How to Find the BEST Dandruff Shampoo for African American Hair in 2022

Have you been struggling to find the best dandruff shampoo for African American hair? 

Trust me, I understand the struggle!

Dealing with dandruff can be not just annoying, but also embarrassing. So today I'm going to give you the scoop on how to rid of dandruff for good. 

What is Dandruff?

Dandruff is a common scalp condition where small pieces of skin flake and fall from the scalp. This condition is mild and is not contagious, but of course no one wants dandruff flakes showing up in their hair and on their clothes.


african american braided hair with dandruff flakes that need the best shampoo

Dandruff often gets confused with other scalp conditions like fungal infections, psoriasis, and eczema. These conditions have different causes and are more severe than dandruff.

Dandruff can be caused by overproduction of scalp oils, dry skin, cold weather, an overgrowth of yeast on the scalp, and irritation from hair products. 

Dandruff vs. Dry Scalp

Another source of confusion is distinguishing dandruff from simple dry scalp. Dandruff is a mild form of a condition called seborrheic dermatitis, which is characterized by excess oil production or buildup on the scalp.

Seborrheic dermatitis causes scaly, red patches on the scalp, eyebrows, ears, or chest.

Dry scalp is a simple lack of moisture in the skin, similar to how our skin looks on our arms or legs when they get dry. This can also cause flaking on the scalp, but is easily relieved by washing the hair and moisturizing the scalp.

Often we refer to all scalp flaking as dandruff, when we really are dealing with dry scalp. Most black people have drier skin on their scalps vs having oily scalps. This is why we normally wash our hair once a week to once a month instead of daily.

Why it's important to know if you have dandruff or dry scalp

So it’s important to determine whether your scalp condition is dandruff, dry scalp, or something else because the treatment will be different depending on the cause.

In some cases you may have to try multiple different remedies to find one that works for you.

If you are unsure which scalp condition you have, the best course of action is to see a dermatologist. Once you have an accurate diagnosis it will be much easier to decide on a course of action to get your scalp back to a healthy state.

Why do hair products make my scalp itch?

When treating your scalp condition, it is important to take a look at your hair products and get rid of anything that could be causing scalp irritation.

Even if your dandruff or dermatitis is not caused by your hair products, you don’t want to make your condition worse by applying products that cause further inflammation.

dandruff on african american scalp and hair

When choosing hair products, we should all be avoiding ingredients that cause irritation and inflammation, but if you are managing a scalp condition like dandruff or psoriasis, you want to be extra careful about what you’re putting on your scalp.

What ingredients cause scalp irritation?

Here are a few ingredients that you should avoid in order to prevent scalp irritation:

  • Avoid parabens like methylparaben or propylparaben
  • Stay away from artificial fragrances and dyes
  • Don’t use shampoos with harsh detergents like sulfates
  • Look for products with natural or organic ingredients, mild cleansers, and natural essential oil fragrances

You also want to avoid products that contain drying alcohols like isopropyl alcohol or denatured alcohol. These alcohols are commonly found in hair sprays and gels.

How to prevent dandruff in black hair

Managing stress and eating nutritious foods are great for overall health and for preventing dandruff flare ups. You can also prevent dandruff by limiting your use of hair products that irritate your scalp, as mentioned above.

Additionally, make sure that you are cleansing your scalp regularly – once a week is ideal. This way you can avoid product buildup on your scalp that can irritate your skin and lead to flakes.

If you do have an oily scalp, you’ll want to wash your hair more often. On the other hand, if you have dry scalp, washing more frequently can make the condition worse.

The Best Dandruff treatments for black hair

The most common treatment for dandruff is an anti-dandruff shampoo. These shampoos may contain coal tar, salicylic acid, sulfur, ketoconazole, or zinc.

The problem with these products is that in addition to the active ingredient, they also contain ingredients like drying alcohols, sulfates, and parabens, which are on our no-no list from above.

These products are effective at preventing dandruff, but they can also wreak havoc on curly hair, which already tends to be dry.

Alternatives to anti-dandruff shampoos

So what else can we do besides strip our hair dry with harsh anti-dandruff shampoos?

There are quite a few home remedies that you can try in order to get your scalp condition under control.

black woman shampooing dandruff from african american hairhair

Of course none of these methods are guaranteed to work, but if they do work for you, it may be a more effective and more gentle treatment than what you can find at the drug store.

1. Essential Oils

Essential oils have been used for thousands of years to treat various skin conditions from acne to wrinkles, and for some, these treatments are also effective for treating scalp conditions.

The best essential oils to use are those that are known to have anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal properties.

Oils like tea tree, peppermint, rosemary, thyme, and cedarwood are known for their anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties and can be helpful at eliminating dandruff.

For dry scalp, geranium, lavender, and lemongrass work well at restoring moisture balance to the scalp.

All of these oils can be found in Indara Naturals Organic Growth Oils.

How to use essential oils for the scalp

Essential oils should never be used directly on the skin. These potent oils must always be diluted with a carrier oil like grapeseed or jojoba before they come into contact with your skin, otherwise they can cause skin irritation.

There are two ways to use essential oils on your scalp.

Massage the oil into your scalp

The first way is to massage the essential oil blend into your scalp after washing your hair. This normally occurs as the final step in your wash day routine.

You would apply a small amount of oil to your scalp and massage it in for 3-5 minutes. The oil can be reapplied every 3-5 days depending on your scalp’s needs.

This works well for dry scalp, and may work for other scalp conditions depending on the cause of the condition and your body’s natural chemistry.

Use the oil as a pre-treatment

The second way to use essential oils is to use the oil prior to washing your hair.

For certain conditions like dandruff caused by excess oil production, using oils on your scalp during the week could make the condition worse. In this case, you can still get the benefit of using essential oils but you would not use them as often.

Under these circumstances, you can use the essential oils as a pre-wash treatment. Apply a small amount of oil to your scalp and massage it in for 3-5 minutes.

Allow the oil to penetrate your scalp for at least 30 minutes to 1 hour, and then cleanse your hair as normal.

Indara Naturals Organic Growth Oils are formulated with pure, organic essential oils and do not contain any fillers, preservatives, or artificial fragrances.


indara naturals growth oil for dandruff in african american hair


2. Aloe Vera

Aloe vera is also well known for its scalp healing properties. Aloe can be used to treat burns, rashes, psoriasis, and other skin conditions.

aloe vera plant soothes dandruff in african american hairThis unique plant has anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, and anti-inflammatory components that are beneficial for your scalp as well as hydrating your hair strands.

Organic aloe vera is an essential ingredient in the Indara Naturals product line. It can be found in our Ayurvedic Clay Wash, Honey Hibiscus Deep Conditioner, and our Argan Aloe Leave In Conditioner.

3. Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is another natural ingredient that has shown promise in treating dandruff and dry scalp. The acidity of apple cider vinegar can help remove dead skin from the scalp as well as preventing the overgrowth of fungus on the scalp.

Apple cider vinegar is also a key ingredient in our Indara Naturals Ayurvedic Clay Wash.


Dandruff and other scalp conditions can cause embarrassing flakes, itching, and scaly patches on the scalp. The best way to treat these conditions is to visit a dermatologist and get a definitive diagnosis as well as a treatment plan that is specific to your needs.

If you find that anti-dandruff shampoos are too harsh for your hair and scalp, you may want to try natural remedies to see if they will work for you.

These methods may also be used in combination with your prescribed shampoo, if your dermatologist thinks they will be helpful.

Keep in mind that you may have to try different treatments, or different combinations of treatments before you find something that works for your scalp and hair.

While you are treating your scalp, be sure that you are not using any hair products that will exacerbate your condition.

This means staying away from any products that contain harsh chemicals, drying alcohols, and artificial fragrances that can cause increased irritation and inflammation.

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Orginal article published 11/24/21. Updated 4/25/22.

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