Duchess Gummy Buns says…

I saw on this hair blog that if you have dandruff you should avoid putting natural oils on your scalp because it would make it worse. If this is true I am so sad because I really loved massaging oil into my scalp but i wonder if that’s why my dandruff is still in a certain spot on my scalp and won’t be relieved by any dandruff shampoo’s that I have been trying?

The Beauty Brains respond:

Natural oils like coconut, shea butter, and others contain a chemical known as oleic acid. To understand the effect of oleic acid on your scalp we have to talk a little bit about the causes of dandruff.

Causes of dandruff

We know from the technical literature there are three key factors that determine if you’ll have dandruff: the activity of Malassezia fungi, the presence of sebaceous secretions, and your own individual sensitivity.

These fungi (see picture above) break down the triglycerides (fatty oils) from your scalp and release fatty acids. Recent research by P&G has shown that the fungi prefer saturated fatty acids which means they leave behind the unsaturated fatty acids, like oleic acid. The structure of these unsaturated fatty acids allow them to penetrate the skin’s natural barrier where they trigger an irritation response that leads to flaking and itching.

Oleic acid can exacerbate dandruff

Ok so we know the fungi won’t feed on oleic acid but the oleic acid itself can be irritating, right? It depends! The key is the third piece of the puzzle: the “individual sensitivity.” If you’re not prone to dandruff and you’re using coconut oil to strengthen your hair, it may not matter how much of the oleic acid containing oils you use. You may experience more benefit than risk. However, the situation could be reversed if you are prone to itchy, flaky scalp. Additional oleic acid could make things worse, based on what we’ve read. We realize that this may not be a fully satisfactory explanation but it did allow us to use the word “exacerbate.”

The Beauty Brains bottom line

Natural oils may not be for everyone because they contain oleic acid which can worsen dandruff symptoms.

Ladies, have you ever experienced this?

Black Girl With Long Hair

Leila Noelliste, founder of Black Girl with Long Hair (April 2008). Social media, pop culture and black beauty enthusiast. bell hooks' hair twin...

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51 Comments on "How Natural Oils and Butters Can Irritate Dandruff"

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I was googling and came across this. I can say, without a doubt, that after getting an argan oil hair treatment, my scalp did a full peel. I haven’t seen flaking like this since I was a teenager.

I know this is an old thread, but I found it googling this exact problem… using all raw organic cocoa butter, shea butter, coconut oil, mango butters even on my face, were making horrible itch scaly patch up the middle of my scalp! I quit using the butters & oils on my face & ONLY cleanse with soap. I use jojoba oil for face, and seems the dandruff itching and odor coming from scape is improved. I also use Nizoral shampoo that did NOT work on the dandruff until I stopped the use of butters & oils on my face… Read more »

[…] will continue to use coconut oil on my scalp and hair, unless I notice my scalp reacts to the high oleic acid content with irritation – which I pray it will […]

Kelly Doe

But I don’t understand.. I’ve found a lot of sites where it says that coconut oil is a treatment for dandruff. Coconut oil is the only thing I’ve changed in my hair care routine, and now I have dandruff. I have no idea what to think or what to do..

A couple years ago there used to be a product called Skin Zinc. They had a liquid spray that could be sprayed on your scalp and it worked like magic! I have bad dandruff and I promise u, THIS product truly works!! But as they say, all good things soon come to an end. Suddenly Skin Zinc was no longer available . Without any explanation whatsoever, the ordering number was out of service, and no one was selling it online!– except someone on ebay who tried to take advantage of the sudden lack of supply and rise in demand, so… Read more »

I am not prone to dandruff, but recently I started using coconut oil on my hair because it just leaves it so nice since I naturaly have super frizzy hair. Point being, ever since I started using coconut oil, I have began to have dandruff. Is there anyway to balance this out? 🙁 I feel like I’m stuck between having shiny, smooth hair or clean looking hair…


i had the same prob. i realized my skin reponds well to mineral oils n the reverse for organic saturated oils. This is becoz i’m prone to dermatitis. So try using the coconut oil for the mid section n ends of ur hair only. Dont let it touch the scalp!


I have been using Amla oil for my hairs.I have a very bad dandruff due to which my hairs are falling. I have observed that coconut oil does not suit me. So what should I do?

I have never had any problems with dandruff, ever. I decided that I want to try and grow my hair out and I read online about the many benefits that would come from massaging coconut oil onto your scalp such as strengthening hair and increased hair growth through stimulation to the scalp and providing necessary and helpful nutrients. About 24 hours after the oil treatment my scalp became very tender. Within about 24 more hours my scalp started to break out. Who knew you could get zits all over your head? it was very painful and irritating. Now here we… Read more »

I used coconut oil for a long time hoping it would get rid of my dandruff. The more dandruff I got, the more oil I used. It wasn’t until my sister suggested it that I considered coconut oil as the culprit. My dandruff had spread and was much worse. Did some research and found out about oleic acid. So now I know my scalp is sensitive to it. I only use oil as a pre-poo treatment now.

how to get rid of dandruff instantly

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But so what, it was still worth it!

Mel Stevens

The pro naturals argan oil completely eliminated any dandruff I had in my hair!

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Same happens with me. Was googling to know if it was only me to experience such a weird thing. Coconut oil was worsening my dandruff. And no shampoo helps to get rid of it completely. It gets little better with some though. Nothing big..


If I cant put on natural oils what is the substitute? I have naturally dry and curly hair, which gets puffed up into a ball. Dandruff also increases after I wash my hair with shampoo and conditioner, with or without oil. SO I wash almost every alternate day as it looks dull. Even considered going pixie though I adore long hair:(. Are there any good products/tricks you know which can help me out.


You can use the oils on your hair, it’s just not recommended to use it on your scalp.


This was helpful! That is my problem excatly. I get dry itchy scalp, when i put oil and creams it on my scalp it make it even worse so im like thinking what to do?!. I am trying ACV with water see how that gos.


Well recently ive been using olive oil to oil / massage my scalp… Since then ive seen more dandruff than before using the olive oil… So for me olive oil increases my dandruff 🙁


The oil is probably lifting the dandruff from your scalp…may not be contributing to the creation of more dandruff.

Bernardo Anthony

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Coconut oil is a natural antifungal, which would make it perfect for this usage.

Leigh Laughbaum

Literature may consist of texts based on factual information (journalistic or non-fiction), as well as on original imagination, such as polemical works as well as autobiography, and reflective essays as well as belles-lettres. Literature can be classified according to historical periods, genres, and political influences. The concept of genre, which earlier was limited, has broadened over the centuries. ,:`-

See you real soon


Nizoral is the best! The shampoo is too harsh. Please try to get the creme with 2% Ketoconazol. You will need to apply it twice a week for the first month and then I use it once a week to keep it at bay.


Is this sold over the counter?

I’ve had a problem with dandruff for years and it wasn’t until recently that I started using a mixture of coconut oil and black castor oil for my scalp to rid the dandruff. This mixture has helped my scalp so much. I rarely get dandruff now and my scalp no longer itches like crazy. So, I wouldn’t necessarily say that putting oils on your scalp is bad for dandruff. I just think it may be different strokes for different folks. But I know one thing, I LOVE my coconut/castor oil mix. It feels so good to be free of dandruff!… Read more »
I also get more dandruff when I use oils on my scalp. I have seborrhic dermatitis, and yeah it’s basically a NO-NO for me to put oil on my scalp. What I use that is really good is Oyin’s Homade Frank Juice to moisturize my scalp and my hair… And it lessens my dandruff as well! I also use anti-dandruff shampoo one a week, as well as ACV washes. Topical steroids work wonders, but it’s only temporary and it’s not good for your scalp in the long run, I try to avoid using them unless I have a really bad… Read more »

If I use anything with olive oil I get very thick dandruff! For me, the best thing is to apply oil right after I wash my hair. It doesn’t leave it greasy and my scalp looks good. Coconut oil is not an issue.


olive oil is VERY rich in Oleic acid, i took it out of my regimen a few days ago when i found out.


I have oily scalp, and is experiencing dandruff, so I can’t apply coconut oil anymore? 🙁


I’ve tried Shea Moisture’s Deep Cleansing Shampoo and Conditioner for my dry, itchy scalp. I noticed a difference with one use! I use it once every other week and it has helped relieved my itchy scalp tremendously. If I stopped putting oils and butters in my hair, it would be dry and brittle, so that is not an option!

but, if a deep cleansing shampoo helped to ameliorate the problem, that would suggest to me that the problem is not about dryness. it seems it’s about a build up on the scalp that needs to be cleared away. this is not about avoiding putting oils/butters on the hair. it’s about not putting them on the scalp and making sure your scalp is free of build up. your build up can seem like dry, itchy scalp when it isn’t. it’s the same with skin on the face. your skin may appear dull and dry-looking when you don’t deep clean it… Read more »

I agree! If I use products with petroleum ingredients I get scalp buildup that resembles dandruff.

i remember years ago a black dermatologist told me black women should not oil their scalp; it exacerbates the problem. i never understood oiling the scalp. imo, if you have adequately washed your hair, it should probably be fine breathing without oil being placed on it. i have seborrheia dermatitis that recently flared up for the first time in probably ten years. i started apply vinegar to my scalp daily which greatly improved it and changed my cleansing regime, which i do every six months or so anyway. now, i apply vinegar to my scalp as a prepoo treatment and… Read more »
Vinegar – this sounds good – do you dilute it with lots of water Merry? Recently got a hair consultation! I wouldn’t have gone if i knew my dry scalp was back! This hairdresser was on the ball – she spotted my dermatitis was back and recommended i see a trichologist Whilst that is a good idea – they can be expensive! I thought this problem had gone but today thinking about why its back. i put rosemary oil in my hair with some Indian oil… my hair hated it.. and itched for days… I reckon the rosemary oil was… Read more »

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..So this explains why Monistat and other antifungals work to relieve dandruff and speed up hair growth, right? This is really interesting.

Natty Locs

An experienced stylist will be able to help..


It did happen to me. When I use the castor oil directly on my scalp, it causes dandruff, I also think that I have a sensitive scalp. So, I mix my castor oil with a water based leave in conditionner and it works so much better.


I’m like that with jojoba oil. I can use it with other products and it doesn’t bother me but by itself, is another story. Quite interesting how products can work like that, huh?


Ooh, I might try that! My favorite conditioner has oils in the formula and cause no irritation so it might be oils in its pure form that causes my sensitivity.


It’s good to provide this kind of information about what may be causing dandruff, but why not include some suggestions about how to counter it? I feel this post kind of left the reader hanging about alternatives.

I agree Tori, I was glad to see the article covering this topic, but it would have been nice to have had some remedies for the problem or oils that one could use if they have a really dry scalp. I have dandruff issues also because I have sebhorric dermatitis, but I also have a really dry scalp as well, no matter what products, shampoos, or conditioners I use. I notice that when I use oils on my scalp, I tend to get the itching and dandruff, but then if I don’t put anything on my scalp, then my scalp… Read more »

Have you tried Jojoba oil? It is supposed to be very close to the scalp’s natural oils. I find my scalp really goes nuts when i’ve put coconut oil on (which is a shame as i love it) but using a tiny amount of jojoba oil every other day or so seems to do the trick.


Finally I have an answer! I had dandruff and flaky scalp when relaxed. when i did my big chop i got treated by a dermatologist and i had no further issues. then the dandruff and flaky and this new killer itching started and i was so confused. i just started another round of derm treatment. imma put that coconut oil on hold and see what happens!


I agree i find oil exacerbates my dandruff as i have seborrheic dermatitis in areas of my scalp, however I do find neem oil does a good job


I don’t have dandruff but for some reason I cannot use my usual oils on my scalp without major irritation, major as in RUN to the sink and scrub it out immediately.


This is kind of true for me. While coconut oil did not worsen dandruff and my hair loves it, I keep it away from direct contact with my scalp. It feels like my scalp is on fire after a few days of direct coconut oil. However, I still love it on the rest of my hair and just don’t oil my scalp. Henna treatments help immensely too.


Ive been using Aveda products to help with the itching and flaking. Aveda scalp benefits shampoo and conditioner plus the dandruff solution spray. For me, those products actually work because im seeing less flakes and the itching is starting to be relieved.


Hmm, not true! Anyone who looks up coconut oil would see that it can treat dandruff regardless of the cause. It has worked for my husband and many others. If you have unrelenting dandruff it is more likely caused by conditioner. My son gets dandruff if I put anything in his hair besides a very mild organic cleanser. So now I only condition his hair with apple cider vinegar. His hair is short and straight so oils would make it too greasy.
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She did mention that it also depends on the individual sensitivity as well.


I expected to see a listing of oils that might still be beneficial. Does anyone know of any?