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Worried that what you’re eating might be causing your dandruff? Find out the truth with our guide.

The food we eat does more than just fuel our bodies – it influences everything from our skin to our ability to fight disease. This extends to the health of our hair and scalp.

The question is, can your diet cause dandruff?

Well, the quick answer is ‘no’. But to understand why, we’ll need to look at what dandruff is, as well as our hair and scalp’s relationship to food.


A microscopic fungus called malassezia lives on all of our heads. This yeast- a single-celled fungus - doesn’t do any harm, surviving off the natural oils present on our scalp and leaving oleic acid as a by-product.

Unfortunately, many of us are sensitive to oleic acid. Malassezia’s by-product can irritate the skin, leading to the body fighting back by increasing skin cell turnover.

Basically, your body tries to get rid of the problem by shedding irritated skin.

When this happens, symptoms include:

  • flakes

  • Itchy skin

  • A red, irritated scalp

These are the classic dandruff symptoms. When you use a dandruff shampoo, it’s designed to fight these symptoms; some contain active ingredients like pyrithione zinc that address the  cause of the problem as well.

It’s worth noting that there are other skin conditions that mimic these symptoms, but are distinct from dandruff.


As we’ve noted, food has a profound effect on the body. This fact has been latched on to on the internet, where theories linking dandruff and diet abound.

The most popular theory links yeast heavy foods to an increase in malassazia, leading to dandruff. But that’s not quite how it works.

Just because dandruff is caused by a ‘yeast,’ doesn’t mean eating or drinking yeast-heavy foods will make dandruff flaking worse.  In fact, the yeast used in food and the yeast on your scalp are completely different (saccharomyces, not malassezia)! 

Also, the yeast that you eat will remain in your digestive system, without much change to the microbes on your scalp at all.

So why all the fuss, then?

Well, the truth is that food can affect your scalp – it’s just not the cause of dandruff. A healthy balanced diet rich in zinc, omega-3 fatty acids, protein, and iron will help keep your scalp and hair strong, to help avoid problems like hair damage or dry scalp flaking.

If you do have dandruff, your best bet isn’t to go on a diet. Rather, use a good dandruff shampoo; if you pick the right one, you’ll find that it will moisturize to nourish your scalp and hair, so that it looks better than ever.