, and fat. You can also include probiotics that would fight the proliferation of the yeast.
  • Do a Scalp Recovery Treatment on your scalp. This natural pre-shampoo treatment for sensitive and irritated scalps, improved with potent botanical oils known for their purifying, soothing, and hydrating properties.
  • Apply a Tea Tree Rosemary Scalp Soothing Solution in between washes. This unique scalp leave-in treatment blended with botanical extracts relieves itchy, irritated, and flaky scalp, and hydrates the scalp to stop dryness and flakiness.

Please remember that dandruff is a condition that cannot be healed. However, you can apply treatments to subdue it.

Wash your dreads more often

According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association:

  • If you are Caucasian or Asian, shampoo every day and apply dandruff shampoo twice a week. If applying one dandruff shampoo does not bring relief, try alternating between dandruff shampoos with various active ingredients such as zinc pyrithione, selenium sulfide, and salicylic acid.
  • If you are African-American, only shampoo your locks once a week using a dandruff shampoo. Look for a board-certified dermatologist for the best product reference for your hair type.

Improve your diet

  • If you’re likely to have dandruff, it’s an issue that will continue to recur. You can take preventive procedures to avoid flare-ups by improving your diet.
  • Lessen your consumption of saturated and trans fats that will make your sebaceous glands generate more oil, which makes dandruff worse.
  • Include varied fruits and veggies that comprise zinc and B vitamins.
  • Consider getting probiotics. These helpful bacterias that can be found in yogurt or supplements will help fight the proliferation of the yeast.

Apply an anti-dandruff shampoo

  • Choose a good anti-dandruff shampoo. They will help to combat the yeast that is liable for dandruff in the first place.
  • Follow the guidelines on the dandruff shampoo bottle. There are many several dandruff shampoos, and each carries different active ingredients for managing symptoms. To obtain the best results, always follow the directions on the bottle. For instance, some dandruff shampoos require that you should lather first the shampoo into the hair and scalp and leave the shampoo in for about five minutes before rinsing. Others must not be left on the scalp completely.
  • If you have severe dandruff, please consult a physician. He or she will be able to prescribe you the right antifungal shampoo, a medicated foam, topical cortisone, an ointment, or a solution that will aid you.

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

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

If you have an itchy scalp, you can also apply some of the essential oils below:

  • Menthol (Mentha arvensis, Mentha piperita or Menthol)
  • Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus, Eucalyptus Radiata)

Perform an itch and dandruff treatment

Once a week, before washing your dreadlocks, do a plant-infused itch and dandruff control treatment on your scalp.

This natural pre-shampoo treatment cares for sensitive and irritated scalps, improved with great botanical oils known for their purifying, soothing, and hydrating properties.

For Severe Dandruff

If you have severe dandruff, we encourage you to seek a dermatologist who can prescribe you some stronger treatments. Their antifungal agents are much more potent than any you can attain in commercial shampoos. Examples include:

  • Clobetasol
  • Ketoconazole
  • Climbazole
  • Ciclopirox
  • Clotrimazol

Treating Dandruff in Dreadlocks Using Natural Ingredients

Here are some essential oils you can apply to your locs given their antiseptic qualities.

  • Linalool Thyme
  • Tea tree
  • Geraniol Thyme
  • Bay St Thomas
  • Cineole rosemary
  • Juniper
  • Palmarosa
  • Atlas cedar
  • Lemon
  • Himalayan cedar

A natural source of salicylic acid can be obtained from black willow bark. It will eradicate your dandruff.

Here’s a simple recipe:

  • To your shampoo, just add 3 drops of Tea tree oil.
  • Wash your hair.
  • Let it soak for 5 minutes.

CAUTION: Don’t let it get into your eyes!

A Note on Essential Oils

  • Each essential oil must be allergy tested before use. Apply it first to the inside of your elbow 48h before use and see the effect.
  • You are not allowed to apply essential oils when pregnant or nursing!
  • Please test them first on a small segment of your scalp!
  • Don’t let it get into your eyes. Should that happen, rinse your eyes with lots of water.
  • If you still have dandruff, please consult a dermatologist immediately.
  • None of these suggestions should substitute a treatment that has been guided for you by your physician.

Final Thoughts

Most people encounter Dreadlock Dandruff (or at least an itchy scalp) at some point in their lives. So you shouldn’t feel like you’re struggling with this issue alone! We hope you’ve learned a lot from this post and urge you to apply our tips to ease your dandruff issues.