Coconut Oil for Dandruff: Our Top 3 Treatments for Itchy Scalp

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Coconut oil has been gaining press coverage as a healthy superfood in recent years with many more supermarkets and local stores now stocking a variety of coconut oils. As well as being used in cooking and eating, coconut oil is versatile enough to be used as a topical treatment for the skin and hair.

Coconut oil has been used for thousands of years as a natural treatment for the effective elimination of dandruff. A unique fatty acid, caprylic acid found in coconut oil has been shown to have a strong effect fighting the Malassezia fungus known to be responsible for seborrheic dermatitis and dandruff.

Rich in minerals and antioxidants, coconut oil stimulates rapid healing of the scalp and hair preventing any future return of dandruff. In addition, coconut oil moisturizes the scalp and nourishes the hair. Coconut oil is often found in many cosmetic products including shampoos and conditioners.

The Benefits of Coconut Oil

The scent of coconut always reminds me of the beach, faraway exotic islands while sipping pina coladas at the bar. It’s certainly a lot more appealing than the harsh chemical odors you may get with medicated shampoos or other dandruff treatments. And as much as we like coconut oil, the fungi that live on our scalps don’t!

Coconut oil, extracted from the flesh of mature coconuts, is rich in vitamins and fatty acids that have hydrating and antibacterial properties. Medium chain fatty acids help target and kill any fungus and viruses or bacteria that may be present on the scalp. They not only relieve the worst symptoms of dandruff but also attack the underlying cause of dandruff while keeping both your scalp and shoulders clean.

Coconut oil is also excellent for promoting healthy hair, working as well as or in some cases better than specialized shampoos or conditioners. Fatty acids and vitamin E penetrate deep into the scalp and hair strands and repair from within. At just above room temperature coconut oil softens and can be easily applied to your hair and scalp or combined with other essentials oils including rosemary, tea tree or camphor oil. Using coconut oil will give you that dandruff-free, soft, shiny head of manageable hair you’ve always wanted, and your locks will smell great too!

How Does Coconut Oil Help Get Rid of Dandruff?

Coconut oil is often likened to a nuclear bomb which kills off invading enemy forces on the scalp. Many people blame bad hygiene, an oily scalp, a dry scalp, cold weather, stress or product build up for the cause of dandruff but these are merely factors which make the dandruff worse. The main cause of dandruff is a yeast-like fungus called Malassezia. Natural antifungal properties of coconut oil eliminate the excess fungus, killing off dandruff while creating conditions that stop dandruff from becoming worse.

Let’s look at some of the other properties of coconut oil that make it so powerful in treating dandruff and preventing its return:

Coconut Oil Protects the Scalp

Polyphenols combined with vitamin E found in coconut oil have an antioxidant effect on the scalp protecting it from oxidative damage from free radicals. Weakened cells are more susceptible to infections and cell death which contributes to the growth of dandruff or flaking skin. Vitamin E is one of the best antioxidants for skin as it penetrates into the skin providing nutrients where they’re most needed.

A healthy scalp is better equipped to fight the fungus that causes dandruff and at the same time stop the recurrence of it.

Coconut Oil Moisturizes the Scalp

Coconut oil is known to be an excellent moisturizer for the skin, often being used in many sunscreen lotions or after sun treatments. If dandruff is made worse by a dry scalp or by using to many oil-sapping dandruff shampoos, coconut oil can rehydrate the scalp. When the scalp is too dry skin cells begin to die and flake off causing more dandruff-like symptoms. Vitamin E and other medium chain fatty acids like lauric, caprylic and capric acid penetrate deep into the scalp and hair shafts to prevent further moisture loss.

Coconut Oil Stimulates Blood Circulation and Regrowth of Cells on the Scalp

Once you’ve attacked the underlying cause of the dandruff, damaged follicles and skin cells on the scalp will need repairing and new fresh cells to replace them. Coconut oil helps boost the blood flow around the scalp delivering all important nutrients and oxygen to cells speeding up the repair process and regrowth of new cells.

Coconut oil also contains antioxidants that boost growth while protecting cells from oxidative damage or excessive scratching from an irritated or inflamed scalp.

Coconut Oil Prevents Fungal Infections and Attacks Bacteria

The medium chain fatty acids in coconut oil also possess antifungal properties that attack and, with regular use, inhibit the return of the malassezia infection responsible for most cases of dandruff. Some other treatments may only remove the excess fungus and don’t prevent it from coming back which is why dandruff can be such a stubborn problem for some people.

Antibacterial properties of lauric and capric acid found in coconut oil are effective in attacking the bacteria that can result from an oily scalp or seborrheic dermatitis. When the hair follicles get clogged with natural oils, or sebum, bacteria thrives and the body tries fighting off this infection by sending more antibodies causing more inflammation and discomfort of the scalp.

Scratching leads to more flaking skin cells and dandruff. By attacking the bacteria, toxins and dirt in the follicles, coconut oil gets to the root of the problem and boosts your immune system.

Coconut Oil to Soothe the Scalp and Prevent Itchiness

Flakes of dead skin and dandruff in the hair or on your clothing can be annoying, but it’s nothing compared to the itchiness and inflammation of the scalp which occurs. Analgesic and antiinflammatory effects of coconut oil slightly numb the scalp with a cooling sensation helping to reduce irritation and reducing the amount of ‘snowfall’ from the head. Less scratching also means less chance of breaking the skin and further infection or, in extreme cases, damage to hair which may cause mechanical hair loss.

How to Use Coconut Oil on Your Scalp and Hair

Now we’ve seen how coconut oil helps eliminate dandruff, you may be asking just how do we use this powerful oil for the best results? Although many commercially available shampoos and conditioners contain coconut oil, using a virgin organic coconut oil will give better results. Virgin oils are higher in powerful nutrients and free from any other chemicals including bleaches or deodorizers.

Coconut oil can be used on its own as a hot oil massage or as discussed earlier with other natural botanicals that add to its ability to attack dandruff and condition the hair and scalp. Let’s look at three of the most effective home remedies using coconut oil for dandruff treatment.

#1 Hot Coconut Oil Massage

A hot oil massage can be ideal when you’re short of time and need to nourish your hair in a hurry. Using coconut oil enables the heat and oil to penetrate deep into the scalp and clean it of dirt and oils that lead to dandruff.

  1. Heat 2 to 3 tablespoons of coconut oil on the stove top to a hand hot temperature so that you can still touch but won’t burn or scald your scalp.
  2. Massage into the scalp using your fingertips and rub any leftover oil into the hair.
  3. Leave for 30 minutes, or cover with a shower cap and leave overnight if you have time, before washing your hair with a gentle cleansing shampoo to remove the oil.

Repeat twice a week until you see the signs of dandruff disappear.

#2 Coconut Oil and Lemon Juice

Acidic acid in lemon juice works to restore the normal pH balance of the scalp that help inhibit the growth of dandruff causing yeast on the scalp. The astringent effects of lemon juice helps maintain the optimal levels of sebum on the scalp, preventing it from becoming too dry or excessively greasy. When combined with coconut oil, lemon juice can be a powerful all natural antidote to dandruff.

  1. Combine equal parts of lemon juice with virgin coconut oil and heat at a low temperature.
  2. Apply to the scalp, rubbing deep into the scalp for five to 10 minutes.
  3. After 20 to 30 minutes wash off with a mild shampoo and rinse with warm water.

People with darker or colored hair should exercise caution when using lemon juice as it can naturally lighten or react with colors, especially if exposed to direct sunlight. Used once or twice a week you should quickly see an improvement in symptoms and the dandruff begins to disappear. As a bonus your hair will smell refreshed and clean too.

#3 Coconut Oil and Rosemary Oil

When dandruff has been causing intense irritation and inflammation from scratching, rosemary oil combined with coconut oil can be the ideal treatment. Rosemary oil boosts microcirculation in the scalp promoting more healing and a purge of the dead skin cells and dandruff that build up.

  1. Combine 2 to 3 tablespoons of virgin coconut oil with just a few drops of rosemary oil.
  2. Massage the mixture deep into the scalp and hair before covering with a shower cap or warm towel for at least 30 minutes.
  3. Wash off mixture with a mild, sulfate-free shampoo and repeat every night for two weeks or until the itchiness and dandruff have stopped.


Many other natural ingredients increase the effectiveness of coconut oil including jojoba oil which dissolves excess sebum and lowers oil production or yogurt which uses its natural enzymes and acids to eliminate dandruff completely. Using coconut oil can help control a dandruff problem and can also deep condition your hair too for a healthy shiny head of hair as seen in this short video from Youtube.

So embrace that fresh coconut oil smell and dream of faraway beaches while getting rid of that annoying dandruff or dry, itchy scalp.

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