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Dandruff and alcohol – is there a link?

Is your evening beer or glass of wine causing your dandruff? There’s a lot of speculation online about the link between dandruff and alcohol. Find out if it’s justified with our guide.

If a casual Google search is to be believed, alcohol absolutely causes dandruff. But it’s not quite that simple.

To understand the link between alcohol and dandruff, you first need to look at what dandruff is, and the effect of alcohol on your hair and scalp.


Dandruff is caused by a microbe called Malassezia globosa, which exists on everybody’s scalp.

It feeds on scalp oils, leaving oleic acid as a by-product. For half the world’s population that’s a problem, as 1 in 2 people are sensitive to oleic acid.

When this happens, your scalp responds by increasing how quickly it produces and sheds skin cells, leading to:

  • white flakes in your hair

  • itchiness

  • irritation

This is dandruff, and while the cause is always the same, there are certain factors which can trigger or make it worse:

  • hormonal changes

  • stress

  • excess oil on the scalp

  • not washing hair properly, or often enough

Alcohol, however, isn’t on the list of causes.

So where did the supposed link come from?


Drinking alcohol can cause a lot of problems for your body. And that includes your scalp.The main problem for your scalp is that alcohol is a diuretic.

It causes your kidneys to remove excess water from your system, along with much-needed nutrients and electrolytes. Its dehydrating effects are the reason you wake up with a headache after a party.

But alcohol affects your skin as well, leaving you with:

  • dried out skin

  • bloating

  • redness


Luckily, fixing the symptoms of regular drinking is as simple as putting down the beer and picking up a glass of water.

Doing so will both help stop your skin from drying out, and actively help it rehydrate.

But for dandruff, using a proven dandruff shampoo and conditioner is a good way to control flakes, as these will help moisturize your scalp and control flaking.


Many people have also tried to get rid of dandruff using vodka – but does it really work?
There’s certainly merit in alcohol killing bacteria and in fact it has been used as an antiseptic for many years.

But when it comes to dandruff, there’s no proof.

It’s been tried and tested by regulatory bodies around the world and has never been proven to work.


Beer seems to be linked in two major ways to dandruff, according to the internet-at-large.

The first camp claims that washing your hair with beer will cure dandruff.

The theory seems to be that since beer is made using yeast and is high in Vitamin B, it makes an excellent dandruff cure.

Unfortunately, there is absolutely no scientific basis for this – the best way to get rid of dandruff in the shower is still a good shampoo.

The second, and more prevalent link between beer and dandruff claims that your favorite IPA is the cause of your scalp’s flakiness.

The link is generally made between the yeast content of beer and the fact that Malassezia globosa is also a yeast. And again, it’s a bit off.

Dandruff and alcohol – is there a link?


The fact that beer has yeast in it does not mean it causes dandruff. Only one yeast - Malassezia globosa - causes dandruff, and it’s not used in beer brewing.

It triggers dandruff by living on your skin’s surface, not in your gut- and the yeast from beer that you drink pretty much stays in the digestive system.

In fact, there is no evidence whatsoever linking the two. So, while limiting the amount you drink is a good idea, it won’t help much if you have dandruff.

Much like the ‘beer as a dandruff cure’ myth, the best way to get rid of dandruff and keep it away is still a scientifically formulated and tested anti-dandruff shampoo*.

There really is no substitute.