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Oily Dandruff: How to Effectively Combat It?

Although benign, oily dandruff can be a source of daily discomfort. Despite being challenging 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 recognisable: these are flakes (or dead cells) that are whitish, yellowish or greyish on the surface of the scalp. Depending on the type of dandruff, they can either stick to the scalp or fall into the hair and onto clothing. The onset of dandruff occurs from puberty.

These flakes are the result of a too rapid renewal of epidermal cells coupled with abnormal desquamation. The normal cellular renewal is established on a 28-day rhythm. During this cycle, the epidermal cells complete 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, they therefore clump together, thus forming dandruff.

Although the mechanism of accelerated cell renewal causing 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 harmless, dandruff can impair the quality of life of those affected due to the itchiness and the "neglected" appearance they reflect. Moreover, they 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 to it. Moreover, it tends to itch more than dry dandruff.

Take 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 which are accompanied by feelings of itching and burning. Seborrheic dermatitis can affect all areas rich in sebum (beard, grooves 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 to combat oily dandruff?

To eliminate oily dandruff, it is necessary to use a gentle 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 colonisation by Malassezia type fungi. Therefore, antifungal agents are necessary to effectively eliminate dandruff. Among these, we can mention piroctone olamine, ciclopirox, or even ketoconazole.

Please 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 is composed 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 particularly common for oily dandruff. Soothing active ingredients such as the bisabolol or calendula can help to calm and alleviate itching sensations.

  • The anti-seborrheic agents.

It has been proven that the two major causes of dandruff are the colonisation of the scalp by microorganisms and the overproduction of sebum, particularly in the case of oily dandruff. Furthermore, hyperseborrhoea promotes the proliferation of fungi responsible for dandruff. Therefore, the use of anti-seborrhoeic active ingredients such as zinc, nettle extract or certain essential oils (essential oil of clary sage, ylang-ylang, 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 the case 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 colonisation 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 link between dandruff and dysbiosis (imbalance) of the bacterial and fungal flora of the scalp. The results indicate a potential new role for commensal bacteria in maintaining scalp homeostasis and highlight an important and yet unknown role of the scalp microbiome. As a result, the use of prebiotics in anti-dandruff shampoos is very interesting to support the microbiota and keep Malassezia under control.

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

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

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

  • Anti-dandruff shampoo.

Dandruff requires the use of a suitable gentle 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 the formation of dandruff. 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, taking care 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, they help to sanitise 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 require rinsing.


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


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