For those of you who follow me on instagram @pcos_to_wellness you will know that dandruff is something I have been suffering from BIG TIME (and it has been driving me absolutely insane!).
Around 50% of people will experience dandruff at some point in their lives - it can be embarrassing, hard to conceal, and VERY irritating.
Many women with PCOS and hormonal conditions don’t realise that their chances of struggling with dandruff heightened, AND it can be much harder to eliminate too.
While we are all aware of the most common symptoms of PCOS, dandruff may come an unwelcome surprise, and is not always discussed in the doctor’s office.
However, you are not alone, AND it is important to note that it is possible to relieve PCOS dandruff naturally, which I’ll go through in this blog!
SO what causes PCOS dandruff?
It’s likely you have seborrheic dermatitis to thank for your flaky scalp - a disorder affecting both the skin and hair.
The cause of seborrheic dermatitis isn’t yet definitive, but research suggests that it can be triggered by a hormonal imbalance in the body.
Increased androgen levels commonly found in women with PCOS can cause acne, acanthosis nigricans (patches of discoloured skin) and male-pattern baldness, and sadly dandruff is just another symptom on the list.
It is important to note, however, that even if you have been diagnosed with PCOS, your dandruff may not be linked to your condition. A flaky scalp can also occur because of simple dry skin, for example it may be caused by cooler temperatures and changes in seasons.
There are a few other triggers of seborrheic dermatitis too, such as an overproduction of yeast in the body which can cause irritated skin and accelerate the body’s cell turnover rate. This causes the old cells to scale away from the skin in flakes, creating dandruff.
Regardless of the root cause of your dandruff, there’s plenty of ways to naturally loosen flakes and slow down skin shedding without the use of harsh, medicated solutions.
Tea tree oil
Tea tree oil is a potent antibacterial and antifungal agent, which is why it’s great for treating so many health conditions. Adding two drops to every ounce of your shampoo will help to eliminate any fungal and bacterial infections on the scalp, relieving itching and nourishing the scalp.
I am sure we all know by now that stress plays a huge role in a person's overall health. Stress can cause increases in blood pressure, heart rate, and inflammation.
Although stress may not directly cause skin disorders, it can worsen or trigger existing ones.
A Japanese study published in 2014 examined the relationship between anxiety-induced stress and atopic dermatitis. The participants with atopic dermatitis reported higher levels of anxiety than those without the condition
Garlic is a potent antimicrobial agent. It is ideal for eliminating the bacteria that cause dandruff. Fresh garlic cloves can be crushed or minced and rubbed into the scalp. To lessen the odor of garlic, mix it with a few teaspoons of raw honey. Massage the mixture into the scalp and allow it to remain there for 30 to 60 minutes. Wash the hair as usual. Do this once per week.
Coconut oil may help improve hydration, reduce irritation, and prevent fungal growth on the scalp.
Findings from a study found that cultured coconut extract lowered inflammatory markers in human skin samples. Another study observed similar anti-inflammatory properties after applying virgin coconut oil to artificial skin samples.
Commonly used by those suffering from sunburn, aloe vera gel can work in the same way to reduce scale irritation. Simply massage onto the head 15-30 minutes before shampooing, then wash out as usual.
Apple cider vinegar
The acidic nature of ACV changes the pH of the scalp, making it difficult for yeast to grow. A mixture of 1 part apple cider or white vinegar and 1 part water can help safely get rid of dandruff. Put this mixture into a spray bottle and spritz on the scalp. Doing this twice per week may help to reduce the yeast population on the scalp.
Zinc is a mineral that supports the body's immune system and promotes cell growth. People can get zinc from animal proteins, nuts, and whole grains or as a supplement.
According to the NIH, severe zinc deficiencies have been associated with hair loss, diarrhea, impotence, and skin lesions.
A comprehensive review from 2016 lists zinc deficiency as a potential contributing factor for seborrheic dermatitis and dandruff.
Many dandruff shampoos contain zinc pyrithione because it prevents fungal growth and removes excess skin cells from the scalp.
If you believe your dandruff is a symptom of PCOS, you may want to give herbs a try. Not only may it help to improve your flaky scalp, but your overall health, too.
I created a blend of specific herbs to help to balance out your hormones in a bid to prevent seborrheic dermatitis flare-ups, as well as provide support to those suffering from bloating, hair loss, mood swings, and problematic skin.
Find out more about Cysterhood herbal tea here, or find out more about my favourite herbs for PCOS here
Aspirin contains the active natural ingredient salicylic acid, which comes from tree bark. Many medicated shampoos also contain this ingredient. It is easy to use aspirin on an as-needed basis for eliminating dandruff. Simply use two spoons to crush two aspirin tablets into a fine powder and then add it to any shampoo. Allow the mixture to sit on the scalp for about two minutes. Rinse it out and then shampoo again, but this time without the aspirin. The salicylic acid dissolves the dandruff flakes. This allows the second shampooing to work its way into the scalp since the thick layer of dead skin cells will be gone.
Sodium bicarbonate (otherwise know as baking soda) may help reduce dandruff by acting as an exfoliant that can remove excess skin cells and oil on the scalp.
Baking soda also possesses antifungal properties that may help fight the fungus responsible for dandruff.
Baking soda has a very high pH level, which can damage the scalp if a person uses it too frequently. Using too much baking soda can strip the hair of its natural oils, which can cause dryness or irritation, so people should use it in moderation.
Omega-3 fatty acids
Adding in more good fats may help lower blood pressure, increase "good" HDL cholesterol levels, and support heart and brain health. A deficiency in this fatty acid can result in adverse symptoms, such as dandruff, brittle nails, and dry skin.
Omega-3s provide several skin benefits, such as managing oil production, regulating inflammation, improving hydration and reducing signs of ageing.
Foods containing large quantities of omega-3s include salmon, mackerel, and walnuts. People can also take omega-3 supplements.
Lemon juice is also effective for fighting off yeast growth on the scalp. The lemon juice’s acidity lowers the scalp's pH and makes it inhospitable to yeast.
Take 2 tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice or lemon juice from concentrate and massage it into the scalp and allow it to sit for about 10 minutes. Rinse the scalp with water. Then repeat the process with a diluted mixture of 1 teaspoon of lemon juice and 1 cup of water. Rinse the hair again. Avoid blow-drying the hair or going out in the sun after using lemon juice because it could have a bleaching effect if it is not fully rinsed out of the hair.
A dry scalp could massively benefit from a good soak in olive oil. Massage 1-2 teaspoons into your scalp in the evening, cover your head with a shower cap and leave the oil to soak in overnight. Shampoo and condition as normal the following morning.
Although diet as a whole is a very broad treatment concept, the food choices you make can have dramatic effects on your body. The types of foods you eat may not be the root cause of dandruff, but it definitely has the ability to may make your symptoms worse.
New research suggests an association between diet and inflammatory skin disorders, such as seborrheic dermatitis (which is related to dandruff)
So remember to load up on fruits and vegetables as they contain many essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that may help reduce inflammation.
The results of a recent observational study involving 4,379 people showed that individuals who reported eating more fruits were less likely to have seborrheic dermatitis.
The results also suggest that typical Western diets may increase the risk of seborrheic dermatitis in females.
If you’d like to know more about my PCOS journey, and find more tips on how to manage your PCOS naturally, please visit my blog here!