Get Well

The Guinea Pig – I try, you buy

Anti-dandruff Shampoos


With cold weather comes dry, itchy scalp and its bastard friend, dandruff. Most of the time it can be remedied with a good shampoo, but many contain ingredients that do more harm than good. Treatments like Head and Shoulders and NeutrogenaT-Gel contain parabens, formaldehyde-based preservatives, and added fragrances and colors that can cause irritation.

Fortunately, there are plenty of homeopathic alternatives available for mild to severe dandruff. But while it might take care of the dandruff, how does it handle hair?

GiovanniTea Tree Triple Treat Shampoo


Tea tree oil has many uses as an anti-fungal and anti-bacterial agent. Not only does it help kill the bacteria that contributes to dandruff growth, it also soothes itchiness with peppermint. Though it costs more, around $7-9, it definitely earns the price tag by being organic, vegan, cruelty free and free of laurel/laureth sulfates. It can also be found at big retailers like Target and many supermarkets.

I’ve used this for months, and find the peppermint incredibly strong and invigorating. You know those old Head and Shoulders commercials with the phrase “The tingle lets you know it’s working”? Tingle doesn’t begin to describe the feeling you get with this, and it lasts after you’re done rinsing. Not only did any irritation subside, my scalp actually felt healthier and was dandruff free.

As for hair maintenance, it’s average – you’ll definitely need to condition afterwards.

The Verdict – Forget the tingle – this stuff works for mild to moderate dandruff.

Grandpa’sPine Tar Shampoo


Yup, pine tar – it’s exactly what you think. But pine tar oil has been used to alleviate severe cases of dandruff, seborrhea and psoriasis for decades (hence the Grandpa approved label). And if you can get past the wet pavement smell, it might just save you a trip to the dermatologist.

Not so for me – I used this to help get rid of what I thought was bad dandruff. I found out later from a doctor that it was psoriasis. Needless to say, Grandpa’s didn’t help me, and I ended up using a regiment of steroids instead. If you have moderate dandruff, this might be worth a try, but I doubt it would do for more serious conditions.

What this shampoo might offer in terms of treatment, it lacks in loving your locks. My hair literally felt like a wet clump of straw.

The Verdict – This is the shampoo equivalent of having Nana put iodine on your cut, or spoon feed you cod liver oil for your bad tummy. It might work for your bad dandruff, but does it have to be so unpleasant?

Avalon – Tea Tree Scalp Treatment Shampoo


What stands out about Avalon Tea Tree shampoo is the great smell. Along with tea tree and peppermint, it also has lemon peel extract, which gives it a really refreshing, somewhat fruity fragrance. At $8-10, it’s a bit pricey, but it’s organic, and at 11 ounces,  there’s plenty to go around.

While it doesn’t have the tingly oomph of Giovanni, it wins in the hair department. My hair felt less dry than with the other brands I tried. As someone who uses hair product (mousse, pomade), I also noticed that my hair felt cleaner and gunk-free.

But I wasn’t impressed with the dandruff treatment – it had little to no effect on ridding my head of flakes or scalp itch.

The Verdict – It’s strong in the shampoo department, but less strong in the anti-dandruff department.

My Choice – Giovanni, but you probably already guessed that.

As for tips on how to avoid getting dandruff in the first place, some are easier said then done. If you feel the need to scratch your head, don’t – the more you scratch, the more it spreads and can lead to bacteria that causes dandruff. If you use a lot of hair products (gel, hairspray) or color your hair, go easy on them for awhile.  But most of all, keep your head clean!