Remedies for a Healthy Scalp: Olive Oil for Dandruff

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A study published by the Indian Journal of Dermatology once referred to dandruff as “the most commercially exploited skin disease”. Simply take a look down the shampoo aisle at any supermarket or on the shelves at your local drug store and you’ll find dozens of shampoos claiming to cure dandruff.

Many of these dandruff shampoos contain active chemical ingredients that while fighting dandruff can unfortunately also lead to further irritation of the scalp, especially for those with sensitive skin.

Olive oil has long been recognized for its various health benefits including having strong anti-inflammatory properties and large amounts of antioxidants. Olive oil also has many antibacterial and antifungal properties that can fight against yeast or other microbes that cause dandruff. Something most of us have in our kitchens may be an alternative remedy to dandruff.

Dandruff—an Embarrassing Problem

Dandruff is the problem nobody wants to talk about or admit to having. Those dreaded little white flakes can make you scared of wearing your little black dress or sleek new suit that you look so good in. Even that dark blue or little red number can show the telltale signs of dandruff and are often banished to the back of the closet when dandruff is persistent.

But there’s only so much white you can wear! (Unless of course you’re a doctor or a chef!) Over the counter shampoos and conditioners can help reduce the amount of dandruff but the wrong one can often lead to a flare up of either more dandruff or more itchiness and discomfort. If only there was a powerful weapon already in your home that naturally gets rid of dandruff and even prevents it from returning.

Fortunately there is; olive oil!! That bottle of oil in the kitchen which you use for cooking or salad dressings is also effective as a treatment for your hair and scalp. It’s not just an old folk remedy it actually does work, and there’s science to back it up too. We’re going to break that taboo and talk about dandruff, or rather more importantly, how to get rid of it and the benefits of olive oil as an anti-dandruff treatment. We may even throw in a few recipes for your dandruff treatment too.

The Benefits of Olive Oil for Dandruff

Olive oil has been used for its many health benefits for centuries. Rich in omega-3 fatty acids, especially oleic acid and alpha-linoleic acid, olive oil is great for weight management and cardiovascular health in general. Using olive oil on the skin has also shown exhibited incredible benefits with studies showing it can reduce inflammation and oxidative damage. Olive oil can repair damage to the scalp caused by dandruff and even condition and nourish the hair too.

Here are other ways olive oil can help fight dandruff:

Moisturizes the Scalp

Being an oil, olive oil acts as a natural moisturizer for both the scalp and hair. Vitamin E found in olive oil has superb moisturizing properties that keep the scalp and hair moisturized preventing an itchy, flaky scalp and encouraging stronger hair fibers. Oils have also been shown to reduce the loss of moisture from the hair, slowing down both absorption and diffusion of water enabling the hair to retain its natural moisture.

Applying olive oil to the scalp helps moisturize dry areas where skin may be flaking off and can be absorbed into larger thick scaly patches that cause recurrent dandruff. Once these patches are hydrated enough they become loosened and released in larger pieces instead of the usual smaller flakes. This puts an end to the dandruff and the scalp can heal over.

Olive Oil and Its Antioxidant Properties

Using olive oil regularly can help boost the health of your scalp and hair by preventing oxidative damage. Abundant in antioxidants, olive oil stops bacteria and microbes dead in their tracks. As many cases of dandruff are caused by the fungus Malassezia which live naturally on the scalp, olive oil stops the growth of this fungus and reduces future dandruff.

Biologically active antioxidants called polyphenols can attack more serious diseases like psoriasis or eczema which may be an underlying cause of an itchy scalp or dandruff-like symptoms. Microbial and antiviral properties can slow down the symptoms of many serious diseases.

Many of the antioxidants and nutrients found in olive oil can be reduced by the processing methods. Virgin olive oil; oil that hasn’t been refined or industrially treated is normally richer in these substances and other vitamins and nutrients which are beneficial to the scalp and hair.

Olive Oil Is Rich in Vitamins A, E and K

Vitamins A, E and K, found in large quantities in olive oil, give nutrition to the scalp helping it to heal dandruff and restore the hair follicles. These vitamins and other mineral nutrients help reduce the chemical damaged caused by many hair products or the build up from overuse of hair styling gels or sprays.

Polyphenols in Olive Oil Are Cleansing Agents

Polyphenols, water-soluble substances, in olive oil naturally cleanse the scalp, removing dirt, dust and accumulated dead skin cells from the scalp keeping it healthy. A clean scalp can be crucial in the fight against dandruff. Combined with the antibacterial and antifungal properties, many common scalp issues like dandruff, head lice or seborrheic dermatitis can be avoided.

Massaging olive oil into the scalp will improve blood circulation in addition to cleansing the scalp to enhance hair growth. Polyphenols also help with dry or frizzy hair, making it smoother without a buildup of greasiness that often accompanies many shampoos specially formulated for dry hair.

Olive Oil Has Strong Anti-Inflammatory Properties

Inflammation of the scalp is often symptomatic of dandruff or a dry, itchy scalp. Other conditions like psoriasis, eczema or dermatitis often cause chronic inflammation. Massaging olive oil into the scalp will both soothe and moisturize while fighting any inflammatory compounds.

Oleocanthal, an antioxidant unique to virgin olive oil, has been shown to work much like the well known anti-inflammatory drug, ibuprofen. This phenolic compound is what sometimes gives that irritating sensation at the back of the throat if you consume olive oil directly. Oleocanthal basically works by inhibiting or reducing the circulation of inflammation-causing enzymes and is often considered an alternative treatment for reducing inflammation of the scalp in alopecia patients.

And Finally, Olive Oil Improves the Condition of the Hair

It’s not all about the dandruff. What’s the point of getting rid of dandruff if you’re left with lackluster, dull and brittle hair? Active ingredients in many of the commercially available medicated dandruff shampoos can strip away much of your hair’s natural oils and moisture. When applied to damaged or lifeless hair, olive oil can make it more manageable, softer and easier to style. Mono-unsaturated fatty acids in olive oil coat the damaged outer layers of the shafts of hair, giving them a silky, shiny smoother appearance.

Olive oil can even help in preventing or repairing split ends! There’s no concrete scientific link between split ends and olive oil but olive oil does play a key role in protecting the hair from damage or hygral fatigue; the main cause of split ends and physical hair damage.

A constant cycle of swelling of the hair fibers followed by drying out is caused by the ease with which untreated hairs absorb and diffuse water. Olive oil reverses the process by coating the strands of hair and preventing the absorption and diffusion of water. Less stress on individual strands makes them less vulnerable to breaking, or splitting. Thick compounds in olive oil additionally fill the gaps between cuticles preventing harsh chemicals from penetrating the follicles, therefore promoting better overall hair health.

The Best Olive Oil Methods for Eliminating Dandruff

Now we’ve looked at how olive oil can help clear that embarrassing dandruff, you’re probably itching (excuse the pun!) to give it a try. It’s not just as simple as pouring it from the bottle, leave that for your salads, but can be massaged into the scalp as a warm oil treatment or mixed with other ingredients for maximum effectiveness. Extra virgin olive oil will have the most benefits, and as always it’s wise to check with your healthcare provider before embarking on any new skin or scalp treatment regime.

Olive Oil and Massage

This is perhaps the most simple olive oil method to treat dandruff and other scalp conditions but can be highly effective as it moisturizes the scalp to prevent dryness, itching and irritation.

  1. Simply warm a small bowl of olive oil over a pan of boiling water and apply the oil to the scalp, massaging gently in a circular motion for about five minutes.
  2. Wrap your hair in a warm towel or cotton sheet and leave for 45 minutes or overnight.
  3. Finally, wash your hair with a mild shampoo and dry thoroughly. Repeat daily for a few days until you notice the dandruff has cleared from the scalp.

Olive Oil and Lemon Juice for Dandruff

Lemon juice offers the benefits of citric acid, vitamin C and antioxidants which further help fight dandruff and improve your scalp health. The scalp’s pH is balanced with the acid and will be left refreshed and free of any build up.

  1. Combine 2 parts olive oil and 1 part lemon juice in a small bowl then massage into your scalp working down to the tips of your hair.
  2. Once you’ve fully covered your scalp and hair, keep massaging for another 10 to 15 minutes before leaving the mixture on your head for an additional half an hour.
  3. Rinse off with a mild, preferably sulfate-free, shampoo and follow with a conditioner making sure to apply the conditioner to the middle of the hair strands not touching the scalp.

Repeat two to three times a week until you see an improvement. The citric acid in this formula makes it unsuitable for daily use as it may result in acidic pH environment if performed too regularly.

Egg White and Olive Oil Hair Mask

The enzymes found in egg whites help kill off bacteria and any infection, keeping the scalp healthy while fighting off dandruff. High levels of protein in eggs can also nourish the hair. Just be careful to use cool water when rinsing to avoid ‘cooking the egg’, an omelette in your hair is not a good look!

  1. Mix one egg white with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, making sure the egg is fresh and cold to avoid any odors.
  2. Massage into the scalp and tips of the hair then cover with a shower cap to avoid any messiness.
  3. After 20 minutes, wash your hair with cool water and a mild sulfate-free shampoo. If conditioning after the wash, again avoid putting conditioner on to the scalp.

Repeat once or twice a week until your dandruff has cleared, using a mild shampoo wash in between applications.


These are just three methods. Other combinations can include almond oil which has anti-inflammatory properties, tea tree oil which uses its antibacterial, antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties or honey which moisturizes the hair and is anti-inflammatory and an antiviral agent.

Another option is to include an apple cider vinegar rinse to naturally condition your hair after an olive oil massage or hair mask. The vinegar contains acetic acid to fight off fungal infections while relieving itching and boosts circulation for healthier hair growth.

Next time you’re in the supermarket choosing which oil to buy, select the best-quality extra virgin olive oil you can afford, not only will your food taste better but your scalp health will show definite signs of improvement too.

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