GRETCHEN TRIES STUFF EPISODE 2: The one with all the shampoo


Experience dandruff? Like the kind that causes a big enough "snow" pile on your clothes, desk, pillows, etc., to actually build a snowman? Me too! If you've ever dealt with dry, itchy scalp issues, you're probably familiar with the wormhole of advice on the Internet: Special shampoos? Home recipes? Dry shampoo? No shampoo? The slew of advice usually makes me flustered, in which case I shut my computer and ignore the issue until the next time a "helpful" human points out that I "have fuzz or something" in my hair. Deep sigh.

To clarify, I have had such issues since at least junior high. I have an overly sensitive scalp, and had the pleasure of dealing with a pretty bad case of pyrosis, an autoimmune disorder that causes your immune system to attack your skin cells (Did you know your skin is your largest organ? You do now!).  Actually, my personal experience with pyrosis is a pretty funny story involving a cotton sack, hot water and a Chinese hospital, but I'll save that for another post. After spending way, way too much time researching, these are a few of the things I've tried to curb dry, itchy scalp and how I felt about it:

  • Special Shampoos: Probably the first thing anyone turns to when experiencing dry itchy scalp is one of the many shampoos that advertise an easy solution (Head & Shoulders, I'm looking at you). I've tried multiple brands and multiple strengths, including prescription grade anti-dandruff shampoo from my dermatologist. Some of these have provided temporary relief from the itch but generally have done very little toward healing the raw, dry spots on my scalp and overtime made me feel like it was getting worse. The harsher chemicals designed to help are just too harsh for my overly sensitive skin.

  • Homemade Shampoo: In an attempt to avoid any sort of product or chemical that irritates my skin, I said "goodbye" to commercial hair products and attempted to make my own shampoo and conditioner at home. After reading numerous recipes, I opted to make a coconut oil-based shampoo and apple-cider based conditioner. The result? I smelled like a zesty, tropical salad. After about a month of this, with little effect on making my scalp or hair feel or look healthier, I ditched the homemade options. To be fair, while it didn't do much to help the itching or dandruff, it didn't feel like it was making any of the issues worse, which is more than I can say for anti-dandruff shampoo.

  • LUSH: In late summer of 2015, I swapped to LUSH bar shampoo and conditioner as my main products for three reasons: 1) I'm a sucker for their "natural," "handcrafted" and over all "cool product" marketing. 2) Their bar shampoos and conditions don't come in plastic containers (I keep mine in metal carrying cases) so they are more environmentally friendly, which reminds me, why haven't we fixed the trash island in the Pacific yet? 3) I was moving to China and doing a fair amount of traveling and liked that I could pack over a year's worth of shampoo and conditioner in a small space. I personally liked these products more than my homemade products. They smelled better and were just as or more effective; however, I quickly missed the effects of the apple cider vinegar so added it back into my hair routine (I keep a small spray bottle filled with it in the shower and spritz my hair during the conditioning). The acidity of apple cider vinegar not only makes my hair soft, shinny and manageable, but actually makes my scalp feel better, too. Win!

  • No Shampoo: My scalp issues subsided substantially after my adventures with the Chinese healthcare system and I felt like maybe finally, I was going to be one of those magical people who goes through life with amazing, problem-free hair. I was wrong. Shortly after moving back state-side, I had the brilliant idea to get my hair colored (a mistake for multiple reasons, but that's again, a story for another time). The process and chemicals from the professional coloring brought my scalp issues back with vengeance. This is when I decided to try experimenting with no shampoo. Now by 'no shampoo', I do not mean that I do nothing with my hair. I just don't use cleansing products on it. I first tried mushing a baking soda goop (baking soda with just enough water to be pasty) in my hair and scalp. This immediately had very beneficial benefits for my dry, itchy scalp, but left my hair oddly fluffy. I then added the step of massaging Epson salt into my scalp with the baking soda and voila! No more fluff. I was a happy no shampoo convert who enjoyed how much healthier my scalp and hair felt. But atlas, nothing is perfect. After about three months of no shampoo bliss, my hair was getting oily, a new experience for me that frankly I did not care for one bit. Trying to strike the perfect balance, I've swapped to washing my hair with my favorite LUSH products, generally once every other week and use only Epson salt and apple cider vinegar on my hair the rest of the time. I've been happy with the results: Very little dandruff, no itch, no oil problem, and overall healthy, happy feeling hair. At least for now....

Have you experimented with different shampoo or no shampoo options? Have suggestions or fun stories about dealing with dandruff? Leave a comment, suggestion or fun story in the comment section. (Please also note that this post is not sponsored in anyway by LUSH; however, I do like LUSH products so if you happen to be a representative from LUSH and would like me to do a sponsored post on my blog or YouTube channel, contact me here!)

Originally posted March 2017 on