Forgiving readers, it is time for a painful admission: a paleo diet did not rid me of all physical ailments.  I know, I know — remember to breathe, it's gonna be okay.  The diagnosis isn't pretty: dry scalp.  It's time to do something about it, and I need your help.

Here's the back story.  The other day I got my hair cut, and Giovanni, my Peruvian barber, pointed it out: small white flakey stuff.  (No itching though.)  He recommended all sorts of products.  Now look, I'm not much of a "product" guy, just by temperament.  I use shampoo, and that's pretty much it.  No conditioner.  No 2-in-1 shampoo + conditioner.  Occasionally, for more formal events, I'll use a small amount of some sort of gel / hold.  But I don't use it often enough to affect my scalp.  I wash my hair 5-6 times a week.  I feel like my hair is too long to successfully pull off Richard Nikoley's no-shampoo experiment.  (Maybe I'm wrong.)  I use some sort of dry scalp shampoo with tar as the active ingredient — the CVS knock-off of the Neutrogena product.  And let me tell you, it doesn't smell at all like flowers, fruit, or the Irish countryside in spring.  Actually, strike that — it probably smells quite a bit like the Irish countryside in spring: a mix of damp earth, sheep manure, and gravel. I bet you didn't even know gravel had a smell.  Well, it does.  It smells like my shampoo.  Actually, that's a brilliant idea for the scent of men's shampoo: Gravel, Mud, Old Leather.  Anyhow…

Wise readers, what should I do?  Giovanni recommended an $18 bottle of Aveda for Men. I gotta believe the readers of this blog can do better.  Is it the frequency of shampooing?  The type of shampoo?  The presence of shampoo at all?  The absence of a conditioner?  The type of water I'm showering with?  Is dandruff adaptive in the ancestral habitat?  Do the Inuit have dry scalp?  What about the Kitavans?  Too much carbohydrate?? Too much endurance running?  Should I wash my hair in raw milk?  Should I go vegan?  AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The world needs to know.  I'd be grateful for your advice in the comments.

And please don't tell anyone, this is embarrassing enough as it is.


90 Responses to “I’ve got dandruff. What should I do?”

  1. Anonymous says:

    HI! My mom and I are Home-Remedy Enthusiasts, one thing I have to suggest is either using eggs or Mayonaise. (Sounds gross but it works. Don’t use conditioner if you do this!) Also get a bristle brush. If the home-remedys aren’t to your taste, get head and shoulders dandruff shampoo- they have particular ones for each different type of people like for oily hair, dry scalp, dry hair etc. I’ve used this product for two years consecutivley it wasn’t all that bad.

  2. Anonymous says:

    HI! My mom and I are Home-Remedy Enthusiasts, one thing I have to suggest is either using eggs or Mayonaise. (Sounds gross but it works. Don’t use conditioner if you do this!) Also get a bristle brush. If the home-remedys aren’t to your taste, get head and shoulders dandruff shampoo- they have particular ones for each different type of people like for oily hair, dry scalp, dry hair etc. I’ve used this product for two years consecutivley it wasn’t all that bad.

  3. Anonymous says:

     What worked for me is a product called Grandpa’s Pine Tar Soap. It is regular bar soap. It is made entirely out of tar from pine trees. It smells amazing, and has been used for the past few hundred years to relieve dandruff. It leaves you a little more slippery than normal, but it feels good. Simply use the same bar to wash your hair as you do  to wash the rest. It’s about $3.00  a bar, but it is worth it. I found it in a catalog from Duluth Pack. They sell it on their website.

  4. Steve B says:

    First off,

    I’d switch to more raw paleo foods, including raw meat…  Exclude pork… Try Eating 4 Your Blood Type (this is Paleo for Type 0′s)  If all was going well in your mind/body you wouldn’t have flaky skin…  It’s your body’s way of detoxing…  and drink less water…  seriously… your body gets most water from regular food… peeing like 5/x day is unnessary because it  inhibits natural detox channels…. Let me know what you think…

    Steve

  5. Steve P says:

    I thought I’d add my two cents since no one has mentioned it yet – Nizoral.

    It’s active ingredient is Ketoconazole – an antifungal. It worked for everyone who I’ve recommended it to for dandruff.

    It also worked for me as an all-over body wash when I had jock itch and also ringworm on my back. The doctor had prescribed an antifungal cream but it was impossible to apply. I used the Nizoral and applied it with one of those back-scrubber sponge things. Cleared up in a week.

    You can continue to apply weekly or so as a preventative.

     

  6. Hello Fellow dandruff sufferer, be of good courage!

    I was so interested by your post, as it echoed what I lived through, but from the other way round – meaning a year ago,  as my first health act I dropped Tar based shampoos (indeed I stopped all shampoos etc – as I quickly realized they are no more than toxic liquids in plastic bottles) and my second act since 3 months has been to adopt a “more or less” Paleo diet.

    I’ll cut it short for all our sakes, a year ago now, increasingly I had disgusting greasy, scabby dandruff with a terribly itchy scalp – and alopecia – my hairline retreated half an inch in three months.

    The specialized anti itchy scalp / dandruff treatments were totally useless, every two days I would wash my hair with them and then carefully rinsed and rinsed, but it got worse until all the time I was tortured constantly by itching and the pain around my hairline – the worst of it were the clumps of greasy head skin gathering on my scalp. What the hi-tech shampoos were supposed to cure simply made my condition get far far worse.

    Desperate one evening I did some research and stopped ALL SHAMPOOS AND CONDITIONERS.

    I then washed my hair (gently no rubbing) every other day in water with vinegar, and this ensured that it never smelt, and after two months I never worried about my hair or scalp smelling, as by then it had all reverted to its natural equilibrium. Earlier on, apart from just cider vinegar, I would also rub coconut oil on my afflicted skin (face brows and hairline) and put a little olive oil (with a few drops of rosemary oil essence and lemon juice) into the washing water and  of course cider vinegar.

    All this stopped the itching and diminished the severity of the dandruff.

    I now wash (gently no rubbing) my hair twice a week or so in warm water with a good slurp of  cider vinegar and that is all. If i’m in the shower I have a little spray thing and get the vinegar onto my hair and skin like that, and I NEVER rub hard. I simply touch and gently press the scalp.

    The cider vinegar is also great for the face, I’ve dropped facial creams, as they are also  concoctions of noxious things. Otherwise I wash the rest of my body with olive oil or Alep soap, and use a stick of alum deodorant.

    But recently what was even more amazing for me, was when I started an approximate Paleo diet, and within a week and up to a month the difference came… more and more of my health troubles stopped. As concerns us here, I have had no more scalp trouble at all.

    I swear we do not need all those highly perfumed, PCB Paraben mishmash products. Dump that rubbish and do it naturally. Why do we treat our digestive tracts and metabolisms with respect while we poison our skins?

    Good courage and best of luck.

  7. Rosemary says:

    Stop using shampoo 5-6xs/week. It stripping all the natural oils from your hair & scalp, making your scalp flake. I don’t think cavemen used shampoo. ;)

    Just massage harir with diluted white vinegar or honey and rinse with water. There will be a transition phase for about 3-4 weeks of greasy hair because your body is used to secreting extra oil to make up for you stripping it out so often with shampoo. Be brave. Stick it out. Wear baseball caps. But then it will slow down and you can go back to using shampoo ONCE PER WEEK and rinsing with water on the other days. Do an experiment. Take pics. Document on your blog.  :)

  8. Rosemary says:

    Stop using shampoo 5-6xs/week. It stripping all the natural oils from your hair & scalp, making your scalp flake. I don’t think cavemen used shampoo. ;)

    Just massage harir with diluted white vinegar or honey and rinse with water. There will be a transition phase for about 3-4 weeks of greasy hair because your body is used to secreting extra oil to make up for you stripping it out so often with shampoo. Be brave. Stick it out. Wear baseball caps. But then it will slow down and you can go back to using shampoo ONCE PER WEEK and rinsing with water on the other days. Do an experiment. Take pics. Document on your blog.  :)

  9. Anonymous says:

    It’s most likely the crazy chemicals in your current shampoo. Or it could be a food allergy. I would try switching to less shampooing (two or three times a week), and using something natural, like an organic, chemical free product, or just some apple cider vinegar or other natural remedy.

     

    Good luck to you!

  10. Bliss says:

     Hi John.

     I did not read all the other posts so if someone said this then nevermind.

     All showers – cold water.

    No soap or shampoo.

    regular hard brushing and/or combing

    that’s my 20 cents

  11. MountainDew says:

    Apologies if it’s been mentioned already. Get enough limes to make about 1 – 1 1/2 cups of juice. Wash your hair with lukewarm water.

  12. Allie says:

     Well, I haven’t read the myriad of comments already, so this might already have been covered: I wash my hair with baking soda (water + baking soda = paste, then rub it in), rinse well, then pour on some diluted apple cider vinegar, rinse well. Tada! I’ve never had a problem with dandruff. Some quick google searches led me to a lot of discussion on the apple cider vinegar being a good option for dandruff elimination. I hope you find something that works!

  13. Jorge from Venezuela says:

    Hi John

    I used to have dry scalp, itching with snow flakes in all my head and my hair was falling. When I started eating paleo, my symptoms got less but still stayed. Then I stopped using shampoo and washing with water only, after adaptation phase, I got much better and my hair started regrowing in some areas but still a little snow flakes stayed. Then finally buyed a shower filter to remove chlorine from water and now I am 100% with healthy hair. Plus the bonus that my skin rashes healed and now it  feels really smooth like a baby.

     Hope that helps, if I had this knowledge before I would had suffer less.

    Good luck!
     

    • Julie says:

      This makes sense to me. I grew up with well water and never had a problem with flaky scalp until my current job (13 years) as a nanny, where I take showers with city water. I’m 41, and the scalp troubles didn’t occur till I was in my early 30s — after I’d been using city water for a few years. I’d never made this connection before, so thanks Jorge. (I have noticed though that my hair is softer, shinier, and even detangles more easily with when I shower with well water.)  

  14. CE says:

     My husband switched to Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap (the crazy looking bottle with a bazillion words on it) for his shampoo. He dilutes is with water. It works!!

  15. Janel says:

     I HIGHLY recommend trying using egg yolk (rinsed out with cold to cool water) to wash your hair and a  vinegar rinse as a conditioner. I got the egg yolk idea from the comments on a no-poo article at Mark’s Daily Apple. It washes the hair without drying it out. It does an awesome job. I have blonde hair, so any oil buildup shows up pretty obviously. But with the egg yolk cleansing, I can usually go three days until I need to wash again unless I work out. For a conditioning rinse, I use 1 TBSP apple cider vinegar to 1 cup of water. I fill up a bike water bottle with the solution and use it as necessary in the shower. I’ve heard that the acidity of the vinegar restores the acid base to your scalp, which controls the fungus in your scalp from which dandruff arrives. I’ve been going fully no-poo since January, and I found this advice about egg yolk and ACV almost a month into going no-poo when I felt I just wasn’t getting the awesome results people talked about when going no-poo. This combination totally made the difference for me.

    I used to have a dandruff problem 3 years ago before I discovered paleo and crossfit. I went to the doctor, got a prescription spray and shampoo  to control the dandruff. But it was only controlling it. Didn’t make it go away. Doing some research online, I came across some vitamin and oils recommendations – started taking acidophilus, flax seed oil, and some other stuff. Those changes helped control and minimize the dandruff. But once I discovered paleo and started reducing the carbohydrates in my diet, the dandruff pretty much disappeared. (I was still using conventional products at the time.) However, any time I have a bit of a carb binge, I can see the dandruff develop a bit on my scalp. 

    I’m also a swimmer, and when I started the no-poo thing, I went swimming and only used water to see what would happen. First day after swimming, my hair was fine, but the second day, I developed HORRIBLE dandruff. Since then, I’ve taken my sports bottle of ACV rinse with me to rinse out my hair after a swim. I rinse it 2-3 times (squirt it in all over my scalp, comb it through, rinse with water) with the stuff, and I have no dandruff issues whatsoever afterward.

  16. Anonymous says:

     Keep it cold bro. Cold water is good for your muscles, skin, circulatory system, and hair. It is also quite Paleo. Ever been in a river, even in the middle of summer? It is almost always at least a little cold. Keep it Paleo, keep it cold. Oh and forget the shampoo and all that other stuff. I’ve been taking cold showers for awhile now and I’ve never had healthier (EXTREMELY curly and long. I have the type that stays on top of my head, but can be unraveled down to below my chin.) hair. No grease, no dandruff, just awesome caveman-fro.

  17. Anonymous says:

     Keep it cold bro. Cold water is good for your muscles, skin, circulatory system, and hair. It is also quite Paleo. Ever been in a river, even in the middle of summer? It is almost always at least a little cold. Keep it Paleo, keep it cold. Oh and forget the shampoo and all that other stuff. I’ve been taking cold showers for awhile now and I’ve never had healthier (EXTREMELY curly and long. I have the type that stays on top of my head, but can be unraveled down to below my chin.) hair. No grease, no dandruff, just awesome caveman-fro.

  18. Anonymous says:

     Keep it cold bro. Cold water is good for your muscles, skin, circulatory system, and hair. It is also quite Paleo. Ever been in a river, even in the middle of summer? It is almost always at least a little cold. Keep it Paleo, keep it cold. Oh and forget the shampoo and all that other stuff. I’ve been taking cold showers for awhile now and I’ve never had healthier (EXTREMELY curly and long. I have the type that stays on top of my head, but can be unraveled down to below my chin.) hair. No grease, no dandruff, just awesome caveman-fro.

  19. Julie says:

    Dandruff isn’t really a dry-skin problem. Your skin cells are just turning over faster than they should. The solution depends on the cause, but here’s what works for me: John Masters Organics Zinc + Sage Shampoo (sold at Whole Foods), and Scalpicin (the version with cortisone) for the itch. Scalpicin is only necessary for a couple of days. Good luck!

  20. Rhys says:

     +1 to no shampoo…let your body handle it naturally.

    out of all people i would have expected you to understand that..

    • John says:

      ha, I certainly understand it…just haven’t taken the plunge to no-poo since I have longer hair, wondering what other folks do

      • Alishahndra says:

        My hair is straight and roughly 23" long; I just went poo-free (today).

        I washed with 1 Tbsp of baking soda diluted in 1 cup of water and put in a squeeze bottle.

        I rinsed with 1 Tbsp of apple cider vinegar diluted in 1 cup of water put in a spary bottle.

        My hair is 100% as clean and 90% as detangled. I love it!

        If you are afraid that you need more conditioning, you can buy some coconut oil and run a bit through the ends of your hair when it is dry. It gets absorbed…also, it’s great to oil up your hair before going to the beach…no more tangles AT ALL.

  21. San says:

    Couldn’t agree more with the others, who say stop washing your hair so often. I’ve read in some books that if you have curly hair you should skip the shampoo more often for the conditioner instead.

    I use Dove shampoo and conditioner and it works out fine. I wash my hair only every second and sometimes even every third day and my skin is handling it fine, which says a lot since I’ve been having eczemas and dry skin since childhood. 

     

    However I think it’s hilarious that this post brought you so many comments. ;-) Enjoy your weekend.

  22. Geoff says:

     Hey John,

    When I started trying to kick the shampoo habit I still had long hair that would get super oily. I started small, using shampoo every other day for a few weeks then going up to once every three days for a while. It takes time, but your body adapts. With the way you pull  your hair back off your face that the inherent curliness of it, I wouldn’t worry too much about the aethetics of the oiliness, it is much more noticeable in someone with thinner hair who wairs it down.

    Dropping the shampoo is probably the best way to get rid of dandruff 

    Geoff

  23. A F says:

     Fungal overgrowth.

    I got rid of my fungal overgrowth and dandruff by a one month boring diet of meat, fish, eggs, butter, coconut oil and some lemon in my water. Also hard cheese. Only water, tea, coffee to drink. No veggies. To eat coconut oil regularly seems to be good to keep it from reappearing.

    But I guess the shampoo also affects it.

     

    • somedude says:

      No veggies at all?! That is so un-paleo.

      •  Well…   eating no carbs and eating like once or twice a day would allow the body to ultimately heal itself.  The dandruff is just the body’s attempt to shed toxins… so why don’t you make sure you put little toxin and junk into the body in the first place?  

        Paleo really just a diet of meat to make sure you’re firmly in the state of ketosis..   What are you trying to improve?   I would drastically reduce calories on a paleo diet as well….  no need to get as you would think….

         
  24. Anivair says:

    Here’s what helped me: 

    I wash about every other day.  I wash with a water/baking soda mix.  I condition with water/vinegar mix.  I use cool water (hot water makes dandruff like lightning).   Give it a shot and see how it goes. 

  25. CoyoteVick says:

    Dandruff is caused by bacteria/fungi on the scalp. Using tee tree oil can help, but the best remedy is sunshine. A good half hour of sun, directly on the top of your head every day will make dandruff go away very quickly. 

  26. Hunter P says:

    Virgin Coconut Oil.

    • Anonymous says:

      I second that on the coconut oil. I wash my hair with Grandpa’s Pine Tar Soap (or you can get the shampoo version if you don’t like the idea of running a bar of soap over your head) and that’s it. I had dry scalp for years with commercial shampoos, but the pine tar soap got rid of it for most of the year. The only exception was in the winter when it comes back. So I tried coconut oil since that worked on other places where I had dry skin. Just rub the stuff into your scalp before you go to bed once. One application and I was good for like a month. No more dry skin.

  27. Barber says:

     I used to have dandruff.

    I tried all the anti-dandruff stuff and they would work for a time (1 week to 4) and then the dry, ichy, and flakey scalp would come back with a vengeance.

    I got fed up with the constant battle and tried going no-poo, it totally worked!

    I have pretty long hair and to help keep the grease factor under control I use a few drops of a lemon juice and tea tree oil concoction (about four parts juice and one part tea tree oil) right down the scalp.

    Works like magic!  

  28. Barber says:

     I used to have dandruff.

    I tried all the anti-dandruff stuff and they would work for a time (1 week to 4) and then the dry, ichy, and flakey scalp would come back with a vengeance.

    I got fed up with the constant battle and tried going no-poo, it totally worked!

    I have pretty long hair and to help keep the grease factor under control I use a few drops of a lemon juice and tea tree oil concoction (about four parts juice and one part tea tree oil) right down the scalp.

    Works like magic!  

  29. A&A says:

    I have read that increasing your consumption of WAPF-style bone broths hits the spot nutritionally re: dandruff. Might have something to minerals, might have something to do with getting protein in the form of gelatin. I don’t know.

    I’ve heard this only, not from my own experience. But it’s something to think about.

  30. Damien says:

    Others have brought it up already, but from my own experience and experimentation any shampoo containing sodium laureth suphate or sodium myreth sulphate gives me bad dandruff, and I only need to use it once or  twice to get the effect.  It also seems that if I keep using the same (any) shampoo for a long period of time (a few weeks say) i’ll get a little druffy. So I have about three different shampoos that I alternate between and everything is good. The type of conditioner appears to be irrelevant- not that I use it much anyway.

  31. Garthwh says:

    I use denorex or selsum blue. They work well, and they don’t smell like cheap perfume. Pretty chemical though. They’re also moderately expensive.

  32. Alex Good says:

     Olive oil on the scalp.

  33. Garthwh says:

    I use denorex or selsum blue. They work well, and they don’t smell like cheap perfume. Pretty chemical though. They’re also moderately expensive.

  34. Samson says:

    do the experiment. I got hair about as long as yours and i got nothing to complain about. you always can go back after a couple of weeks if your not pleased.

  35. Sarah says:

     Hi John and thanks for tackling this issue which is one I have been having, like you, despite going paleo. Lately I seem to have found the following having a significantly beneficial effect on dandruff:

    - 3 shampoos a week max

    - use only 100% natural shampoos with no chemical in it

    - MOST IMPORTANTLY don’t shampoo/rinse with hot water – USE COLD WATER ONLY 

    I know, it gets a little chilly, and it’ s much more pleasant in the summer than in colder months but you don’t have to shampoo at the same time you shower and if you do, cold water is good for your body/blood circulation etc. too anyway! Very paleo thing to do actually! :)

    - I’m not sure if you use one but no hairdryer – that’s obvious! Let your hair dry naturally.

    These "techniques" have really made a difference for me lately. I hope you can give it a try!

    Best, Sarah

  36. Lia Pignatelli says:

     1- Shampoo less often

    2- Condition more often

    3- Add omega 3′s to the diet

    4- Buy a humidifier if it’s dry in your apartment. Your scalp is dry and needs moisture :)

    <3 <3 <3

  37. Hans Keer says:

    This is an autoimmune response. It may be seborrheic eczema or psoriasis. The answer is probably somewhere in your diet. To start with, stop eating beetroot and read the leaky gut post on my site. VBR Hans

  38. Fanny says:

    Go no-poo! (that’s the no-schampoo-method)

    You can google it but basically you stop using schampoo (which dries out hair+scalp) and wash your hair with balsam (with natural ingredients). It’s a bit of a process in the beginning and you need to work out which products are free from "forbidden" ingredients but after that you’ll be saving loads of time and money! Also get a boar bristle brush for scalp-massage…

    I have pretty long hair and since I started no-poo I need wash my hair like once a week… when I do it I usually smear in coconutoil+honey (slightly warm) and let it sit for a while before I wash it off with organic balsam. On rare occations I use a SLS-free schampoo if I’ve been using any hair products, but I rarely do these days. My bathroom cabinet barely has any products these days, I use no more products than balsam, coconut oil and honey (no soap).

    Oh and my hair looks great and my scalp is happy. If you go no-poo you’ll probs get awesome locks!

     

    good luck

  39. kara t says:

     Natural this, whole foods that, blah, blah, blah. I’m just as much into this lifestyle as most people but let’s get to the point here. Do you have dandruff? Or dry scalp? If your scalp is itchy, waxy, with yellowish flakes you have dandruff. If you have white dead skin cells flaking off you probably have dry scalp. I apologize that your stylist didn’t educate you in the difference. As a stylist, I feel like my opinion should have come credibility. He did exactly what I would do for most of my clients (but I’m at a Paul Mitchell focus salon so I would recommend Tea Tree Special Shampoo). But for you, my natural friend, let’s start with the basics. First  I would recommend a natural boar bristle brush to help exfoliate the scalp. Brushing morning/night should help get rid of the flakes. We’re just now rolling into spring, so your skin might just be adjusting. If you need some more moisture to the scalp, why not coconut oil? I’d rub it into the scalp, let it absorb overnight, then do a double shampoo the next morning. You could also try mixing coarse sugar with the oil do to an exfoliating treatment. Tea tree oil could be beneficial as well, and Giovanni’s shampoo might be worth a shot :)

  40. Michael says:

    dont wash your hair every single day, its damaging to your hair and dries out your scalp. and if you do id suggest getting a cheap conditioner to compensate. It might also be helpful to ask a girl how often she washes her hair (most will say not every day) and what she does to keep it healthy, i say that because i can count on one hand the number of women ive ever seen with dandruff.

  41. Lorna says:

    Omega 3s.  My life-long dandruff has completely cleared up since I started taking fish oil.  I can’t believe what a difference it made.  I shampoo everyday, too.   

  42. Lib says:

    You either have actual dandruff, which is a fungal problem that pyrithione zinc can solve, or an unfortunate tendency towards dry skin.

    The "no ‘poo" community has  a lot of tips for transitioning to a life without harmful, scalp-drying sulfate-laden shampoos – the downside is that a sulfate-free scalp requires several weeks of a  "transition period" where your scalp is producing oils over-time. It’s not for me, but many curly-haired women swear by it. Google "no poo hair care"  to learn more.

  43. Leilani says:

    I use hair wash from Terressentials. The ingredients are aloe vera juice, clay minerals, and also essential oils and floral extracts. Apparently it takes a few days of use for your scalp and hair to detox all the old shampoos and other stuff that coats your hair. Maybe your scalp is having a reaction to a chemical in your shampoo. Or maybe your water has lots of chlorine or something that’s drying out your scalp. Anyway, you can check out Terressentials at http://www.terressentials.com/ . It’s the only thing I’ve used in my hair for the past two years, and my hair has never felt better. It still gets a bit flakey when my apartment is unusually dry, but that’s only after I’ve put off washing it for like a week.

  44. Don says:

     Dander Less–

    I use RN’s methodology for daily hair cleaning, works for me, though currently hair is short.  

    Couple of things not mentioned that I use regularly; first thing while peering in  the am mirror, while complementing the onlooking dude I comb my scalp with a (wooden) comb daily…that’s the massage part, feels good too.  Secondly, I occasionally rub in oil to my hair and scalp for an overnight friendly  treatment, mostly prefer sesame oil myself.  Adding drops of TTO to base oil may add medicinal benefit.  Oh, wrapping scalp/hair in a towel protects bedding etc. 

    Best,

    Don

     

  45. Elisabeth says:

    I can sympathize with this problem, but for me I have found that I only get dandruff when I am too lazy to do anything to my hair for about a week or if I use any kind of standard shampoo and the dandruff shampoos made it the worst!

     

    My hair is naturally curly, fine, thick, fairly dark and just barely above my shoulders when it is dry. I get spiral curls about the size of a really fat highlighter and the challenge is to keep my hair and my scalp moisturized enough without weigh down the curls (since then my hair gets flat and greasy-looking). I went "no-’poo" about two years ago. The first two weeks were tough, since that is about how long it takes to adjust. (Hats…and ponytails.) This was about a year before going Paleo, so no idea how that might affect anything.

     

    At first, I washed with just conditioner (suave naturals as recommended by naturallycurly.com, since it had minimal drying ingredients). This was still too heavy for me, but my sister and mom swear by a tea tree oil conditioner (like Wen or a similar knock-off on Amazon). I tried the baking soda think to counter the heaviness, but I found this very drying and it made the problem worse. Adding oily things to my scalp also made the overall appearance issue worse.

     

    Now, I rinse well with water, use a boar bristle brush once a day for the scalp and rinse with an apple cider vinegar solution about twice a week (white vinegar smells worse to me, but once you rinse, your hair doesn’t smell either way). Then, while my hair is still pretty wet, I scrunch a bit of coconut oil on the ends.

     

    This works for me – I haven’t bough shampoo for years! Good luck with your minor issue…

  46. Lindsey says:

    Tea tree oil to the scalp is the only thing that helps me.

  47. el duderino says:

    5-6 times a week is WAY too often to be putting anything in your hair.  You should shampoo and condition once every 3 days AT MOST with a high quality shampoo that has no surfactants or other nasty crap.  I have used Bumble and Bumble in the past but now I just use the "all natural" stuff from Whole Foods.  

    Back in college I had a glorious head of hair like you do now and I rarely put anything in it other than the occasional beer.  Sure…I had a few dreads, but no dandruff.  

    Also, if you feel the need to use crap more often than 2X weekly try just conditioning without the shampoo.  

     

     

    • Sarah says:

      I’ll second that.  Twice a week is the max for washing hair.  Also, I’ve found that using a shampoo without sodium laureth (or lauryl) sulfate helps immeasurably.

      I think some dandruff production is actually stress-related, too.  Like, acute stress.  I know it sounds weird, but if you have a cat, and you take it to the vet, when you get there, it’s covered in dandruff.  Apparently that’s just what happens – and I suspect that it happens in humans, too, but less noticeably.  Next time you get a massive "OMG" sudden stress that lasts for more than 10 minutes or so (like, I dunno, a prostate exam from a real weirdo doc?) check your hair after – I bet the dandruff will be fully on the go.

      • John says:

        ha, thanks for the tip. I make sure all my prostate exams are administered by doctors I know well and am comfortable with.

  48. Levi says:

     I’ll chime in because I still have a problem with dandruff though it has gotten much more manageable after Paleo (A.P.?). I used to use Neutrogena and other medicated shampoos. Now I can pretty mcuh manage it with some Natures Gate Tea Tree Oil Shampoo. If I start to eat bread for a little bit it comes raging back!

  49. I tried every anti-dandruff, anti-dry scalp product Aveda sells.  None of them worked for me. Not even the eye-dropper stuff.  I, too, did the Neutrogena stuff for a few years, but all it did was make my head feel cool and then dry my scalp out real bad.

    What works best, and what I’m doing now, is washing my hair twice a week, and only using Rainbow Research’s Shampoo for Kids. One bottle lasts me a year.

    I still get occasional light dandruff and my scalp is still a little dry, but now it’s not getting dried out by astringents in shampoos and there isn’t a left-over layer of stuff from conditioner.

  50. Paul Jaminet says:

    This is an easy one, John. Dandruff is usually caused by Malassezia, a fungal pathogen. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malassezia.

    Very low-carb diets promote fungal infections, and odds are it developed because you’ve been too low-carb for too long.

    There are many things that will help, but the two most important are:

    1) Eat more "safe starches." Rice is a good one, also potato, taro, sweet potato, and plantains. Try to average 400 carb calories per day.

    2) Improve anti-fungal immunity by supplementing iodine, selenium, vitamin C, zinc, copper, and chromium.

    Best, Paul


    • John says:

      Thanks, Paul. In retrospect, I may have mis-titled my post, since I believe it’s just dry scalp and not a fungal infection.

    • Carson says:

      I’ve had dandruff for as long as I can remember… Long before I went Paleo. I can’t say any dietary change has affected it whatsoever. Selsun blue works fine but I have to use it on a daily basis.

  51. Theodore says:

     I have seen quite a few people go no shampoo with longer hair (women) on the MDA forums. Apparently it takes a week or two to adapt where it looks awful  that you just have to get through. I wouldn’t know though, even though my hair is long now, I went ‘pooless when it was still very short. 

  52. Sinclair says:

     I know the Aveda is expensive a hell, but it is really  great and I’ve been using it for going on 6 years. While it does contain some chemicals (what doesn’t these days?) it is one of better brands out there and tries to use natural ingredients as much as possible. I’ve been using it for years and the secret of it is, don’t use a ton. Use a small amount and don’t wash your hair everyday, use it every other day. 

  53. Sinclair says:

     I know the Aveda is expensive a hell, but it is really  great and I’ve been using it for going on 6 years. While it does contain some chemicals (what doesn’t these days?) it is one of better brands out there and tries to use natural ingredients as much as possible. I’ve been using it for years and the secret of it is, don’t use a ton. Use a small amount and don’t wash your hair everyday, use it every other day. 

  54. Tuck says:

    I grew up using Head & Shoulders anti-dandruff shampoo to control dandruff.  Then I started using a girlfriend’s aloe-vera shampoo in college.  Miraculously, it did what the anti-dandruff shampoo could not do, and I’ve not had a dandruff problem since.

    I’m now of the opinion that the nasty chemical H&S was contributing to the dandruff, not curing it.  I try to get the least noxious shampoo I can find.  St. Ives is great if it’s available in the area, or one of the "herbal" shampoos.

    Or just use a nice palm oil/olive oil soap.  If you really want paleo points, use a lard/palm oil/olive oil soap.

    Metro paleo, caveman with product.  You’re really developing a niche for yourself, John. ;)

     

  55. I’m an aromatherapist and I like to rinse my hair with apple cider vinegar mixed in water, it has anti-fungal properties.. The smell actually fades.. My hair is long and the No-Poo method worked for me.

    Guys may not be that fond of that kind of stuff but traditionally essential oils have been used for dry hair. The essential oils of  basil, chamomile, lavender, rosemary, geranium, yarrow, and sandalwood have historically been used for dry hair. Mix 1 tbl of cider vinegar and 3 drops of essential oils to half a pint of water for dry hair. Add this blend to a bowl and run it through your final rinse when wash your hair.

    Hot oil treatments have been used too, but again, it may not be a guy thing to do, but it is pretty easy to do..

    You may want to look into iodine or iron deficiencies as well…

    Johanna

  56. John Nelson says:

     Good old fashion Head and Shoulders works. You can try a bunch of other stuff and spen a whole bunc of money but for my bucks a couple days showering with Head and Sholders cost only a few bucks and takes care of the problem.

  57. Will says:

    Just shower with water….seriously…..give it 2 weeks for your hair to get used to producing (and keeping) it’s own natural oils.  I’m pretty sure the ancestral habitat didn’t have Aveda :P   I hesitated at first too, but now I dunno if I could go back.

    • el duderino says:

       Will is 100% correct.  The type of product is irrelevant, it’s the amount.  Any you’re using way too much.  Your hair might look a little greasy without cleaning but that grease is what your scalp needs.  Plus you’ll look like a dirty hipster and chicks go for that kind of thing.  Think like a paleo man, not a modern consumer.  Treat the cause, not the symptom.  

      • P says:

        I have to third this. Used to use one of those 2-in-1 and it would keep the dandruff at bay. If I didn’t wash for more than 2 days, the itchy scalp came back.

        Haven’t used shampoo for months and haven’t had a flake. In fact, my hair looks better than ever.

        IMPORTANT: When you wash, you have to put the mechanical effort into washing the scalp just like you did when you used shampoo. YOU HAVE TO MASSAGE THE SCALP. If I don’t do this, it doesn’t feel as clean.

        Also, I started brushing my hair a bit a couple of times a week. Maybe 10 strokes. Helps loosen the dirt and hits the scalp a bit. This is probably 1/100 the maintenance a girl would do, but other than a little combing, most dudes with shorter hair don’t use the brush ever.

         

        • formervegan says:

          Dude, I am a girl have done no shampoo for months and brush just about as much as you! Love the low maintenance. Chicks dig guys that can get around them not using products.

          Oh, and my hair is long. I don’t think length matters so much…just may take longer for the body to acclimate. Took me about two weeks before my hair started looking and feeling really good.

      • P says:

        I have to third this. Used to use one of those 2-in-1 and it would keep the dandruff at bay. If I didn’t wash for more than 2 days, the itchy scalp came back.

        Haven’t used shampoo for months and haven’t had a flake. In fact, my hair looks better than ever.

        IMPORTANT: When you wash, you have to put the mechanical effort into washing the scalp just like you did when you used shampoo. YOU HAVE TO MASSAGE THE SCALP. If I don’t do this, it doesn’t feel as clean.

        Also, I started brushing my hair a bit a couple of times a week. Maybe 10 strokes. Helps loosen the dirt and hits the scalp a bit. This is probably 1/100 the maintenance a girl would do, but other than a little combing, most dudes with shorter hair don’t use the brush ever.

         

  58. Jenn says:

     For what it’s worth, I know of people with much longer hair than yours that have gone no-shampoo.  Check out the Long Hair Community for threads on it.  They call it "WO" (water-only) or "NW/SO" (no water/sebum only).  But you’ll probably want to wear ponytails and/or bandanas for a few weeks while your hair gets used to things.  You could also try Giovanni Tea Tree Triple Treat for a cheaper shampoo and conditioner against dandruff.

  59. Anonymous says:

    I have similar hair to yours, and Richard’s no shampoo experiment totally did not work for me.

    My girlfriend did not allow me to continue cause my hair just… didn’t cooperate. 

  60. Anonymous says:

    I have similar hair to yours, and Richard’s no shampoo experiment totally did not work for me.

    My girlfriend did not allow me to continue cause my hair just… didn’t cooperate. 

  61. Kat says:

    I have very long hair and manage by using an egg yolk once every two days, and rinse with apple cider vinegar. I just mix the ACV with water in a spary bottle and spray it over my hair, don’t rinse it out. If I’m traveling I usually am ok for up to 5 days using nothing. 

  62. Alex says:

     I too have suffered this affliction long hair and short , paleo and conventional , itchy and just flaky.

    I think less wheat and grains has greatly improved it, less occurance. and reducing the shampooing seems to help with the dryness. 

    I think alergies can play a role in some cases but even using a head and shoulders type product every day will not nesscariy stop the problem.

    In my opinion the non itchy variety is nothing to worry about just annoying, if you like to wear black , Its the itch that is the worst and need real medicine like head and shoulders or Selsun Blue. 

    I went from shampooing every day (horrible bouts of itching and flakes) to every other day (inconsistent hair)to once a week-2 weeks( pretty good results)currently i only shampoo when my hair is so saturated with my own head oil I can’t take it and inbetween with water only. 

    My recent expiriment is  to try and get my hair wet as little as possible using shower caps because fungus like moisture.

    So i would wash with water only 1 -2 times per week 

    Also the change of seasons has an effect on us and shedding skin cells is natural , cliche but its just  modern society that views dandruff as  gross. Just relax at least you don’t have fleas and stress will make your hair fall out. 

    And any good hairdresser worth their salt will try and sell you some product.

     

  63. Jenna says:

    I’ve had the same problem since before I went Paleo, and it has not gotten better. Mine sounds like it’s worse than yours–itchy, flaky, and it builds up into thicker scales in certain areas of my scalp. I have tried tea tree oil, all different types of anti-dandruff shampoo, and prescription medication (foams, liquids, and shampoos). The only thing that has worked for me is Nizoral, a shampoo whose Active Ingredient is Ketoconazole 1% (available at drugstores). I have tried doing research on what aspects of my nutrition I could tweak even more to fix the problem from the inside–part of me suspects a connection to gut flora–but my research skills aren’t really up to par and I haven’t found much. I’d love to hear any suggestions from others who have tried all the typical remedies, follow a Paleo diet, and still have this problem. 

    • Anonymous C says:

       @jenna. i used to have the same problem pretty bad, and it has almost resolved with paleo, but i just want to chime in that i also think it’s connected to gut flora… [and/or fungal issues on scalp and/or allergies.]  my scalp immediately gets itchy and weird if i eat something sweet or too carby. Additionally I have problems with some products and with hairspray (changes in scalp pH? or allergy? i don’t know) I don’t wash my hair often, and rarely use sulfate-shampoos, and i do feel that a vinegar rinse helps., but if i eat sugar – it’s over.

    • Anonymous C says:

       @jenna. i used to have the same problem pretty bad, and it has almost resolved with paleo, but i just want to chime in that i also think it’s connected to gut flora… [and/or fungal issues on scalp and/or allergies.]  my scalp immediately gets itchy and weird if i eat something sweet or too carby. Additionally I have problems with some products and with hairspray (changes in scalp pH? or allergy? i don’t know) I don’t wash my hair often, and rarely use sulfate-shampoos, and i do feel that a vinegar rinse helps., but if i eat sugar – it’s over.

    • Anonymous C says:

       @jenna. i used to have the same problem pretty bad, and it has almost resolved with paleo, but i just want to chime in that i also think it’s connected to gut flora… [and/or fungal issues on scalp and/or allergies.]  my scalp immediately gets itchy and weird if i eat something sweet or too carby. Additionally I have problems with some products and with hairspray (changes in scalp pH? or allergy? i don’t know) I don’t wash my hair often, and rarely use sulfate-shampoos, and i do feel that a vinegar rinse helps., but if i eat sugar – it’s over.

    • Jenna says:

       I should add that I’ve also tried apple cider vinegar, baking soda, and coconut oil. Coconut oil seemed to help the most, but only if I apply it every day. 

      • Patrick3000 says:

        Jenna, see Paul Jaminet’s comment on page 1 of the comments. It’s interesting with regard to gut flora. He’s from perfecthealtdiet.com and his approach is more in line with Kurt Harris than VLC. 

      • Patrick3000 says:

        Jenna, see Paul Jaminet’s comment on page 1 of the comments. It’s interesting with regard to gut flora. He’s from perfecthealtdiet.com and his approach is more in line with Kurt Harris than VLC. 

  64. Anonymous says:

     My friend, dandruff is caused by a fungal overgrowth on the scalp.  The name of the little bastard is:  pityrosporum ovale.  Most everyone as this fungus on their head, but for the lucky few (actually masses) dandruff is the result of their cohabitation.  I’ve found the best thing to do is try to limit the consumption of foods that contribute to yeast overgrowth.  If you are already doing this, then the next avenue to wander down is external washes.  Some people believe acidic washes like apple cider vinegar work, or soaks with coconut oil.  You can try both.  Please et away from those coal tar based products.  Those brown goos are stinky and toxic to say the least.  Some people try mixing a solution of apple cider vinegar and 3% hydrogen peroxide  a couple of times a week.  

    I’d love to hear your experinece treating this.  I once made a chinese medicinal tea and sprayed it on my scalp and it definitely worked.  The only drawback is that it stank.

  65. Tea tree oil is customary in dandruff shampoos & conditioners. If you won’t use pre-made products (Trader Joe’s sells a version) you might be able to add a few drops of TTO to some coconut oil and massage that in. TTO is not good full-strength on skin, so mix it with a gentle oil – almond oil, mineral oil, CO, etc. Both my husband and daughter suffer from bad cases unless they use the TTO. Good luck!

    • Jim says:

      John, just promise us you announce which strategy you’ll go for (a ranking of strategies by plausibility for success, as your current – though admittedly always evolving – perspective sees it), and the results?  This will be fascinating! 

      I too find the autoimune nature of it critical.  A usually-unlooked element that I like to look at is how our personal histories contain experiences of social/family pressure that forced us to repress, deny, judge and scorn certain parts of ourselves, and those repressed parts thereafter scream out for expression in the more inscrutable language of our bodies and persistently malfuncitnoing autoimmune systems.

      Alice Miller’s "The Body Never Lies" is a brilliant explanation of the body’s malfunctionining as expressions of our own repressed personal truths.  The recent Matt Damon movie "The Adjustment Bureau" is actually a solid metaphorical exploration of just how commonly we receive signals from society at large that connecting to our own personal truths represents a threat to society’s current construction, built around the insecurities of its power holders.  "The plan" in the movie is really just a system of social control, one that just about all of us are unwittingly participating in by jumping on others who seem to break from it, and all of it engineered by an abstract "chairman," a holder of power who certainly doesn’t care about you finding your own truth and falling in love with a beautiful British dancer.  : )

      • Hey John,

        I’m pretty sure it was you I saw sipping a tall glass of brown ale a couple weeks ago over by Union Square. ;) Paleo peeps like us, and even kinda paleo but weirder bean-eaters like Tim Ferriss, are known to occasionally drink fermented beverages. They have grain, and more importantly, they have the toxins from the yeast that grew on the grain, and the yeast that fermented the grain. Those toxins stimulate the fungus on your head to grow.

        I’ve been able to correlate increases in dandruff with alcohol, and even with the type of alcohol having an effect. Worst is beer, next is red wine, next is white, etc. (full list from best to worst at http://www.bulletproofexecutive.com/alcohol-without-the-hangover-bulletproof-part )

        Vinegar never worked for me. Coconut kind of works. But for topical solutions, the best is a fraction of MCT oil. Coconut is 60% MCT oil. But there are 4 oils that are in MCT. 2 of those 4 are most useful topically (and internally for weight loss too.) http://www.upgradedself.com/Brain-Upgrades/MCT-Oil/flypage.tpl.html is the only commerically available mix of JUST those 2 antifungal/antibacterial oils – capric & caprilyc triglycerides). I use this on my skin and hair, and I take it internally. No more dandruff, as long as I’m eating real foods.

        You may also find some relief from sprinkling sacharomyces boullardi on your scalp. It’s a yeast that lives by eating other yeasts. It dies with it’s done and there’s nothing else to eat.

         

         

Leave a Reply