This blog post took 6 months in the making. I will start off with my hair background –
I have the normal Asian girl hair – black, straight, fine-medium width, and normal-oily type. I’ve also had dandruff in the mild condition for most of my life. What I mean by mild condition is that my scalp gets itchy a few times a day and my scratching results in scalp skin appearing in my hair. It doesn’t fall on my shoulders like how it appears in dandruff shampoo commercials make it appear. I would need to pat on my scalp for them to get fall out of my hair. My parents have it too and they’ve always been using Head & Shoulders in Classic Clean. Since I was still growing up, I used it too, and as long as I kept using it 2-3 times per week, it kept the dandruff in control.
I have strayed from using it at one time to try other shampoos like Pert Plus because they smelled so good when I was in my teens. But my itchy scalp came back and so did the dandruff. So I reverted back to Head & Shoulders and did not try to stray from it again.
When I started graduate school 3 years ago, my scalp suddenly became itchy again and the Head & Shoulders Classic Clean was no longer working for me. While browsing Target’s hair care section, I picked up Head & Shoulders Clinical Strength.
Active Ingredient: Selenium Sulfide 1%
Inactive Ingredients: Water, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Glycol Distearate, Zinc Carbonate, Sodium Chloride, Sodium Xylenesulfonate, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Dimethicone, Fragrance, Sodium Benzoate, Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride, Magnesium Carbonate Hydroxide, Methylchloroisothiazolinone, Methylisothiazolinone, Blue 1, Yellow 5.
I compared the active ingredient with the Head & Shoulders Classic Clean one, and found that its main active ingredient is Pyrithione Zinc 1%. I thought to myself that Selenium Sulfide is the ingredient that I needed to look for in my dandruff shampoo as Pyrithione Zinc may be too weak to control my dandruff and itch.
I also did not know it at the time, but I found out later that both products contain Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS), which is an ingredient found in many many personal care products, and has many undesirable properties. A simple Google search will show you how horrid the ingredient is, but I for one have never experienced any of the supposed dangers considering I have been using an SLS product for like 15+ years. And this negativity boggles my mind since if it’s as dangerous as it’s claimed to be, then why is it to this day that it is still approved to be sold to consumers..???? One day I will do a more serious search for an actual peer-reviewed journal article about SLS.
After trying out this new medicated version of H&S, it worked immediately. My itchy and dandruff were gone! It has an orange color and is thick and creamy. The scent is strong, but not in an off-putting way. I kept using it (2-3 times per week) for another 2 years without any problems.
After I started dating my boyfriend 2 years ago, he recommended that I try shampooing everyday as he said that was how he got rid of his dandruff (true story!). I had already been thinking about decreasing my use of H&S, and so, I started to use the same shampoo as he did, which was Dove’s Cool Moisture Shampoo with my TRESemmé conditioner. I was doing this for almost a year and watching carefully for itchiness/dandruff, but have had no dandruff/itchy scalp. For some reason, starting 5 months ago, my scalp became very itchy and both large and small flakes would show after scratching. The flakes are white and tend to be oily. The itch only happens on the crown area of my head and not the lower back part. I knew there were a ton of dandruff care shampoo out there, and the task of finding one that would work was just daunting. I am a cheapskate and so, I did not want to try a whole array of products. Now begins my search for a treatment on a reasonable budget…
Phase 1: The natural thing to do was to go back to using my old H&S shampoo bottle, but this time, alternating between the H&S and Dove shampoos. But after 2.5 weeks, the itch still persisted.
Phase 2: I went to Target and continued to stick with H&S and found the H&S Itchy Scalp Care with Eucalyptus Shampoo. I reasoned with myself that the flakes were a result from the itchy scalp and if I could control the itch, then no flakes would result. I got the tingly-cooling sensation and I thought it was working its magic, but I tried this for the next 2.5 weeks and the scalp was still itching and flaking. It was also drying the crown area of my hair.
Phase 3: No shampooing and only conditioner-washing (co-wash) at the ends of the hair for about 1.5 weeks with the same conditioner, but still no luck.
Phase 4: I finally turned to Google to find the right shampoo product. That’s when I learned about all the poo ingredients – SLS, etc. I read a blog site about only using cold water and no shampooing for a trial period and then using a no-poo shampoo every now and then. This was convincing enough to try as I have had eczema flare-ups on my skin in the past and my dermatologist suggested cold showers, which worked. So I have been rinsing my hair in cold water (soft water) with no shampoo/conditioner every day for about 1 month now. I also blow-dry only the bottom-half of my hair to avoid any heat on my scalp area and make sure the scalp area is dry before sleeping. Thankfully, my hair did not get greasy except if you look closely at the roots. The itchiness intensity and frequency has dropped by 25%, and smaller flakes (dot-like) would appear. But the itchiness was still there.
Phase 5: One month ago, I decided to try another dandruff shampoo that contains sulfates, Selsun Blue Medicated Maximum Strength.
Active Ingredients: Selenium Sulfide (1%);
Inactive Ingredients: Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate, Amino Methyl Propanol, Citric Acid, Cocamide DEA, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, DMDM Hydantoin, D&C Red 33, FD&C Blue 1, Fragrance, Hydroxypropylmethylcellulose, Magnesium Aluminium Silicate, Menthol, Water (Purified), Sodium Chloride, TEA Lauryl Sulfate
I wasn’t too sure about this product since it has the same active ingredient as the H&S Clinical Strength shampoo that had stopped working for me. But I decided to give the 2nd most popular off-the-shelf dandruff shampoo brand a try. Selsun Blue offers several varieties, but I went with the Medicated version since if its strongest one can’t help relieve my itch, I don’t have to bother with the other ones.
After using it once, I noticed a difference. The itch had went away and I was no longer getting dandruff. I am glad I found the shampoo that works for me. It’s still infuriating to know that I can only control the problem and not rid of it completely. Although I am a cheapskate, I learned that I could not avoid the frustrating trial-and-error process to find the one that would work for me. Heck, no one even knows why/how dandruff happens. Many think it is due to a fungus, Malassezia, that is naturally found in everyone’s scalp, but is more active in people with dandruff. Thus, many of the popular brands such as H&S and Selsun Blue add antifungal ingredients while others try to slow the rate of skin cell death.
So I have been using this Selsun Blue shampoo for awhile and have started to decrease its use to once a week. I alternate using this and another regular shampoo. So far, no problems…yet..