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There’s a lot of speculation online about the link between dandruff and alcohol. Find out if it’s justified with our guide.

If a casual Google search is to be believed, alcohol absolutely causes dandruff. But it’s not quite that simple.

To understand the link between alcohol and dandruff, you first need to look at what dandruff is, and the effect of alcohol on your hair and scalp.

What is dandruff?

Dandruff is caused by a microbe called Malassezia globosa, which exists on everybody’s scalp.

It feeds on scalp oils, leaving oleic acid as a by-product. For half the world’s population that’s a problem, as 1 in 2 people are sensitive to oleic acid.

When this happens, your scalp responds by increasing how quickly it produces and sheds skin cells, leading to:

  • white flakes in your hair

  • itchiness

  • irritation

This is dandruff, and while the cause is always the same, there are certain factors which can trigger or make it worse:

  • hormonal changes

  • stress

  • excess oil on the scalp

  • not washing hair properly, or often enough

Alcohol, however, isn’t on the list of causes.

So where did the supposed link come from?

Alcohol and your scalp

Drinking alcohol can cause a lot of problems for your body. And that includes your scalp.

The main problem for your scalp is that alcohol is a diuretic.

It causes your kidneys to remove excess water from your system, along with much-needed nutrients and electrolytes. Its dehydrating effects are the reason you wake up with a headache after a party.

But alcohol affects your skin as well, leaving you with:

  • dried out skin

  • bloating

  • redness

Save your flaky scalp

All of this leaves us with 2 conclusions:

  • alcohol isn’t responsible for your dandruff

  • alcohol can dry out the skin, and could make a flaking problem worse.

To fix your dry scalp, it’s a good idea to drink less alcohol and more water. In the meantime, regularly using a good dandruff shampoo will help by clearing away visible flakes and moisturizing your scalp.

And, if it turns out that you do have dandruff, an anti-dandruff shampoo is still the best way to clear things up.

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