What to Know About Tea Tree Shampoo for Dandruff

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on November 27, 2021

Dandruff can be embarrassing when the skin of your sheds flakes onto your clothes. It's a condition that makes your scalp dry and itchy but is otherwise harmless. People with dandruff don't usually need medical treatment. Simple remedies like washing your hair with tea tree shampoo may help. 

Tea tree oil is extracted from tea tree leaves through the process of distillation. It is used for its antiseptic properties and is effective in treating cut wounds, insect bites, acne, athlete’s foot, controlling mites, nail fungus, lice, and more.

Many dandruff shampoos use tea tree oil, an essential oil that soothes the scalp. It offers nutrients that reduce itching and flaking. 

Tea tree shampoo:

  • Has antifungal and antimicrobial properties. Tea tree oil also helps wash away oil, dead skin, and chemical buildup.
  • Unblocks pores. Tea tree oil helps improve scalp health by unblocking pores. This reduces dandruff formation. Tea tree shampoo also strengthens the roots of your hair.‌
  • Reduces yeast. Tea tree shampoo helps reduce the buildup of yeast in the scalp, which contributes to dandruff. Other dandruff-related symptoms may also be helped in this way.

Symptoms of dandruff include:

  • Scaly scalp
  • Itching scalp
  • Red patches
  • Loss of hair patches
  • Blistering or skin irritation
  • A yellow crust on the scalp (in babies)

Scientists say the causes of dandruff may include:

Try these fixes if you have dandruff:

  • Use a 5% tea tree shampoo. Using 5% tea tree shampoo has been seen to be effective due to its ability to manage fungi. Dandruff is related to the yeast family making tea tree a good solution. 
  • Use anti-dandruff shampoo. Anti-dandruff shampoos have coal tar, selenium sulfide, zinc pyrithione, ketoconazole, and salicylic acid. These may help keep yeast from growing on the skin of your scalp.
  • Shampoo more. If you are shampooing your hair only a few times a week, try increasing to daily or every other day. Not shampooing enough can make your dandruff condition worse.

Other ways to manage dandruff include:

  • Supplement tea tree oil with other oils. You can try essential oils like coconut or castor oil. Using these products regularly controls microbes that protect the scalp from infections. 
  • Use omega-3. This nutrient is involved in regulating the skin's ability to produce oil. A lack of it can make dandruff worse. 
  • The sun. The sun’s rays are known to stop yeast production and other skin conditions in the scalp. But remember that too much time in the sun could lead to cancer.
  • Avoid stress. Stress can make skin issues like dandruff worse.

Tea tree oil has a variety of other uses, such as managing:

  • Eczema
  • Scabies
  • Bruises
  • Corns
  • Insect bites
  • Burns
  • Canker sores
  • Psoriasis (a condition that leads to formation of plaques on the skin)
  • Skin infections
  • Rosacea (a condition that affects facial skin, causing redness and a stinging feeling)

Tea tree oil is often found in household cleaning products.

Never take tea tree oil by mouth. It can be poisonous. Large amounts may irritate the skin and cause allergic reactions. It can also be poisonous when put on a dog or cat’s skin.

Read the label completely, and follow the instructions. Get medical help right away if someone swallows tea tree oil. To prevent any accidental swallowing, don’t use it in or around your mouth. Store the oil where children can’t reach it, and avoid switching containers.‌

Show Sources


American Academy of Dermatology Association: "How To Treat Dandruff."

Cedars-Sinai: "Dandruff: What It Is and What to Do About It."

Indian Journal of Dermatology: "Shampoo and Conditioners: What a Dermatologist Should Know?"

Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology: "Treatment of dandruff with 5% tea tree oil shampoo."

KidsHealth: "Dandruff."

National Institutes of Health: "Tea Tree Oil."

National Capital Poison Center: “Tea Tree Oil.” 

NHS: "Dandruff."

University of Michigan University Health Service: "Dandruff."

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