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Oleic Acid – What Is It and How Does It Cause Dandruff?

You’ll find it in everything from avocados to olive oil, and it also causes dandruff. Find out what oleic acid is and how it causes dandruff.

Dandruff is caused when three things come together:

  • Malassezia globosa– a naturally occurring microbe on the scalp

  • Sebum– the natural scalp oils your scalp produces

  • Oleic acid– the byproduct created when malassezia breaks down sebum

Oleic acid forms in the last step in the process and is the thing that triggers the irritation, flakes, itching and dryness weassociate with dandruff.

More about the cause of dandruff


Whether you suffer from dandruff or not, you’ll have all three of these things on your scalp, including oleic acid.

For 50% of the world’s population, those factors cause dandruff because their bodies treat oleic acid as an irritant.

If you’re sensitive to oleic acid, your body will respond by attempting to shed the irritant:

  • It triggers an itch response on the scalp

  • Skin cells renew faster than usual, causing dead skin cells to accumulate as ‘flakes’

  • The scalp’s natural moisture defences become damaged, causing a dry scalp

  • Your scalp can become inflamed and red


If you’re one of the 50% of people sensitive to oleic acid, the best option is to treat the symptoms to keep dandruff away.

That’s because it’s a recurring condition. Malassezia and oleic acid will always be present on your scalp, so you need to treat theflakes, itching and dryness.

That’s where anti-dandruff shampoo comes in – it tackles the irritants that cause dandruff and is proven to work on:

  • Flakes

  • Itching

  • Dryness

  • Irritation

So even if you are one of the billions of people who have dandruff, you don’t have to suffer from it.

In fact, keep using Head & Shoulders regularly (every time you wash your hair) and you can keep the symptoms at bay.

You’ll keep your defences against dandruff up so you can stay up to 100% flake-free for life*.

More about dandruff

* visible flakes from 2ft, with regular use