Goodbye Dandruff? Tea tree shampoo found effective

If you’re struggling with dandruff, help may be as close as your nearest health and nutrition store, according to Australian researchers. They report that adults with dandruff saw significant improvement in their symptoms by washing their hair once a day with a shampoo containing 5% tea tree oil. The researchers believe that tea tree oil helps kill a specific type of fungus that is thought to be the underlying cause of dandruff. Dandruff is a condition of the skin, characterized by flakiness, dryness and itching of the scalp.

The study involved 126 people aged 14 years and older with dandruff who were randomly assigned to wash their hair once a day with shampoo containing 5% tea tree oil or the same shampoo without the tea tree oil for 30 days. The affected area and severity of dandruff were measured initially and after two and four weeks. Participants also rated the degree of scaliness, itchiness and greasiness of their scalps.

The researchers found that the affected area and severity of dandruff significantly decreased by 28% and 23%, respectively, in the group using tea tree oil shampoo. Those using the placebo shampoo only saw a 13% reduction in the affected area and a 3% drop in severity. The tea tree oil group also reported a 23% reductions in itchiness (versus 12% in placebo) and 26% reduction in greasiness of the scalp (versus 8% in placebo).

The researchers conclude that “5% tea tree oil appears to effective and well tolerated in the treatment of dandruff” and that the results may be even better if the shampoo is applied for a longer period.

Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology 2002;47:852–5