Pregnancy Dandruff

Dandruff during pregnancy

During pregnancy, a lot of unexpected changes occur. While some women report thicker, longer, and healthier-looking tresses, others face an itchy, irritating, and all-too-common situation: pregnancy dandruff.

What is pregnancy dandruff?

Prenatal dandruff is characterized by persistent flaking of the scalp, accompanied by itching. Pityriasis Simplex Capillitii, as it's scientifically known, causes more than simple superficial concerns. Dandruff can cause real discomfort throughout the pregnancy and the severity of itching and flakiness varies from one person to another.

Conditions mistaken for dandruff

It's not uncommon to make a self-diagnosis for dandruff. Sometimes, however, dandruff is mistaken for one of the following, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.

Dry scalp vs. dandruff

The terms dry scalp and dandruff often go hand in hand due to the similarities in symptoms. However, the treatment options for the two are different. Your gynecologist may refer you to a dermatologist, should symptoms persist.

Shedding light on the root cause of prenatal dandruff

There are multiple causes for worsening dandruff symptoms during pregnancy. In most cases, expecting mothers who suffer from Pityriasis Simplex Capillitii take a trial-and-error approach to figuring out the triggers, which include but aren't limited to:

  • Expedited skin cell turnover – Some experts believe that dandruff happens when skin cells regenerate faster than normal. The result is excessive white flaking.
  • Malassezia fungus – According to the Mayo Clinic, the Malassezia fungus or yeast, formerly known as Pityrosporum, is present on many healthy individuals' skin. For those who are prone to dandruff, however, the presence of Malassezia on the scalp triggers an immunological reaction – and sends dandruff symptoms into overdrive.
  • Lifestyle factors – Some dermatologists also believe that certain lifestyle factors contribute to increased dandruff during pregnancy. These include high levels of stress, diet changes, as well as the intake of certain prenatal vitamins.

Making lifestyle changes to alleviate pregnancy dandruff

Now that we've explored the most common triggers of pregnancy dandruff, here are a few tips for improving its symptoms:

Foods to avoid and consume

According to the popular pregnancy book, What To Expect When You're Expecting, sugary foods are common triggers for dandruff. Moms-to-be, therefore, should try foods that are rich in healthy fats instead. A few examples include avocado and nuts.

Make over your shampoo routine

Some pregnant women get dandruff due to excessive hair washing which causes dryness. Others go days between each wash, resulting in an oily scalp. Finding the perfect balance is no easy feat. If you're a mom-to-be with dandruff, you may find that experimenting with your shampoo routine will help.

Meditate and reduce stress

Pregnancy is an exciting time for both first-time and veteran moms. However, stress, worry, and anxiety often go with the territory. To reduce stress and subsequently dandruff, consider enrolling in prenatal yoga or try a few meditation techniques at home. There are a plethora of online resources to reference – however it's always best to do a quick check with your doctor before beginning.

Tips for reducing pregnancy dandruff at home

Some pregnant women swear by using natural products to effectively treat dandruff. The most popular include tea tree oil, apple cider vinegar, or aloe vera. For best results, choose one natural remedy at a time, and rub gently into the scalp at least once or twice per day. Wait 7-10 days to see if your dandruff symptoms improve.

Over-the-counter remedies for pregnancy dandruff

The standard recommendation for pregnancy dandruff is getting an over-the-counter shampoo containing 2% ketoconazole.

Itching for relief and when to see a doctor for prenatal dandruff

If your symptoms persist or worsen even after trying homemade or over-the-counter treatments for pregnancy dandruff, the next best solution is to visit your gynecologist.

Your medical provider should be able to provide a safe prescription to reduce unbearable itching and excessive flaking. Most prescription medicines for pregnancy dandruff are topical, meaning they're applied externally on the scalp.

Solving the 9-month itch

When it comes to dandruff during pregnancy, there is no one-size-fits-all treatment. Go over suspected triggers with a fine-tooth comb and try the possible solutions described in this article.

There is no definitive cure for dandruff, a persistent and lifelong skin disorder. With well-documented techniques, however, it's possible to keep your symptoms under control.

Last Reviewed:
June 20, 2017
Last Updated:
October 11, 2017