Dandruff During Pregnancy: Causes, Treatment And Home Remedies

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Dandruff is a common scalp condition, resulting in the scaling of the skin from the scalp and forming a new skin layer. Although natural, dandruff during pregnancy could be aggravated by fungal infections and hormonal changes. It could also result from certain hair products, and following some precautions could help prevent dandruff (1) (2). The condition is treatable and manageable when you follow the right measures

Learn about the causes, treatment management, and preventive measures of dandruff in pregnancy.

How Common Is Dandruff During Pregnancy?

Dandruff is a hair and scalp issue, which occurs in response to the changes in hormonal levels during pregnancy (2) (3). The condition is common among pregnant women, and statistics show its prevalence is around 50% of the general population (1). But, there is limited information regarding the prevalence of dandruff during pregnancy.

What Are The Causes Of Dandruff During Pregnancy?

Some possible causes of having dandruff during pregnancy are (1) (3) (4) (5):

  • Sensitive scalp: Having a vulnerable scalp easily attracts infections and irritation that follows dandruff.
  • Fungal infection: Fungal infection from fungi, such as Malassezia furfur, may cause dandruff during pregnancy.
  • Accumulation of bile: Dandruff comes with scalp pruritus (itchy skin irritation) that may result from bile acid accumulation in the skin and serum in case of obstetric cholestasis of pregnancy. The accumulated bile acid may cause the release of inflammatory molecules from the cells, causing an itchy sensation.
  • Changes in hormonal levels: A reduced hepatic blood flow during pregnancy may be causing sustained levels of hormones and cholesterol in the body. These changes are essential for the microbes to sustain and multiply in the skin, causing dandruff.
  • Higher oil production: Pregnancy may be associated with higher oil production in the skin. Having oily skin may attract lipophilic fungi such as Malassezia, which could lead to dandruff.
  • Use of skin irritant products: Continuous use of skin irritants such as shampoos, oils, and conditioners may continuously irritate the scalp resulting in dandruff. In addition, there is a lack of evidence about the safety and side effects of various hair care products. Self-medication and trials of various hair care products may promote fungal infection and dandruff.
  • Chronic metabolic disorder: Metabolic disorders may have a detrimental effect on the sebaceous glands (oil-producing). The abnormal functioning of these glands can contribute to an increase in dandruff.
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS): According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), women having higher production of male hormone may lead to the formation of cysts (fluid-filled sacs) inside the ovaries. This condition could lead to dandruff.

How Is Dandruff During Pregnancy Treated?

If you are planning to use an anti-dandruff shampoo, it would be ideal taking suggestions from a doctor (6) (7) (8):

  • Nizoral-containing shampoo is not known to have any harmful effects during pregnancy.
  • Topical corticosteroids are effective against fungal infection of the scalp with rare side effects. They are considered safe to use during pregnancy but should be used when it’s beneficial and as prescribed by a dermatologist.

As every skin is different, there is no one-for-all treatment for dandruff. Check with your doctor before adhering to self-medication (9) (10) (11).

  • Antifungal medications include ciclopirox olamine.
  • Corticosteroid creams and ointments offer relief from itchiness.
  • Antidandruff shampoos including combinations of salicylic acid, sulfur, zinc pyrithione, tar, selenium sulfide, ketoconazole, ciclopirox, and clobetasol.

How To Treat Dandruff Naturally During Pregnancy?

Some of the naturopathic agents you may use to control dandruff during pregnancy are (12) (13) (14) (15) (16):

  • Olive oil: Since ancient times, olive oil has been used for the treatment of skin conditions. It is one of the components in several dandruff treatment products.
  • Sage: A hair and scalp massage with sage (Salvia officinalis) extract is beneficial for dandruff and greasy hair from traditional times.
  • Rosemary: Rosemary works as a hair conditioner, and it can prevent dandruff.
  • Thyme: Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) is used to rub the scalp. Combining rosemary with thyme helps maintain healthy hair and scalp.
  • Garlic: The lotion of garlic (Allium sativum) is used to control dandruff.
  • Walnut: The walnut (Juglans regia) leaves are used as traditional medicine for skin and dandruff treatment. It has a soothing effect on itching.
  • Apple cider vinegar: Apple cider vinegar is a natural antifungal agent, and it is known to soothe the scalp and prevent dandruff.
  • Aloe vera: Massaging aloe vera extract to the scalp may help prevent itching due to dandruff.
  • Coconut oil: Coconut oil is widely used for healthy skin and hair. It penetrates the hair shaft and nurtures the hair.
  • Sea salt: Sea salt mixed with essential oils can be used as a scalp scrub to treat dandruff.
  • Tea tree oil: The essential oil distilled from the tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) is used for hair and skin care products. It is a well-known antibacterial and antifungal agent. However, there is evidence of allergic reaction on applying to sensitive skin in rare cases.
  • Fenugreek seeds: The seeds of fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graeceum) have been widely used to treat severe skin inflammations and dandruff.
  • Neem: Neem oil is considered an effective remedy for dandruff and dry scalp. It has antimicrobial properties to promote hair growth.

Can You Prevent Dandruff During Pregnancy?

Dandruff is a preventable condition. Some tips to help prevent dandruff while pregnant are (17):

  • Manage stress: Most women experience stress during pregnancy. Stress-induced hormonal changes might affect your hair and scalp resulting in dandruff. Find ways to overcome stress and stay calm.
  • Eat a balanced diet: A healthy and nutritious diet rich in minerals and vitamins is a prerequisite for healthy hair and scalp.
  • Sleep well: Maintaining a regular sleep cycle can help you have good immunity and better skin quality.
  • Use hair conditioner: Conditioning your hair after using a shampoo can keep your hair and scalp hydrated and nourished, thereby preventing itchy scalp and dandruff.

Dandruff during pregnancy is irritating and may lead to emotional stress. The fluctuating hormonal levels in pregnancy can affect the moisture, lipid, and byproducts in the skin and serum. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle with a diet, hair care regime, and sleep management could help prevent dandruff.

Key Pointers

  • Factors such as increased oil production, accumulation of bile, and hormonal fluctuations may result in dandruff during pregnancy.
  • It is harmless and can be treated with certain ointments, antifungal medications, and shampoos after consulting with your doctor.
  • You may try different effective home remedies or preventive measures for a natural approach.

References:

MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
  1. A New Postulate on Two Stages of Dandruff: A Clinical Perspective.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3129121/
  2. Why do flakes appear on the head? Dandruff: causes, prevention, treatment Dandruff flakes causes and treatment.
    https://lasiea.ru/en/pochemu-poyavlyayutsya-hlopya-na-golove-perhot-prichiny-profilaktika-lechenie.html
  3. Clinical study of skin changes in low and high risk pregnant women.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4689069/
  4. Common Reproductive Health Concerns for Women.
    https://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/womensrh/healthconcerns.html
  5. Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome.
    https://www.eatright.org/health/pregnancy/fertility-and-reproduction/polycystic-ovarian-syndrome
  6. Nizoral Antidandruff Shampoo.
    https://www.medicines.org.uk/emc/product/6456/smpc#PREGNANCY
  7. Topical anti‐inflammatory agents for seborrhoeic dermatitis of the face or scalp.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6483543/
  8. Topical corticosteroids.
    https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/topical-steroids/
  9. DANDRUFF: THE MOST COMMERCIALLY EXPLOITED SKIN DISEASE.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2887514/
  10. Changes in fungal ultrastructure after short-course ciclopiroxolamine therapy in pityriasis versicolor.
    https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1365-2230.1990.tb02040.x?sid=nlm%3Apubmed
  11. What is the best way to treat severe dandruff?
    https://www.health.harvard.edu/skin-and-hair/what-is-the-best-way-to-treat-severe-dandruff
  12. Plants used in cosmetics.
    https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ptr.1363
  13. Herbal Hair Cosmetics – An Overview.
    https://www.wjpsonline.org/admin/uploads/tAax0z.pdf
  14. How to Use Apple Cider Vinegar for Hair Care: Benefits and Hair Rinse Guide.
    https://utopia.org/guide/apple-cider-vinegar-for-hair/
  15. Home Remedies for Dandruff.
    https://jamaicahospital.org/newsletter/home-remedies-for-dandruff/
  16. Get a more effective scalp exfoliating treatment with these natural oils.
    https://www.naturaloilsforhair.net/2015/11/get-a-more-effective-scalp-exfoliating-treatment-with-these-natural-oils.html
  17. Dandruff and itching scalp.
    https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/dandruff-and-itching-scalp
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Anshuman Mohapatra

Anshuman Mohapatra is a biotechnology scientist with more than six years of research experience in analytical chemistry and biotechnology. He has submitted his PhD thesis at the Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati (IIT Guwahati) and served as a research fellow (JRF/SRF) during his PhD tenure. His research interest includes analytical chemistry, neurobiology and lipid disorder diseases. Three of his research... more

Dr. Richa Hatila Singh

(MS)
Dr. Richa Hatila is an experienced gynecologist practising in Varanasi. She did her MS in Obstetrics and Gynaecology, DNB, and a Fellowship in Laparoscopic surgeries (FMAS). She is currently associated with Shubham Hospital and Sah Speciality Clinic in Varanasi.