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Oily Dandruff: How to Effectively Combat It?

While benign, oily dandruff can be a source of daily discomfort. Although they are difficult to treat, there are specific treatments that must be followed to prevent recurrence, as they are only suspensive. In this article, we provide the characteristics of oily dandruff and ways to get rid of it.


A brief reminder about dandruff.

Affecting 1 in 2 people, dandruff is a common imbalance of the scalp. It is easily recognizable: these are scales (or dead cells) that are whitish, yellowish, or grayish on the surface of the scalp. Depending on the type of dandruff, it can either stick to the scalp or fall into the hair and onto clothing. The onset of dandruff begins from puberty.

These flakes are the result of a too rapid renewal of epidermal cells combined with abnormal desquamation. The normal cellular renewal is established on a 28-day rhythm. During this cycle, the epidermal cells finalize their maturation process and naturally eliminate themselves in an invisible manner. When the rhythm of cellular renewal is accelerated, the dead cells formed are not mature enough to eliminate themselves, so they clump together, thus forming dandruff.

Although the mechanism of accelerated cell renewal that causes dandruff is well understood, theorigin of dandruff remains a topic of debate. Indeed, the proliferation of microorganisms (Malassezia fungus), genetic predisposition, and excess sebum are the main causes identified. However, there are other factors that promote the appearance of dandruff (diet, moments of stress...).

Although they are benign, dandruff can impair the quality of life of those affected due to itching and the "neglected" appearance they reflect. Moreover, it can be particularly challenging to eliminate. Therefore, it is crucial to accurately differentiate the two types of dandruff that exist in order to best remedy them!

How to identify oily dandruff?

As mentioned earlier, there are two different types of dandruff: oily dandruff and dry dandruff. The question that arises is: how to identify oily dandruff?

Oily dandruff is observed on oily scalps. Indeed, it appears due to an excess of sebum , which is a contributing factor to dandruff. Moreover, sebum provides a nutritious environment for the proliferation of Malassezia type fungi , which are responsible for dandruff.

Unlike dry dandruff, which does not stick to the scalp, oily dandruff remains adhered. Moreover, it tends to itch more than dry dandruff.

Note : Seborrheic dermatitis can, in some cases, be the underlying cause of the appearance of oily dandruff. In this case, the scales are numerous, thick, and sticky. There is also the presence of red patches that are accompanied by feelings of itching and burning. Seborrheic dermatitis can affect all areas rich in sebum (beard, creases around the nostrils, fold under the inner lip, behind the ears and in the external auditory canals, at the level of the eyebrows...). Thus, dandruff related to this skin condition is not limited only to the scalp, unlike normal dandruff.

Which ingredients help combat oily dandruff?

To eliminate oily dandruff, it is necessary to use a mild shampoo that is specifically designed to address this issue. Anti-dandruff shampoos contain certain key active ingredients.

  • Antifungal agents.

One of the primary causes of dandruff formation is the colonization by Malassezia type fungi. Therefore, antifungal agents are necessary to effectively eliminate dandruff. Among these, we can mention piroctone olamine, ciclopirox, or even ketoconazole.

Take note : Zinc pyrithione is an antifungal, antibacterial, and anti-seborrheic active ingredient found in many anti-dandruff shampoos. However, it is now banned in Europe due to its carcinogenic risk.

  • Keratolytic agents.

Dandruff consists of small scales or immature dead cells that cannot naturally be eliminated. Therefore, keratolytic agents are used to effectively remove these dead cells. For instance, glycolic acid, salicylic acid, gluconolactone , or lactic acid are often found in anti-dandruff shampoos.

  • The soothing agents.

Dandruff often goes hand in hand with itching. Indeed, this is especially common for oily dandruff. Soothing active ingredients such as the bisabolol or calendula can help to calm and alleviate the sensations of itching.

  • Anti-seborrheic active ingredients.

It has been proven that the two major causes of dandruff are the colonization of the scalp by microorganisms and the overproduction of sebum, particularly in the case of oily dandruff. Additionally, hyperseborrhea promotes the proliferation of fungi responsible for dandruff. Therefore, the use of anti-seborrheic active ingredients such as zinc, nettle extract, or certain essential oils (essential oil of clary sage, ylang-ylang, and rosemary verbenone) is beneficial in combating dandruff.

  • The nourishing, hydrating, and rebalancing active ingredients.

Individual factors also play a significant role in the formation of dandruff. This is particularly true for individuals with a dysfunctional skin barrier. An imbalance in the barrier function leads to an increase in sebum secretion by the sebaceous glands and promotes the colonization of the scalp by Malassezia-type fungi. Therefore, to strengthen the skin barrier, nourishing and hydrating actives such as squalane or aloe vera are used.

Note : Studies have highlighted a connection between dandruff and dysbiosis (imbalance) of the bacterial and fungal flora of the scalp. The findings suggest a new potential role of commensal bacteria in maintaining scalp homeostasis and underscore an important and yet unknown role of the scalp microbiome. As a result, the use of prebiotics in anti-dandruff shampoos is very promising for supporting the microbiota and keeping Malassezia under control.

In the case of oily dandruff, antifungal, anti-proliferative, and sebum-regulating agents are particularly beneficial.

Our two products for the long-term elimination of oily dandruff.

We propose a combination of two treatments to combat your oily dandruff: the anti-dandruff shampoo and the purifying scalp treatment.

  • Anti-dandruff shampoo.

Dandruff requires the use of a suitable mild shampoo. Our anti-dandruff shampoo is suitable for both oily and dry dandruff. It is formulated with1% of piroctone olamine which has antifungal activity and limits sebum secretion. It also containsjujube extract which regulates desquamation and thus reduces dandruff formation. It also soothes itching and irritation. In addition to this, this treatment contains essential oils of atlas cedar and clary sage known for their anti-dandruff and sebum-regulating actions.

Apply our shampoo from root to tip and wash your hair, making sure to thoroughly massage the scalp.

  • Purifying scalp treatment.

As a reminder, oily dandruff is caused by an excess of sebum. Therefore, to get rid of it permanently, one must rely on sebum-regulating active ingredients. Our purifying scalp treatment is composed of 4% zinc PCA and nettle extract , which are known for their purifying and sebum-regulating properties. In addition to this, it contains essential oils of peppermint and eucalyptus globulus . Thanks to their antibacterial and antifungal virtues, these help to sanitize the scalp by fighting against the proliferation of microorganisms responsible for dandruff.

Apply one to two pipettes over the entiredry scalponce a day, in the morning or evening, and massage. This treatmentdoes not need to be rinsed out.


  • Luis J. Borda & Tongyu C. Wikramanayake, Seborrheic Dermatitis and Dandruff: A Comprehensive Review (2015)


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