Can I Use Lemon Juice to Cure My Dandruff?

When life gives you lemons...squeeze them on your head?

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Did you know that lemon juice is a popular home remedy for dandruff? No? Well, we didn’t either at first, but as it turns out, a whole lot of people tout it as an easy and aromatic way to get rid of dandruff. And believe it or not, it actually (kinda) works.

Lemon juice has a surprisingly wide variety of uses beyond making lemonade. It is, for example, a natural cleanser, capable of taking on sticky and greasy messes due to being loaded with citric acid. This acid is strong enough to break down dirt, soap scum and the like, while still being weak enough to avoid damaging our skin.

This is exactly what makes it useful for taking on dandruff — when you apply lemon juice to your scalp, the clumps of dead, dry skin cells that make up dandruff get broken down and eaten away. (Some lemon juice-proselytizers also swear the vitamin C in lemon juice promotes hair growth, but there’s no science to back that part up — sorry.)

Still, there are a few reasons you might want to stick with a proper anti-dandruff shampoo instead of heading to the produce aisle, the biggest of which is that the people who make dandruff shampoo know what the hell they’re doing. “The main advantage to using over-the-counter dandruff shampoos or medical therapies is that we have a lot of experience with those treatments, so we know what concentration to use, how to use them, and what benefits we can expect,” says dermatologist Rajani Katta. “With lemon juice, we would have a number of unknowns — what concentration would you use, is there a chance you might develop irritation from it, and what are the chances that it would help?”

A real anti-dandruff shampoo will likely contain an ingredient like salicylic acid, which performs the same basic functions as citric acid, but also include moisturizing ingredients that protect and soothe the sensitive skin of your scalp — an area which lemon juice’s citric acid could leave stinging. Lemon juice can have a negative effect on your hair, too, drying it out and making it frizzy, which may end up being more of an annoyance than the dandruff you were trying to get rid of. And of course, shampoo comes out of a handy bottle rather than a juicer, which makes application significantly easier. 

We’re probably biased, but we’re going to stand by our anti-dandruff shampoo rather than pouring fruit juice on our heads — we’ll save the lemons for our gin and tonics.