Of all the minor issues and annoyances I have, I would say that my scalp problems are the most irritating. I’ve struggled with a scaly, itchy scalp since childhood. I remembered being scared because my head would itch all the time; I always feared I had head lice. When head check days would happen at school, I would squeeze my eyes shut and put my head down, silently praying that the teacher wouldn’t mistake the giant crustaceans on my scalp for lice eggs. I remember my mother taking me to the drug store to buy the stinky dandruff shampoos, or to the doctor to get a prescription remedy to cease my constant scratching.
As I’ve gotten older, the problem has grown more severe. I have tried every dandruff/dry scalp shampoo the drug store has to offer. I’ve raided the aisles at Sally Beauty, bought products online, including handmade products from etsy. I’ve also tried a bunch of natural and homemade remedies–everything from apple cider vinegar to Vaseline. (The Vaseline coating on my scalp was definitely not one of my best ideas! If you’re ever in this predicament, baby oil gets it out.)
Over the years, I’ve been told many different stories about what the problem actually is, from simple dandruff to dry scalp to psoriasis. I’ve consulted beauticians and doctors, self-diagnosed myself by reading scary things on WebMD, and pretty much gave up hope on ever having a scalp that didn’t plague me. I used to get so annoyed because I couldn’t figure out what was wrong. I had dry, itchy flakes, yet my hair would get oily at the roots. It didn’t make sense. I finally realized, however, that I actually suffer from seborrheic dermatitis, a.k.a. “greasy dandruff.”
This isn’t something that can be cured or eliminated. I simply have had to learn to manage my symptoms. I used to switch shampoos a lot because I felt like they became less effective after a while. After finding a product that actually works, however, I haven’t had to change shampoo in years. I strictly adhere to the products that work for me and do not deviate from those. I wish I could be one of those girls that tries out all the new shampoos and hair care products at the drug store or salon, but I simply can’t.
I know that these kinds of problems differ from person to person, but I wanted to share some of the products and treatments that work for me. This information is in no way a substitute for advice from a doctor or other professional.
Lush Soak and Float Shampoo
$10.95 || Lush USA
Not going to sugarcoat it–this stuff smells awful! The odor comes from cade oil. I think it smells like a campfire after it’s been extinguished. The smell is so strong that the last time I ordered, I could smell the shampoo bar before I even opened the mailbox. That being said, it doesn’t keep such an intense odor for the life of the shampoo. When I get a new bar, I always leave the open tin in my shower. Yes, it stinks up the whole bathroom for a few days, but I have noticed that the smell starts to lessen after I’ve used it a few times. I feel like the smell is a small price to pay for the relief it brings to my scalp. I do have some occasional itching, but the instances of scalp buildup are dramatically decreased.
Aside from being handmade, this product is different because it’s a bar and not a liquid shampoo. When using it, I just wet my hair and then rub the bar around my head, concentrating on areas where I have the most issues. It can also be lathered up in your hands, like a bar of soap, and then applied to your hair. This works better if you don’t want to get the chunky bits of marigold and rose petals in your hair. When first purchasing, I was worried about lather, but this stuff foams right up. (I’ve tried several other Lush shampoo bars and can say the same for them as well.)
I would recommend buying a shampoo tin from Lush to store the shampoo. It seems to last much longer in my shower this way. It takes me about three months to completely use up the bar.
Shea Moisture African Black Soap Hair Masque
$9.99 || drugstore.com
Even though the Lush shampoo is extremely effective at helping my scalp stay healthy, I still occasionally have flare-ups. Lots of things can cause this, but my biggest stressor seems to be the environment. When the seasons change, my scalp always goes crazy, especially when winter comes around. I’m also often to blame because I just can’t resist those cute little samples of hair products that sometimes come in subscription boxes. When that happens, this hair mask is essential.
Like almost anything targeted toward scalp conditions, this stuff smells weird. The plantain enzyme makes it smell similar to overripe bananas. It’s not super thick like most hair masks, which makes it easier to get it onto my scalp and not just in my hair. This can be used as a conditioner, but I’ve found that it makes my hair too oily at the roots. Instead, I use it as a deep treatment. I’ll coat my dry hair and scalp with the product, then wrap my head in cling wrap. I like to leave it on for at least a couple of hours, then wash everything out. Even if I’m not having issues, I like to do this at least twice per month.
There is also a shampoo and conditioner in this line, but I haven’t tried either of those. They are definitely something to consider in the future, however, since this product has worked so well for me.
Everything I’ve read online says that this is a terrible idea because it can actually cause more irritation. I only use this as a last resort, when my scalp is especially inflamed and nothing is helping to quickly reduce the buildup. I feel like this is effective because it removes the crusty buildup and allows the treatments I’m using to actually penetrate my skin, instead of just resting on top of the dried clumps of build-up.
This treatment involves taking a fine-tooth comb and gently scraping away the patchy scales on my scalp. I don’t do this over my whole head, but just in the worst places. Those are usually near my ears and at my crown. There’s a delicate balance to doing this because if you scrape too hard or too much, it can cause the scalp to bleed. I try to avoid that. Once I’m done scraping, I’ll apply a hair oil or cream to the inflamed areas. I usually do the deep conditioning within a day or so as well.