Dandruff is a condition that causes the skin on your scalp to flake. Though not considered a serious condition, it can be annoying and difficult to treat.

Recommended dandruff treatments often include using a medicated shampoo or adding vitamins to your diet. However, some online forums and home remedies call for lemons as a solution.

As with many citrus fruits, lemons are rich in antioxidants, essential vitamins, and citric acid (a form of vitamin C). This combination of vitamins has a reputation for boosting the immune system and maintaining hair health. But can lemons effectively fight dandruff?

Keep reading to find out if lemon juice is effective at improving dandruff symptoms, plus how to use it and possible side effects.

Before evaluating the benefits of using lemon to treat dandruff, let’s look at what causes dandruff.

Many cases of dandruff are caused by the presence of Malassezia, a yeast-like fungus that feeds on the oils present on the scalp. Similar to other natural fungi, Malassezia generally causes minimal issues unless it’s present in excess.

Too much of this fungus can cause skin to dry out and become irritated. The result is dandruff and other dry skin disorders.

Sensitivity to hair products is another cause of dandruff. Allergies and irritants in certain products can cause inflammation in the scalp, resulting in contact dermatitis. This condition can leave behind a red, itchy, and scaly rash.

Other common causes of dandruff include:

Advocates of natural dandruff treatment believe lemons can:

  • provide vitamin C, citric acid, flavonoid, and iron — all nutrients essential to hair and skin health
  • balance the pH of the scalp to keep dandruff at bay
  • strengthen hair follicles
  • eliminate excess oils in the scalp that lead to buildup and scalp flakes

The citric acid present in lemon is a natural pH adjuster for the scalp, according to a 2015 study.

Shampoos often include citric fruits, like lemon, for their fragrant smell and ability to adjust the scalp to a 5.5 pH. This helps to:

  • maintain neutrality
  • prevent any adverse reactions and inflammation on the skin
  • reduce the risk of dandruff

In addition, lemons are rich in vitamin C and B. Vitamin C has powerful antioxidant properties that not only help to strengthen hair follicles, but also promote collagen production to help repair damaged skin cells.

Vitamin B can also help to improve skin conditions, even on the scalp. A 2017 study indicates that a vitamin B deficiency can trigger nail infections, skin rashes, and seborrheic dermatitis — one of the leading causes of dandruff.

However, despite these many benefits, more research is needed to determine the effectiveness of lemon juice for treating dandruff.

Before incorporating lemon juice or any other new product into your hair cleansing routine, talk with a doctor. You want to make sure you don’t have allergies or aren’t taking medications that could cause adverse reactions if exposed to lemon.

Direct application

Many remedies suggest direct application of lemon juice to the skin. Rather than using it in place of shampoo or conditioner, apply the lemon juice to the scalp as a pre-shampoo treatment.

Leave it on for a few minutes to allow the lemon to penetrate the hair follicles and skin. Afterward, rinse it out with warm water, and wash your hair and scalp with a mild shampoo.

You can repeat this cycle every wash day for consistent results.

Mixed with other ingredients

Some home remedies pair lemon juice with other ingredients for added benefits, such as coconut oil and sugar. Mixed together, these ingredients can act as an exfoliating scrub or setting solution before regular shampooing.

It’s important to note that while these remedies may be helpful for some, their benefits for dandruff are anecdotal. More research needs to be done to support accurate results.

As with any product, applying lemon juice directly to the skin may cause some uncomfortable symptoms or side effects. Stop use immediately if you begin to experience the following:

  • burning
  • stinging
  • redness
  • dryness
  • increased dandruff

Lemon juice has been cited in many home remedies as a helpful solution to treating dandruff. And while this may prove true for some, more research is necessary to confirm the effectiveness of this ingredient.

Talk to a doctor before applying lemon juice to your skin, hair, and scalp.