Does Sauna Cause Dandruff? (+ Prevention Methods)

While everyone knows that a sauna is amazing for clearing out the pores on your skin, this naturally leads to wondering what it does to your hair. Does a sauna cause dandruff?

If you don’t prepare your hair properly before a sauna session, then dandruff is a very real possibility. Even with the relatively dry air from a sauna, the temperature and your sweat create an ideal environment for the Malassezia Globosa microbe, right on your scalp! This is a sure ticket to dandruff, so you need to be careful.  

Today we’re going to go into this in a bit more detail so you know how to properly prepare yourself so that you always leave the sauna refreshed – without the worry of an itchy scalp later!

Table of Contents

Effect of Sauna & Steam Room on Your Hair

To better understand why dandruff can sometimes occur from a sauna or steam room session, it helps to understand what happens to your hair and scalp while you’re in there. First off, you want to factor in the steam.

While a sauna is more about dry air, a steam room will have a copious amount of humidity, and this actually has a rejuvenating effect on the scalp.

Aside from an increase in skin circulation, there is also a hypothermic effect at play that encourages the pores to open so that you may expel toxins, as well as a natural, sticky, and oily substance known as ‘sebum’. Think of sebum as a sort of ‘natural conditioner’ and you’re on the right track – it moisturizes skin and hair.

The problem, unfortunately, is that you’re going to be in there for 20 – 30 minutes, and unless you are wearing a sauna hat or have conditioned your hair with your favorite conditioner (or even coconut oil) and wrapped it in a towel, then the heat can quickly become a problem.

If you get dizzy from the heat in a sauna, then this is often from failing to cover your head, but with dandruff, the big problem is the microbes that live on your scalp currently called Malassezia globose.

The heat provides them with the perfect environment to thrive, and the end result is dandruff and a very itchy scalp.

Does Sauna Cause Dandruff?

sauna sessions can cause dry hair
Woman with dry hair (Image source)

The sauna doesn’t cause dandruff – it happens when you neglect to cover your head. Even with just a towel wrapping and a little conditioner, you can leave with deep conditioning. This should be followed by a rinse in the shower with a light shampoo and conditioner to top it off, and your hair will be in great shape.

The Malassezia globose microbes that contribute to eventual dandruff are already present on your head – it’s just that the hot environment of the sauna or steam room provides them with a perfect environment. Due to this little pitfall, you want to always make sure that you prepare your hair and scalp in advance.

As a sauna is a dryer heat than a steam room, your chances of dandruff are less there, but you still want to cover up your head. While the heated air inside the room is dry, you’ll be sweating all over your body, and this definitely includes your scalp.

That provides a hot, damp environment for Malassezia globose in your sauna, but not as quickly as it would in a much more humid steam room.

Does Steam Room Cause Dandruff?

A steam room is a very humid environment and as such, your scalp is going to be warm, wet, and quite the perfect place for existing Malassezia globose microbes in your scalp to thrive. If you’ve noticed that veteran steam room fans always shower before and after their steam room session, this is actually one of the reasons why.

Malassezia globose microbes are already present on your scalp, where they like to feed on the oils that are naturally produced there, and usually, they aren’t a problem. When you get outside and get a bit hot and sweaty from it, however, then that’s when you start noticing an itchy scalp.

With a steam room, the process can be accelerated, although preparing your hair before you go in can help to make this a non-issue. As with a sauna, the steam room really isn’t the cause of dandruff – it’s going into the steam room without protecting your scalp and hair that ultimately leads to it.

The heat inside just increases the odds but those microbes were already alive and well on your scalp before you entered.

How to Enjoy Sauna Without Drying Out Your Hair?

If you get into the habit of protecting your scalp and hair before you enjoy the sauna, then you can enjoy your sessions as much and as often as you would like. It takes a few extra minutes but once it becomes a habit, then you won’t notice the time and you might even appreciate this part of your ‘sauna ritual’.

The first thing that you will need to do is to invest in a form of head protection. A sauna hat is a good option with many benefits, but in a pinch, you could also just wrap your head up in a towel.

women wearing sauna hat
Women wearing a sauna hat (Image source)

Before you start your session, you should wash and condition your hair, and you can leave a little conditioner in if you’d like. The addition of head protection negates the ill effects of the sauna’s heat on your hair. Your scalp isn’t going to get dry and shampooing reduces the count of Malassezia microbes in advance.

While you’re inside, the now-gentled heat and conditioner will work towards giving you a deep conditioning treatment, and during this time your pores will be expelling toxins, along with conditioning natural sebum.

When you finish your sauna session, simply take a quick shower and shampoo with a gentle option, such as baby shampoo, and you can use a small amount of conditioner if you like to finalize things. Your hair will definitely benefit from this so that you leave the sauna feeling detoxified, clean, and refreshed.

Don’t skip out on the hat or towel, however, or the shower sessions – without them, you might leave with your hair looking frazzled, and chances of dandruff from the Malassezia microbes spending time in a hot environment will be very high.


A sauna or steam room visit can increase your chances of dandruff, but only if you don’t prepare to counter the heat a little in advance.

While it is very beneficial for you, once your skin pores have been opened and your skin circulation is maximized, then prolonged exposure without preparation can frizzle your hair.

At the same time, Malassezia microbes in a humid environment will have perfect conditions for causing dandruff in your immediate future.

By covering your head and showering before and after your session, however, you can get all the perks from your sauna or steam room without any ill effects on your scalp or hair!

It’s all about proper preparation!

(Featured image by Rattanakun From Canva Photos)

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