Scalp Tonic For Dandruff

Jump to recipe

Although it’s embarrassing to admit that I’ve had a dry, itchy scalp, with the horrible flakes {cringe} – I’m pretty sure that it’s more common than people want to admit. Winter is an especially tough time for my already dry skin, and I have to make an extra effort to moisturise every day, which includes my scalp. This non-greasy tonic will moisturise the skin on your scalp, relieve itchiness, and help to keep your hair follicles clean. My scalp tonic is not a cure for dandruff, because there are many causes of dandruff and dry scalp. However, it is for anyone who wants to moisturise their scalp and maintain good scalp health. The herbs used in my recipe have been shown to hinder the growth of common bacteria and fungus that grow on the scalp, and to promote healthy hair growth.

Let me quickly clarify that there is a difference between dandruff and dry scalp. Dry scalp is usually caused by a lack of moisture in the skin, or due to an allergic reaction from certain products used on the scalp (eg. shampoo, hair spray, certain ingredients like alcohol or fragrances etc.). Whereas, Dandruff is usually caused by too much oil on the scalp. This may be due to the overgrowth of a fungus called malassezia, stress, hormones, age, diet, or even your DNA. One key difference is that dry scalp often shows up as small, dry flakes, whereas dandruff flakes are large and oily. Washing your hair frequently may help control dandruff by reducing the amount of oil on your scalp, but it may need the intervention of medicinal shampoo or a visit to the dermatologist. [1]

The effectiveness of some essential oils on dandruff have been researched. The most promising essential oils which have shown an inhibitory effect on the fungus malassezia include lemongrass, oregano, garlic and tea tree [2, 3, 4, 5, 6 ].

Recipe Variations & Substitutions

You may use your own essential oil blend. Just don’t use more than 20 drops, or if you do, then increase the amount of liquid soap, so that the essential oils don’t separate. But you also don’t want a soapy tonic, so use soap moderately. I choose to use Lemongrass for its anti-dandruff properties, since it’s an effective antifungal against malassezia. I use Lavender to relieve itchiness and irritated skin. Peppermint also relieves itchiness, and it helps keep oily skin under control.

You may also use any hydrosol, or even distilled water instead of Rosemary hydrosol. The reason I use Rosemary hydrosol, is because Rosemary has a wide range of benefits for the hair and scalp in general. If you struggle with dry scalp rather than dandruff, good substitutes are frankincense hydrosol or geranium hydrosol.

You can find organic essential oils here.


Cost Price: R51.73 per 100g including the asprin (the cost was calculated in 2020, and based on the best retail prices found).
Lasted me about:
2 weeks using everyday.
Estimated shelf life: 6 months if using a hydrosol or distilled water, and stored away from direct sunlight.


  • You must remember to apply it every day to see results.
  • Rosemary hydrosol can sometimes be hard to find. You can technically use any hydrosol, or even distilled water, but rosemary hydrosol is the best choice if you can find it.


It won’t make your hair greasy, so you don’t have to wash it out. You can wear it all day, everyday.


  • Rosemary hydrosol:  Rosemary stimulates hair follicles, which helps hair grow stronger. It helps eliminate microbial activity which is often a cause of hair problems. Slows down premature hair loss and graying. Its anti-fungal and decongestant properties help treat dandruff (buy here).
  • Glycerine: Treats and prevents dry hair and skin. It is a water-based emollient. In other words, it will soften and moisturise hair follicles and skin, but it is not oily. (buy here)
  • Liquid soap: the primary purpose of liquid soap in this recipe is to act as a solubilizer which effectively dilutes the essential oils, and allows them to be combined with water without separating. Secondarily, soap helps to keep the scalp clean, and soap binds to oil so that when you rinse your hair again the excess oil will rinse away with it. (buy here)
  • Lemongrass EO: has been researched and shown to be effective against malassezia, the fungus attributed to some dandruff cases, and as surpassing the effectiveness of other essential oils in some studies. (buy here)
  • Lavender EO: Relieves inflammation and itchiness. Treats stress which can be one factor that causes dandruff. Increases blood circulation, which encourages healthy hair growth. (buy here)
  • Peppermint EO: Relieves the scalp of irritation, stimulates hair growth and helps control excess oil (buy here).
  • Asprin: contains salicylic acid, which is an active ingredient in many anti-dandruff shampoos. However, whether asprin itself has the same effects is not conclusive. Salicylic acid exfoliates dry skin thereby removing flakes and prevents oil build-up. [6]

Need help finding these, or other ingredients? My shopping guide may help you. Are you new to essential oils? Please read how to use them safely.

Recommended Retail Option

Dr. Hauschka Revitalising Hair & Scalp Tonic is the most similar retail product to my recipe. I have not personally used this product, but based on the positive reviews from customers, this is a great choice if you are looking to buy a certified organic product for dry scalp and dandruff. The primary herb used in their formulation is Neem.

Have you made this recipe? How has this scalp tonic worked for you? Please share in the comments below.

Leave a Comment