Duchess Gummy Buns says:
I saw on this hair blog that if you have dandruff you should avoid putting natural oils on your scalp because it would make it worse. If this is true, I am so sad because I really loved massaging oil into my scalp but I wonder if that’s why my dandruff is still in a certain spot on my scalp and won’t be relieved by any dandruff shampoos that I have been trying?
The Beauty Brains respond:
Natural oils like coconut, shea butter, and others contain a chemical known as oleic acid. To understand the effect of oleic acid on your scalp we have to talk a little bit about the causes of dandruff.
Causes of dandruff
We know from the technical literature there are three key factors that determine if you’ll have dandruff: the activity of Malassezia fungi, the presence of sebaceous secretions, and your own individual sensitivity.
These fungi break down the triglycerides (fatty oils) from your scalp and release fatty acids. Recent research by P&G has shown that the fungi prefer saturated fatty acids which means they leave behind the unsaturated fatty acids, like oleic acid. The structure of these unsaturated fatty acids allow them to penetrate the skin’s natural barrier where they trigger an irritation response that leads to flaking and itching.
Oleic acid can exacerbate dandruff
Ok so we know the fungi won’t feed on oleic acid but the oleic acid itself can be irritating, right? It depends! The key is the third piece of the puzzle: the “individual sensitivity.” If you’re not prone to dandruff and you’re using coconut oil to strengthen your hair, it may not matter how much of the oleic acid containing oils you use. You may experience more benefit than risk. However, the situation could be reversed if you are prone to itchy, flaky scalp. Additional oleic acid could make things worse, based on what we’ve read. We realize that this may not be a fully satisfactory explanation but it did allow us to use the word “exacerbate.”
The Beauty Brains bottom line
Natural oils may not be for everyone because they contain oleic acid which can worsen dandruff symptoms.