Skip to main content

Dandruff In Black Women Exacerbated By Relaxing

• Jul 20, 2011

I came across this interesting article in the St Louis Dispatch;

Yolinda Washington’s lifelong dandruff problem has been embarrassing, she said. “You want people to look at you, not your scalp.”

She used to have her hair washed weekly at a salon. Between visits, she oiled her scalp daily. But nothing could rid her of the scaly white flakes that sat sometimes visibly on her scalp or shoulders.

She saw a brochure a few weeks ago on a study that aims to help black women who wrestle with dandruff. She joined a study under way at St. Louis University.

Dandruff is a nuisance and affects people’s lifestyles,” said Dr. Jeaneen Chappell, a researcher and resident in dermatology at St. Louis University School of Medicine. “Social and economic ramifications can be great for individuals. It’s not going to kill you, but it affects how you deal with other people, the clothes you wear, your confidence.”

Chappell believes she has found a way to fight black women’s dandruff, despite the unique issues they face.

African-American hair is drier and doesn’t produce as much oil as other races,” Chappell said, “and it tends to be brittle and break if you wash it too often.”

Many black women get their hair chemically relaxed and professionally styled. So they may only have their hair washed during a salon visit, Chappell said, which can be every two weeks.

She suspects a foam remedy already available may be better suited for black women’s hair than dandruff shampoos. If she presents proof, more doctors may prescribe the foam rather than shampoos.

Dandruff is among the top reasons why black women visit dermatologists, Chappell said.
“I was noticing women coming to the office who were getting (dandruff) shampoo, weren’t adhering to prescribing practices,” she said. “The No. 1 reason was they didn’t want to wash their hair as often as I was prescribing.”

Anything that makes the hair wet and ruins the style is something that black women won’t cooperate with. People don’t appreciate the amount of time it takes to care for the hair.”

She added. “Straightening takes two to three hours, in addition to styling. No one wants to do that two or three times a week.”

The issue isn’t about clean hair, she said. “African-American women don’t have dandruff because they don’t wash their hair,” Chappell said. “It’s because they don’t want to use the most common treatments.”
Dandruff is caused primarily by a fungus called malassezia, Chappell said. All adults have it, but some people are more sensitive to it; also, it’s often intensified by hormonal, genetic or neurological conditions.

Chappell said the foam treatment uses the same dandruff-fighting ingredient — ketoconazole, an anti-fungal medicine approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration — as the shampoo. The foam does not require patients to wash their hair, the doctor said.

Thus, the study. “I’m trying to meet these women where they are, with something that won’t disrupt their lifestyles,” Chappell said.

The study divides 100 women into two groups, one using shampoo and the other foam.

Washington got the shampoo. But in agreeing to use it, she must wash her hair three times a week.
Her dandruff has improved, she said, but she has had to change her styling habits.

So I take care of it myself, flat-iron it when I have to,” Washington said.

She’s considering a new hairstyle, possibly returning to a natural style that doesn’t require chemicals.

I have to give some thought to that,” she said. “That’s a big change.”

Interesting! What are your thoughts ladies?

Leave a Reply

52 Comments on "Dandruff In Black Women Exacerbated By Relaxing"

Notify of
Patricia Kayden

Interesting article. I never linked dandruff to relaxed hair. Another reason to go natural, I guess.


Great article! When I was relaxed it was so embarassing to have dandruff flakes everywhere and having a short cut made it even more embarassing. I knew deep down it was from the relaxer burns and harsh chemicals causing severe dry scalp. Since going natural I have not experienced any issues with dandruff, WHAT A RELIEF!!!

My scientific tentacles were going to be all over this post because of the ‘infrequent washing’ comment. Dandruff is caused by a fungus and has little to do with how much washing you do. I agree with the researcher about women not using the treatments (i.e anti-dandruff shampoo) and continuing to oil their scalps regularly (the fungus-malassezia- associated with dandruff feeds on oil) There ARE naturals with severe dandruff problems many of whom may have tried anti dandruff shampoo but stop because they find it too drying or ineffective. Side note — washing once a week is infrequent?? I do… Read more »
I think the treatment issue is key. It takes frequent treatment, i.e. frequent washing to get dandruff under control. I have never been relaxed, but up until 4 months ago, I always wore my hair straightend. Straight hair meant avoiding getting my hair wet at all costs. I went at least one week, but sometimes two or more with out washing my hair. Since embracing my natural texture I don’t even need my prescribed shampoo. The fact that I wash/co-wash twice a week and use the medicated shampoo about once a month it keeps the flakes completely under control. Hallelujah!… Read more »
+1 If conventional treatment requires frequent washing and BW aren’t able to compliant with then that would leave a lot of women who would respond to treatment untreated. I have seborrheic dermatitis that I used to treat with a foam when I was relaxed and washed my hair once a week. Now that I’m transitioning I still wash my hair once a week but I was able to use a tar shampoo for 4 months. Now I don’t need the foam or the tar shampoo! My scalp doesn’t like extra oil on it so I never oil my scalp and… Read more »

I remember having really bad dandruff when I was relaxed, for a short stint while in middle school. But then I also remember having bad dandruff when I stopped getting perms, when I had locs. I tried the whole co-washing every week and shampooing only once a week. In the end what helped was when I broke down and shampooed once a week and co-washed as much as I wanted throughout the week, which is usually at least once mid-week or more. For me, the answer was clearly washing/exfoliating my scalp more with a mild cleansing shampoo.


I am sure that my relaxer exasperated my dandruff problem. Until I was 13, I never had a relaxer, so I didn’t have any dandruff.
My dandruff isn’t as severe as that in the article and I can keep it under great control if I wash once a week and am careful about scratching.

I started using African Black Soap shampoo on my hair recently and it has been really great for my hair! I go can go two weeks w/o seeing dandruff. I’m about to bring the bottle to the salon…I just hope that won’t offend!


I was one of those women ( not in the study) but one with bad dandruff when I was relaxed. I would itch so bad but when I went natural it went away. So this study sort of confirms my observations. Even letting my natural hair unwashed for 2 weeks leads to an itchy sensation but no dandruff. So weekly washing for me.
Nice article.


I used to have dandruff when I relaxed my hair. It wasn’t bad dandruff but I would have it regularly (I washed my hair once a week).

I haven’t had dandruff since I’ve stopped using chemicals in my hair. I still wash with shampoo about once a week but I still get water and conditioner in there nearly everyday.

It’s interesting to know that oils exacerbate dandruff. I don’t bother with oiling my scalp now, but I used to try to fight dandruff with oil when I was relaxed.

African Violet
I had dandruff when I was relaxed as well. I will also add that even after I stopped relaxing, I had drandruff. Now, I don’t have dandruff, and what I think made the difference for me was that I stopped using heat as well. My last relaxer was in January, and from then until March I would blow dry my hair using high heat and flat iron using high heat. Once I put away the blow drier to let my hair air dry (using flexi rods for full felxi sets or braid-and-curls) around my chosen style, the dandruff decreased significantly.… Read more »

I used to have dandruff when I was “relaxed” due to irritation of the chemicals coupled with not-so-hot haircare practices. Now, I don’t have a problem with dandruff. Once a week, I shampoo my scalp and follow with an ACV rinse w/ tea tree oil (just to be safe). I don’t co-wash because my scalp dosent like product.


My dandruff ceased once I stopped relaxing.




+ 2


I’ve been transitioning for 7 months and have noticed a great reduction in dandruff. In addition to dandruff I had some white goop? or maybe product buildup that made my life miserable every time I scratched my hair. All that the dandruff, white goop and scratching is practically gone now.


I had a problem w/ flaky scalp from using harsh shampoos and soaps (i.e. castille soap).

I Cringe at the tittle of this article. Lately these articles have been making Black women out to be some foreign creatures that have to be extensively studied and analyzed. I’ve been natural for 6Months= Dandruff gone. I didn’t need a study. (and i find it hard to believe ANY black woman needed a study) to tell her that dandruff is an almost guaranteed outcome of relaxer. I know Yolinda Washington sure didn’t need a study to figure this out. Inserting Epic Side eye [._0]. Girl Please! The doctor could have saved a lot of time and effort buy simply… Read more »

you never know who may be motivated to stop relaxing their hair based off this article.


hm..Very True


So funny because when I stopped perming my hair it ceased as well.

I’m a black woman and I never associated dandruff with having a relaxer. But more to the point- unless I’m missing something- the article doesn’t actually state that the relaxer is causing the dandruff. It says that because black women with relaxers put their hair in styles that take 2–3 hours to create (i.e. straightening) they aren’t willing to wash their hair 3 times a week (That’s 6–9 hours on three different days- plus the money-spent on ones hair) to get rid of the dandruff once it occurs (which “exacerbates” it, hence the title of the article). This article is… Read more »
Ana K

I was thinking the same thing to myself when I started reading the comments: Am I missing something? Where in the article does it say dandruff is the result of relaxed hair?!

I love everything you said Adrii and much thanx for pointing it out! Black hair does need to be studied by people who are genuinely interested in advancing hair care for our hair (because its ignorant to say its not different). Why should invention stop with Madam C.J. Walker?


Part of the reason I went natural was because of dandruff issues. I haven’t had a relaxer in one year and still have dandruff so that’s not it! I just make sure I wash my hair no less than every 7 days with a moisturizing sulfate free shampoo and I do use T-gel shampoo when the dandruff gets really bad (rarely). I’ve found sulfate free shampoo has by far been the best remedy against dandruff for me.


I don’t think it’s always a cause of relaxing. Perhaps some people are genetically prone to it? Relaxed or natural, dandruff was never an issue for me. Fingers crossed that it won’t be in the future.


I feel like maybe dandruff could possibly worsen with the use of relaxers but I don’t know if solely having a relaxer is the cause of your dandruff.

I’ve never really suffered from dandruff. Thank goodness.


I have always had dandruff. I thought that once I went natural it would stop. I have been natural for 5+ years and I still have dandruff. I have tried many things and nothing has helped me yet.

Very interesting article as I used to have dandruff long time ago when I relaxed my hair. I even remember the first time I relaxed my hair, I was 14 and my scalp was full of dandruffs. At this period of my life, my confidence and self-esteem was very low as I had also body issues but the dandruff getting worst and worst during 2 years. And I remember I read a scientific book at school on the link between chemical and “desquamation” (shedding). So that’s how the big chop came into my mind. The result is I never had… Read more »

When I was relaxed, I didn’t wash my hair between touch-ups. I used to have dandruff and I never knew why. I’d grease my scalp and I believed that the dirtier the hair, the best the relaxer would react. Yikes! When I look back, I’m like “how could I believe such stupid things?”. I don’t have it anymore now that I’m natural and that I have good hair care techniques.


Honestly, I would need more information about this study because I can’t necessary co-sign it yet. Sure, relaxer may make dandruff worst depending on the person and their scalp issues but how do you account for women who relaxed for years with very little to no dandruff problem? I have suffered from dandruff when I was relaxed and even combating it now and still looking for help with it so…

People are misinterpreting/incorrectly extrapolating the article. It is saying that because women with relaxers aren’t willing to wash their hair 3 times a week (styling takes too long), when they get dandruff, they aren’t able to get rid of it because they don’t want to do the prescribed washing regimen to cure it. The article on this study is not attributing dandruff to relaxers. I think that a logical hypothesis is that women with natural hair (that they don’t straighten or take 2–3 hours to style in a do that will be ruined in a wash) may be more willing… Read more »
Key point Chappell said. All adults have it, but some people are more sensitive to it; also, it’s often intensified by hormonal, genetic or neurological conditions. So everyone has some degree some are not noticable and others are hard to hide so all washing really does is clean existing but it will not completely cure it. Treatments will bring it under control. I think key thing is that certain practices can make it get out of control while others cause no effect on the scalp health. I find Rosemary and apple cider Vinegar help reduce it greatly but like the… Read more »

After learning about the PH of products, i am aware of the damages caused by using products that don’t match the P H of our hair. Kimmaytube on youtube helped educate me alot on this„,high P H alters the scalp causing flakes as well.

Journey To Refinement
Journey To Refinement

I had dandruff while relaxed and I still have it now being a natural. It is not as bad as it was while relaxed. A natural remedy can be Lavender oil as it is a natural fungus killer. I believe honey is as well


If you have to wash your hair 3x a week, you wouldn’t see any dandruff regardless of what you use. When I stopped using chemicals and started washing my hair once a week and using products like ACV, Witch hazel and African Black soap, my dandruff disappeared too.


Since I have been natural for 2 yrs I have never had an issue with dandruff. The 18 yrs I relaxed for I ALWAYS had a problem with dandruff.


try NOT oiling your scalp.
see a dermatologist.
when i was younger i got dandruff all the time..yes, i was relaxed but once i stopped oiling my scalp.voila, no more dandruff! and some oils are too heavy for your scalp, not allowing it to ‘breathe’ and that can have adverse effects.
also, see your dermatologist. they can prescribe a liquid to use.


I haven’t had dandruff since I went natural… only when I have braids in for long periods of time (2–3 months) and don’t wash regularly does the dandruff creep up on me. But even so, its pretty rare.


wash with baking soda…its never that difficult. Your body is in constant fight to stay balanced. Dandruff os one way for the body to say “im not balanced” dont ignore that. Dandruff is one of the body’s nice ways of saying i need attention…cancers and diseases are its extreme ways of saying “youre not taking care of me” whether it be caused by emotions or the food you eat, your body is going to let you know what the deal is


When I was relaxed I experienced dandruff whenever I used hair spritz.…I attribute it to the alcohol in the spritz.

I’m still trying to figure out this dandruff thing out. When I was relaxed I didn’t wash between touch ups at one point (that’s just so gross!) yet I was shocked and distressed when I would see dandruff. Once I went natural the dandruff went away as I was washing my hair once a week. Over a year later it’s back with a vengeance. I’m not sure if it’s because I don’t feel like my shampoo is actually reaching my scalp. It’s the same quality and intensity as when I was relaxed so I’ll probably have to see a dermatologist.… Read more »
A lot of comments here say “I used to have dandruff when I was relaxed”. That gives the impression that switching to a natural style magically cured the issue. I wonder if the real reason that dandruff lessened after those ladies transitioned is because natural hairstyling enabled them to become better acquainted with the individual needs of their own hair and scalp, along with fewer styling products and better quality washing & conditioning regimens. I am relaxed and have been for most of my life. I used to have dandruff when I relied on a stylist to provide all of… Read more »

I have had seborrhea dermatitis ever since I was a teen. Once I went natural, I still had it, but what made all the difference was using Tea Tree Oil on my scalp. I wash once or twice a week with a medicated shampoo prescribed by my dermatologist, condition, seal with tea tree oil on my scalp, and sometimes Shea Moisture Curl Smoothie. I rarely see flakes, only when I run out of tea tree oil and have to go to the store 🙂

I know I am late to this discussion but does anyone find it interesting that a large population of relaxed women of color visit the dermatologist due to dandruff? Maybe it’s just me. Eitherway-long story short; my Sister had relaxed her hair for YEARS as did I only she had an AWFUL reaction to the relaxers- dandruff, scaly flakes etc. It was disgusting. She spent a lot of time and money seeking out an answer. She told me after going natural that one doctor told her to stop chemically relaxing her hair and she would be better. She didn’t however… Read more »
Katelin Balza

Most cats dont really like water so I’m not suprised your cat freaked when trying to bath him!Personally I find the best thing to treat fleas is a spot on treatment like Advantage or Advocate, you can buy them from any vet clinic or pet shop. They can be a little pricey but they do work really well!

Baird, Bonnie A.

Lovely article, I’ve always had my hair relaxed and never had issues with dandruff even when I went natural , but recently I’ve noticed that I have some. I wash my hair once a week , but I still have a problems , maybe I need to try a different kind of shampoo any IDEAS thanks.


We all have to sacrifice one thing or another to acquirer something other than but over all it is up to the individual (him or herself) to decide what that something will be accommodating their own personal needs.
I personally would rather make the sacrifice and shampoo my hair at least twice a week along with discontinuing the use of a chemical relaxer.

I have itchy scalp and its worse in the winter, so I’ve tried teatree and its alright so I guess I’ll try lavendar. When I wash my hair it doesn’t itch but 4 days later it starts to itch, so maybe I’ll Cowash so I can wash my hair more often, but I already get to bed late and it really does take 2–3 hours for my hair.I have to blow dry and flat iron after washing cause my hair shrinkage literally to my head and I have layers in it, so it loks crazy, so I can’t do a… Read more »

The moment I decided to go natural, I developed SD. I’ve tried everything from Tea Tree Oil to Head & Shoulders to Mayonnaise to Hydrocortisone, nothing works… I’m about ready to shave my head. I don’t like using chemicals, but I’m at a loss and need help!

Daniella Melis

Dandruff is a common scalp disorder affecting almost half of the population at the post-pubertal age and of any gender and ethnicity. It often causes itching. It has been well established that keratinocytes play a key role in the expression and generation of immunological reactions during dandruff formation. The severity of dandruff may fluctuate with season as it often worsens in winter.‘*

Up to date post on our own blog site


I was natural and have had perms in the past. My hair is currently relaxed and the dandruff problems still haven’t gone away or become less.

Quiet Face

I have had perms in my hair since I was a kid I am not a young adult and I have never had dandruff because I washed my hair once a week and if I needed to cowash. As for my mom she got dandruff went natural and still had it. She had to wash her hair EVERY OTHER DAY and still nothing changed. Once she relaxed her hair for some strange reason the dandruff left.

Maybe it isn’t just relaxing your hair but the stuff you use on your hair.

Shopping Cart