Q: How can I fight dandruff naturally?

A. Dandruff's itching and flaking aren't serious, but it is a stubbornly difficult condition to treat. Because a yeastlike fungus appears to play a role in dandruff's onset, tea tree oil (a natural antifungal/antibacterial) provides some relief.

Derived from the leaves of the Australian tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia), tea tree oil has become a common shampoo ingredient. It also can be applied directly to the scalp as a diluted oil.

During a recent study, 126 dandruff sufferers used either a 5 percent tea tree oil shampoo or a plain shampoo. Those who shampooed with tea tree daily for a month experienced a 41 percent improvement in symptoms. Most people have no trouble using tea tree oil on a daily basis; a rare few develop an allergic reaction.

Apple cider vinegar is a popular folk remedy for dandruff. Once a week, dilute vinegar with an equal part water and spray onto hair and scalp. Wait an hour, then shampoo. You can also try rubbing a small amount of coconut oil into your hair and scalp before you shampoo.

Once you have your dandruff under control, keep it at bay by shampooing daily and cutting back on styling products (hair spray, gels, mousses, and waxes), which can build up on the scalp and contribute to oiliness.

This Q&A was written by Victoria Dolby Toews, MPH, a health journalist based in the Pacific Northwest, where she and her family enjoy hiking and cycling.