How to Treat Beard Dandruff

Medically Reviewed by Stephanie S. Gardner, MD on April 27, 2023
3 min read

‌Just as you can get dry, flaky skin on your scalp, it is possible to get dandruff in your beard. You may not have skin problems on your face until you grow a beard. Then dandruff makes an appearance. How can you treat dandruff without shaving your beard? 

Seborrheic dermatitis is the most common cause of beard dandruff. It may leave you feeling as though you don’t have good hygiene. Dandruff is actually caused by yeast growth on your skin called Malassezia.

Your body’s response to this yeast results in red skin that becomes scaly and flaky. While you cannot completely get rid of the condition, you can treat the symptoms.

Choose a shampoo. There are many dandruff shampoos on the market claiming to solve your dandruff problems. Look for one that contains the active ingredient 1% ketoconazole.

Ketoconazole is an antifungal medication that helps to kill fungus and yeast and prevent them from growing back. You can find it over-the-counter, but strong doses of the shampoo may require a prescription from your doctor.

Shampoos that contain selenium sulfide or pyrithione zinc may also help to treat your dandruff. It may take some trial and error to find the active ingredient that works best for your skin conditions and symptoms.

Apply to your skin. For best results, massage the shampoo into your beard five minutes before showering. Apply it to your dry skin without any water. Be sure to massage the shampoo in so it reaches your skin below your beard.

Rinse. Once in the shower, rinse your skin thoroughly. If you want, you can apply the shampoo a second time, although it is not necessary. Make sure you rinse your beard thoroughly, leaving no shampoo residue behind.

Repeat. Continue use of the shampoo as needed. Many doctors found that patients’ skin conditions cleared up temporarily only to return after stopping use of the shampoo. Once you have the skin condition under control, you may be able to use the shampoo with less frequency for maintenance.

Understand seborrheic dermatitis. If your beard is itchy or just doesn’t feel quite right, you may be wondering if it is dandruff or something else. Signs of seborrheic dermatitis include: 

  • Skin flakes, also known as dandruff‌
  • Patches of greasy skin
  • Appearance of white or yellow scales or crust
  • Skin that stays red‌
  • Persistent itching

You should see your doctor immediately if you have any of these symptoms:

  • Loss of sleep or the ability to function normally because your symptoms are so distracting
  • The dandruff and scales are obvious enough that they cause you to feel embarrassed or anxious‌
  • Your skin is showing signs of infection
  • Home remedies and over-the-counter shampoos are not improving your symptoms

Avoid petroleum jelly. Many patients think that the flakes and scales associated with dandruff require moisturizing. This is not the case. Petroleum jelly is a popular choice, but it may actually make your beard dandruff worse.

Maintain a healthy beard. Care for your beard doesn’t stop at shampooing it regularly. You can help prevent beard dandruff by keeping your skin and beard healthy:

  • Grow it out. It takes time to grow a beard. If you’re in the early stages, don’t give up yet. Put your razor and clippers away, allowing your beard to grow without interference. 
  • Be sure to moisturize. Talk to your doctor about your skin condition and choose a moisturizer that won’t irritate the dandruff in your beard. Without proper moisture, you may have breakouts in your beard, worsening your dandruff.‌
  • Get enough sleep. It may sound silly, but your body functions best when you have plenty of rest. This includes the condition of your beard. When you get enough sleep, your overall health is better. 
  • ‌Eat a healthy diet. Nutrient-dense foods are essential for a well-balanced diet. The right vitamins and minerals help keep your skin and beard healthy. 

Beard benefits. If you’re going to have a beard, it’s important to keep it healthy. Need the motivation to do that? Your beard isn’t just for fun. It actually offers health benefits. Beards help protect your skin from the sun’s UV rays. You’re less likely to get sunburn on skin that is covered by a beard.

Beards also keep you warm during the winter months. They offer a layer of protection to your face and neck that insulates your face. Since cold weather often dries out your skin, having a beard may keep your skin healthier.