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What Is the Connection between Pregnancy and Dandruff?

By Britt Archer
Updated May 21, 2024
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Pregnancy and dandruff go hand in hand for some women, to their dismay. Rather than experiencing the expected glow of pregnancy, they discover that their skin has become uncomfortably dry, thanks to normal hormonal fluctuations prompted by pregnancy. This condition also extends to the scalp, and a dry scalp can lead to flakes and dandruff. The relationship between pregnancy and dandruff, although normal, doesn't have to ruin the pregnancy experience. Certain dandruff shampoos can help, although some dandruff shampoos on the market should be avoided while a woman is pregnant because of worries over effects on the developing fetus.

Dandruff shampoos that contain the active ingredient selenium sulfide are considered safe for use on the scalp by pregnant women. Use of selenium sulfide on other parts of the body, however, is discouraged because the body can absorb the ingredient through the skin. Thought to be generally safe, selenium sulfide does have side effects, including skin oiliness and dryness, as well as irritation. The use of these types of shampoos can be continued after worries over pregnancy and dandruff have faded, because there have been no reports of medical concerns with regard to breastfeeding.

Experts recommend that women who are concerned with pregnancy and dandruff problems avoid coal tar, which is contained in some dandruff shampoos. Pregnant women also should avoid applying a coal tar product or medication to the skin for the treatment of psoriasis. No studies on coal tar and pregnancy have been performed, but coal tar is known to adversely affect cellular turnover.

Pregnancy nutritionists recommend natural methods such as applying apple cider vinegar or aloe vera to your scalp to remove dandruff. 

Mash a few garlic cloves and mix with some honey to form a paste. Work this solution through your scalp and let it sit for a half hour before rinsing with water and washing your hair as usual. The ajoene in garlic is the active ingredient that contains antifungal properties to remove dandruff.

Combining coconut oil with tea tree or neem oil can also decrease dandruff. Keep it on your scalp for at least two hours for effective scalp removal.

Pyrithione zinc is a popular dandruff-fighting ingredient in some shampoos. This ingredient also is found in body soap used to treat an inflammatory condition, seborrheic dermatitis. It is considered safe for use by pregnant women, although it can be a skin irritant.

Some shampoos contain an antifungal ingredient called ketoconazole. Pregnant women should probably stay away from this ingredient because safety for the fetus may be a concern, but more studies are needed to confirm this. Women who want to use a shampoo that contains ketoconazole should consult their doctors, and together they can determine if the risk is worth the possible benefit. Ketoconazole adversely affects yeast and fungi membranes as it attempts to kill them.

Hormones in pregnancy can cause many changes to the skin and body. Women don’t have to suffer with these problems and irritations. Often it only takes a conversation with their doctors to find an acceptable solution that will harm neither mother nor baby. Sometimes there are other causes of dandruff that can be investigated or ruled out.

BeautyAnswered is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

By bear78 — On Jul 06, 2013

@ddljohn-- I didn't have dandruff during pregnancy so I guess it depends on the individual. Do you alternate shampoos? I heard that's good for dandruff.

By ysmina — On Jul 06, 2013

@ddljohn-- Hey, it's very normal to experience these kinds of changes during pregnancy, it should go back to normal after giving birth. It can take some time for the hormones to settle and breastfeeding can prolong some issues, so you might have to be patient about it.

I had dandruff with both of my pregnancies. I didn't use any dandruff treatments or shampoos either, but I did use coconut oil. Coconut oil is safe to use topically during pregnancy. I applied pure coconut oil on my scalp once a week like a mask and washed it off after fifteen or twenty minutes. Coconut oil is very moisturizing and it treats dandruff quickly.

By ddljohn — On Jul 05, 2013

I would have never thought that pregnancy would cause me to get dandruff but that's what happened. I never had dandruff before, and I have always had a healthy scalp and skin, so it has been a shock. It does annoy me but I don't want to take risks with dandruff treatments and shampoos, so I'm not doing anything about it. I'm hoping it will disappear once I give birth.

Has anyone else experienced dandruff during pregnancy? Did it resolve afterward?

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