Dandruff While Pregnant: Causes, Treatment and Prevention

Dandruff During Pregnancy – Causes and Remedies

Medically Reviewed By
Dr. Swapnil Saxena (Ayurvedic Physician)
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A lot of changes happen to your body when you are pregnant. Although pregnancy can be exciting, these unwanted effects can be harsh on your mental health. One such side effect of being pregnant is dandruff. Dandruff can be an embarrassment aside from being a painful condition for some. And dealing with dandruff during pregnancy can prove to be an added problem. Finding the causes behind the condition and remedies to address it are the keys to managing dandruff during pregnancy. So, don’t worry and sit back! 

Is It Normal to Get Dandruff During Pregnancy?

Dandruff is a scalp-related problem which results in flaking and itchiness. Though this may not be a result of improper hygiene, most people tend to think so. The process of dead skin cells shedding to make way for newer cells is a natural one and happens throughout our lifetime. It is only when the process is faster that the scalp gets covered with flakes, which is what we know as dandruff. Doctors often face this question from their pregnant patients – can pregnancy cause dandruff? The answer is simple. Getting dandruff during pregnancy is quite common and a lot of women have dandruff during pregnancy. Some of the reasons why you may get dandruff while pregnant are given below –  

  • Dandruff may occur because of the presence of a yeast (fungus) called Malassezia, which is found in the oil secretion on the skin
  • An irregular response of the immune system
  • Dandruff may occur due to neurological and psychiatric conditions such as Parkinson’s disease and depression
  • Recovery from stressful medical conditions, such as a heart attack
  • Intake of certain medication

What Causes Dandruff During Pregnancy?

Dandruff is caused when there is excessive growth of skin cells. This could happen due to many reasons, some of which may not be connected to your current pregnant state. Often, it is the hormonal changes that are responsible for this. Let us discuss this in detail:

1. Higher Oil Production

During pregnancy, hormonal changes impact your skin in more ways than one. During these months, your skin will produce more oil, which in turn will lead to the production of newer cells at a higher rate. This is responsible for a speedy build-up of layers of oil, due to which the scalp gets covered with flakes.

2. Increased Sensitivity to Shampoos, Oils, and Conditioners

Major contributors to the appearance of dandruff during pregnancy are hair care products like hair oils, shampoos and conditioners. The uncharacteristic flaking of skin cells is merely a result of a protective response from your skin. Although your skin is used to these products and you haven’t changed the brand of shampoo during pregnancy, it is merely the way your scalp has reacted in a different way that has led to flaking.

3. An Overreaction From the Body

During pregnancy, a woman’s body is ultra-sensitive and because of the low immune strength, the chances of contracting fungal infections are high. During pregnancy, the body becomes extra sensitive and tries to keep itself free from these microorganisms which result in itching or flakes on the scalp.

4. Accumulation of Bile

The accumulation of bile in the skin can cause scalp pruritus, which leads to dandruff. The accumulated bile acid causes the release of inflammatory molecules from the cells, causing an itchy sensation.

5. Changes in Hormonal Levels

Due to reduced hepatic flow during pregnancy, there are sustained levels of hormones and cholesterol in the body. These changes encourage the growth of microbes which sustain and multiply in the skin, causing dandruff.

6. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

Women having PCOS or higher level of male hormones have fluid-filled cysts or sacs in their ovaries. The condition can also lead to dandruff.

7. Chronic Metabolic Disorder

Metabolic disorders may have an effect on the sebaceous glands. The abnormal functioning of these glands can lead to dandruff. 

8. Higher Oil Production 

Pregnancy is linked to an increase in the oil production of the skin. Having oily skin can attract lipophilic fungi such as Malassezia, which could lead to dandruff.

Medicinal Treatment for Pregnancy Dandruff

It is possible to control the outbreak of dandruff during pregnancy, but you may have to endure a few trial-and-error methods before you find the right solution. Apart from the various medicines that your doctor may prescribe if required, shampoos often work when it is a case of mild dandruff. However, since medications can have side effects on the user, it is best to ask your doctor instead of self-medicating. There are a variety of topical creams, gels and sprays available that can provide relief from this irritating condition. They should be taken under medical supervision only, and strict attention should be paid to the dosage and the duration of treatment.

Medicinal Treatment for Pregnancy DandruffIs It Safe to Use Medicated Dandruff Shampoos?

Experiencing dandruff while pregnant or dry scalp during pregnancy is quite common. If regular shampoos are ineffective in treating your condition, dandruff shampoos that are available at medical stores should be a good alternative. You need to use pregnancy-safe dandruff shampoos. Remember that all dandruff shampoos are different, and a little bit of experimentation will be needed before you arrive at one that suits you. In case of any kind of irritation like itching, burning or stinging, or redness, stop its use and speak to your doctor about it.

1. Ketoconazole Shampoos

Ketoconazole is an anti-fungal agent that works when other shampoos prove to be ineffective. It can be purchased over-the-counter, but you can ask your doctor to write a prescription. However, do remember that repeated usage makes the fungus resistant so you must take it after checking with your doctor.

2. Pyrithione Zinc Shampoos

Shampoos that contain zinc pyrithione have anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties. This shampoo can decrease the fungus on your scalp that causes dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis.

3. Selenium Sulfide Shampoos

These shampoos slow down the process of the skin cells dying. Fungicidal activity seen with these shampoos is usually effective. But you must rinse your hair well after shampooing.

4. Tar-Based Shampoos

These shampoos slow down the process of skin cells dying on your scalp and flaking off. Coal tar is a by-product of coal manufacturing which is useful for conditions like dandruff, seborrheic dermatitis, and psoriasis. These shampoos are available in different percentages and can be used depending on the severity of the condition. Your doctor will be able to prescribe the one basis your condition.

How Should You Treat Dandruff Naturally During Pregnancy

The following time-tested remedies have proved to be life savers as far as dandruff and flakes during pregnancy are concerned. Try and find out their effectiveness for yourself. 

1. Apple Cider Vinegar

Used as a purifying scalp treatment for those suffering from dandruff, apple cider vinegar can be effectively used as a natural remedy for dandruff. It won’t prove harmful if applied locally mixed with equal parts of water even during pregnancy. The acidity of vinegar lowers down the scalp pH and makes it unsuitable for dandruff-causing microbes to grow. ACV has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties too that keep the scalp clean by removing the dandruff-causing fungus. You can mix apple cider vinegar with double the quantity of water and apply it on the scalp half an hour prior to shampooing your hair.

Apple Cider Vinegar for Pregnancy dandruff2. Aloe Vera

Your dandruff problem during pregnancy can be easily addressed by aloe vera. It can effectively provide relief from an itchy scalp. Its anti-inflammatory action along with moisture retention properties can help keep the scalp’s natural moisture intact and control dryness and flaky scalp. Its natural anti-fungal properties help remove the yeast and fungus that cause dandruff on the scalp. It is soothing to the scalp and moisturises it, thus removing dead cells on the skin. Aloe vera is packed with a number of cleansing enzymes that are powerful enough to remove dandruff and dead skin cells from the scalp. It can be used as a standalone natural medicine or along with any other natural remedy to eliminate the irritating flakes. Pure aloe vera can be massaged directly onto the scalp for the best results.

3. Garlic and Argan Oil

Garlic has anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties and can be applied on the scalp before shampooing, for about half an hour. Mix some garlic paste, 2- 3 cloves, and a tablespoon of honey in a bowl. You can rub this directly on to your scalp. This will help improve blood flow to the scalp and remove dust, grime and other impurities that get accumulated in the hair. You can also soak some finely-chopped garlic in argan oil and store it in a container. Use this only once in a week – the goodness of garlic to reach your hair and its roots to act effectively.

4. Coconut Oil

Mix 100ml of coconut oil with 10ml of neem oil or 2ml of tea tree essential oil. A mixture of the two can be safely applied over scalp overnight and washed in the morning. You can even leave it for 2 hours before rinsing your hair. This is the most widely used and the safest method for pregnant women to get rid of dandruff.

5. Sea Salt

Add 2-3 tablespoons of pure sea salt to an oil-infused shampoo and gently exfoliate the scalp. Use a conditioner after exfoliation. This treatment will help in treating dry skin, which is the cause of dandruff.

Sea Salt for Pregnancy Dandruff Treatment6. Olive Oil

Olive oil has been used in skin treatments for centuries now. It is commonly used as one of the components in anti-dandruff shampoos. 

7. Sage

A scalp and hair massage with some sage extract can do wonders in the treatment of dandruff. It has traditionally used in the treatment of dandruff and greasy hair. 

Sage8. Rosemary

Rosemary acts as a nourishing conditioner and can help fight dandruff too.

9. Thyme

You can rub thyme onto your scalp to help with dandruff. It is often used with rosemary to keep the hair and scalp healthy. 

Thyme10. Walnuts

Walnut leaves have traditionally been used to treat skin and scalp conditions. It provides a soothing effect on itchy skin. 

Tips to Prevent Dandruff While Pregnant

Since prevention is better than cure, how about taking adequate steps to prevent dandruff in the first place and avoiding the hassles of treating it later? Here are a few useful tips to ensure your pregnancy is dandruff-free:

  • Manage stress: Pregnancy is a difficult time and can give rise to stress. Your skin condition could be a result of various forms of stress and hence, managing it is the key to stay dandruff-free during this period.
  • Manage diet: The inclusion of vitamin B and zinc is absolutely necessary since this not only helps in regenerating skin cells but also boosts the immune strength and maintains metabolic activity in the body. Include bananas, egg yolk, mushrooms and cauliflower in your diet to benefit from their goodness.
  • Care for hair: Use a recommended anti-dandruff shampoo to keep your hair and scalp clean. Wash your hair after you have travelled outside, and allow the shampoo to soak in your hair before you wash it with water. Make sure you dry your hair properly after washing it, as moisture can lead to other forms of skin irritation too.
  • Sleep well: Maintaining a good and healthy sleep cycle can help boost your immunity and give you better skin. 
  • Condition your hair: Keeping your scalp nourished and hydrated is key. Conditioning your hair after shampooing can help prevent dryness and itching. 
  • Choosing the right products: If dandruff is inevitable, you can invest in some anti-dandruff products that suit your scalp.

Haircare forms an important part of our grooming and is absolutely essential during pregnancy. Keeping the scalp and hair clean, maintaining the right diet and keeping stress levels at a minimum can prove to be helpful in treating dandruff.

Resources and References: Livestrong

Also Read:

Hair Fall during Pregnancy
Henna during Pregnancy

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