As a young girl, I had ashort pixie hair cut, and dandruff didn’t seem to be much of a problem then. I washed my hair everyday and got head oil massages regularly. Whenever my head itched, I washed it with shampoo and felt some sort of temporary relief. However, when I grew my hair, dandruff flared up. Working in New Delhi, a busy metropolitan city, coupled with irregular eating habits took a heavy toll on the overall health of my hair.
My hair began falling out, my scalp always itched, and the texture of my hair became brittle and dull. I visited a renowned trichologist and she suggested medicated shampoos containing ketoconazole, an anti-fungal drug used extensively by cosmetic companies. According to her, dandruff was the root cause of all my hair problems. I used Ketoconazole shampoos regularly for months, and while it helped temporarily, the dandruff returned sooner than later. With longer uses of the chemical, my hair became rougher and frizzier.
To top it off, my scalp always looked oily and dirty, while the hair below my shoulder was dry and unmanageable. I decided to take matters into my own hands and research natural ways to treat my scalp. I tried lemon juice and baking soda on my scalp, experimented with homemade essential oil blends, and here's what I found worked:
1. Wash less
Honestly, it wasn’t easy to not wash my hair when my scalp already looked oily, but I got brave and only washed it twice a week. A month after that, I only washed it once a week. I also reduced the amount of shampoo I used, and washed my hair with apple cider vinegar and tea tree oil rinses, and experimented with traditional herbs like amla (gooseberry), reetha (soapnut) and shikakai (acacia).
2. Check your ingredients
While dandruff is caused by a fungus, other scalp flaking can be caused by irritation or product build-up. Sulfate products dry out your hair and scalp so it’s a good idea to avoid these products when possible. Products that have alcohol as an ingredient and those that are scented can also irritate a sensitive scalp.
3. Do not scratch or pick at your scalp
Fight the urge! Scratching and picking at your scalp loosens the flakes and makes your scalp even more itchy and irritated.
A Traditional Indian Secret: DIY scalp cleanser
In India, amla, reetha and shikakai have been used as natural hair cleansers for centuries. I have seen my mom cleaning her hair with this herbal concoction since I was little, and I am not surprised that she still has shining, dark black hair at the age of 57.
The recipe is easy to make and is like an amrit (elixir) for hair and it helped me enormously too.
- Take a handful of amla, reetha and shikakai and soak them in clean water overnight (preferably use an iron pan for soaking).
- Next morning heat the mix on low flame. As the mix comes to boil, turn off the heat and let it cool.
- Squash the mix to a pulp and strain.
- Use the strained water as shampoo and discard the pulp.
- Apply on the scalp like oil using your finger tips. Cover your head with a shower cap to stop the liquid shampoo from dripping.
- Since this shampoo concoction leaves stains on clothes, wear old threads!