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The dandruff diet – it’s the new way to fight an itchy scalp, according to the internet. But does it work?

There is a lot of information on the internet about the healing power of food. Some commentators recommend using nutritional techniques to cure dandruff. Can these methods actually cure dandruff? And if not, can they at least be used to prevent it?

To figure it out, let’s first look at what causes dandruff.


Dandruff is caused by sensitivity to oleic acid. Living on all of our scalps is a yeast- a single-celled fungus called malassezia.

This organism lives on the natural oils that your scalp produces, leaving oleic acid as a by-product.

Oleic acid irritates the scalps of those sensitive to it. This irritation leads to the classic symptoms of dandruff:

  • Skin flakes are produced, as the body tries to get rid of the acid irritant by increasing the turnover rate of skin cells

  • Redness and itching are caused by oleic acid irritating the skin

So now you know what causes dandruff, can you control it with your dinner?


One of the main arguments for “diet as cure for dandruff” rests on a sort of equivalence.

The theory goes that since dandruff is caused by a yeast, avoiding yeast-laden foods should get rid of dandruff.

The problem is that this theory ignores the fact that there are over 1,000 different species of yeast, and the one that causes dandruff – Malassezia – is not used in cooking (Saccharomyces yeasts are most commonly used in baking & making wine and beer).

And simply by limiting what’s in the gut won’t affect the yeast that naturally lives on your scalp, producing oleic acid.  It also won’t change your individual sensitivity to oleic acid.

For this reason, the best way to get rid of dandruff is a good dandruff shampoo. Used properly, this will help control the symptoms and causes of dandruff, keeping your hair and scalp healthy.

However, just because a change in your diet won’t cure dandruff, it doesn’t mean it can’t benefit your hair and scalp.

There is plenty of evidence to suggest that you can improve the general health of your hair and scalp through your diet:

  • Protein is the foundation of your hair, and will help keep it strong. Eggs, fish, chicken and dairy products are good for getting your daily dose.

  • A lack of iron has been linked to hair loss. Animal products are the easiest sources of iron: fish, chicken and red meat. Vegetarians can turn to lentils, spinach and various leafy greens.

  • Omega-3 fatty acids help keep skin moisturized, and our body can’t make these on its own. Oily fish, avocado and certain nuts are abundant sources

  • Zinc is important for protecting hair and scalp alike, so eat plenty of zinc rich foods like legumes, certain fortified cereals and wholegrains.

A good diet is useful for healthy hair and scalp – but a good shampoo is also essential. A properly formulated shampoo will nourish your scalp and hair, to keep it healthy and strong, all day long.

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