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Spearmint: Good for Your Breath, But What About Hair?

Written by Ross Goodhart
Spearmint: Good for Your Breath, But What About Hair?

Spearmint. The cool minty-crisp flavoring is synonymous with bright smiles and fresh breath. It’s not synonymous with glowing, lustrous hair and the conspicuous absence of dandruff. But maybe it should be...

The spearmint plant (also known by its scientific name Mentha Spicata or Mentha Viridis), peppermint’s sweeter cousin and a member of the mint family and mentha species, is a highly aromatic herb that owes its invigorating tingle to menthol and is used often in aromatherapy. It grows best in full sun with rich, moist soil, and is native to the Mediterranean, although it's now frequently grown in most places, including North America. Most famous for its use in oral hygiene products like toothpastes, chewing gums, mouthwashes and breath fresheners, spearmint  has long been treasured for its natural healing properties in oral hygiene and beyond. 

The garden mint’s health and wellness benefits range from alleviating pain to promoting wound healing and warding off infection. Fresh spearmint from the garden, as well as its dried leaves sold commercially, are used in herbal teas meant to soothe bellyaches, indigestion, irritable bowel syndrome, flatulence, nausea, and vomiting. Spearmint tea is often used to treat sore throats and soothe psychological stress, as well. Some studies even suggest that tea or other forms of spearmint can help improve memory and balance women’s hormones. And yes, spearmint may also be used to help relieve your itchy scalp.

So what makes spearmint such a powerful herb? And how exactly should you use it to treat your dandruff? In this article, we’ll explore the benefits of spearmint extract for your hair care regimen. But first, let’s understand exactly what dandruff is.

What is Dandruff & Who Gets It?

Dandruff is the flaking and itching that results when your scalp gets irritated. But what’s the original cause of this irritation? 

Many underlying factors can contribute to dandruff. These include more generalized skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis, as well as lifestyle and environmental factors like stress, diet, climate, and air quality. 

Dandruff also seems to run in families, or can be a factor of age and hormones, with some people seeing their symptoms reduce or clear up in middle age.

Whatever is whipping up the irritation of your skin, the end result is the same: when you have dandruff, your scalp ends up itchy, flaky, and replete with pesky white flakes.

How Spearmint May Help Break the Dandruff Cycle

The spearmint plant contains a number of compounds that can boost your scalp and hair health. Here are seven ways that might happen:

Spearmint Has Antimicrobial Properties

Spearmint is thought to have antibacterial, fungicidal, and antiseptic properties. This may be helpful in addressing dandruff, since people experiencing flaking and itchiness tend to have an imbalance in their scalp’s microbiome.

The microbiome is an ecosystem of tiny organisms that naturally occur throughout our bodies and are crucial to good health. But sometimes, one or more of these microbes multiplies out of control, causing problems along the way. People with dandruff tend to have an overgrowth of Malassezia on their scalps, a fungus that’s a normal part of your skin microbiome. 

Spearmint’s antifungal action may help tame the Malassezia population and get the ecology of your head back into balance. 

Spearmint Promotes Circulation 

The menthol that is found naturally in spearmint is known to increase blood flow to areas of the body where it’s applied in topical treatments. Stimulating blood flow can help encourage cell growth, which is helpful in repairing dandruff damage.

In scalps with dandruff, the normal skin regeneration process has gone awry, with dead skin buildup up on the scalp along with excess sebum (a natural oil your body produces to help moisturize skin and hair). Added blood flow to the scalp may help you bounce back by boosting healthy skin growth and healing damaged hair follicles. 

Spearmint Soothes Pain and Irritation

Menthol’s soothing and pain-relieving properties are well known and have contributed to spearmint’s long-standing reputation among medicinal plants. In fact, spearmint leaves were used in ancient times to relieve itching, soreness, and pain caused by insect bites, rashes, wounds, and all manner of skin irritations. Today, spearmint essential oil is used in a variety of products meant to soothe and relieve pain.

Spearmint has Antioxidant Properties

Mint leaves contain chemical compounds called phenolic acids, which are known antioxidants. Antioxidants are a popular ingredient in skin care products and cosmetics for good reason - they are crucial to repairing cellular damage caused by free radicals. (The more technical term for this cell damage is oxidative stress.)

Antioxidants help boost your skin’s health at the cellular level. In people with dandruff, this can help promote healthy regeneration of the scalp’s skin and hair. 

Spearmint Reduces Inflammation

Spearmint contains natural chemicals known to reduce swelling, relax muscles, and help calm the body. These include caffeic acid, a type of phenolic acid. Spearmint can be a way to break the cycle of itching, scratching, and skin and hair damage. 

Spearmint Eases Stress

Spearmint is also widely appreciated for promoting mental calm and clarity. Some researchers believe its aroma alone can be helpful for easing stress. 

But what does mental health have to do with dandruff? You might be surprised. An ever-growing volume of research into physical health problems points to the link between our minds and our bodies. And dandruff is no exception. In some people, stress can exacerbate dandruff - just like it causes an upset stomach and insomnia in others.

The menthol in spearmint is thought to interact with certain receptors in your brain to create its calming effect on the mind. This may well help relieve your scalp symptoms, too. 

Spearmint May Help Balance Hormones

Although this area requires further study, there’s some research suggesting that spearmint can balance the body’s hormones in ways that could help alleviate dandruff and promote healthy hair growth. Hormones are among the factors that play an underlying role in dandruff, so compounds that help balance the body’s hormones could help fight flakes directly (and improve many other health conditions, too). 

Spearmint is thought to have antibacterial, fungicidal, and antiseptic properties. This may be helpful in addressing dandruff, since people experiencing flaking and itchiness tend to have an imbalance in their scalp’s microbiome.

To recap, spearmint is a powerful herb with a number of properties to help calm your scalp. Not only can it break the cycle of unhealthy scalp buildup, it can reduce Malassezia fungus and promote normal skin growth and healing. It may also reduce discomfort and irritation, stress, and maybe even play a role in hormone balancing that could contribute to some dandruff cases.

How Not to Use Spearmint for Dandruff

Given all of these wonderful benefits, you might be wondering: should you brew up some fresh spearmint tea and lather it on in your next shower? Or maybe stir some spearmint essential oil (or even the plant itself) into your everyday shampoo? Not quite. Scalp chemistry is complex, and the DIY approach to dandruff treatment comes with some risks.

Spearmint essential oils - like all essential oils - can vary widely in potency, specific chemical composition, and in the other ingredients they contain. And any essential oil applied directly to the skin (or even mixed with other ingredients in too high a concentration) can cause irritation. 

Of course, irritation is part of the problem we’re trying to solve here. So mixing your own potentially-irritating potions or otherwise experimenting with spearmint oil and other ingredients can cause worsening dandruff and unpredictable skin reactions. In other words, since you already have a sensitive scalp situation, the DIY approach is gambling with your scalp health. 

A Better Way to Reap the Benefits of Spearmint

Effective, reliable dandruff treatments require regular use of science-based products. You need a shampoo formula that’s carefully calibrated to fight flakes.

An effective dandruff treatment should include a range of ingredients to moisturize and repair your scalp and hair damage. The most important ingredient you need is Zinc Pyrithione - a compound that’s been shown in study after study to be effective at fighting dandruff flakes.

There isn’t a cure for dandruff. But it can be managed so effectively you forget you have it. And getting those results requires regular use of scientifically-developed, professional products that are designed specifically to kick your flakes to the curb.

A Flake Free Future

When it comes to treating dandruff, consistency is key. That means your hair care regimen shouldn’t just be effective - it should be blissful. After all, if you look forward to each shower as a moment of luxurious self-care, you’re all the more likely to stick with it and see your flakes banished for good. And spearmint is just one example of a beautiful ingredient that can help make your scalp care experience both spa-like and effective.

The information contained in this article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice, nor is it a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician with any questions you may have about the information contained herein, as well as the risks or benefits of any treatment.