Reader S.O.S. – Help, my husband has dandruff!


Q: Dear Jessica,

My husband would kill me for airing his dirty laundry, but I’m on a mission to solve this for him.  He has a pretty bad case of either itchy scalp, dandruff, or something. He’s been to the dermatologist and has a prescription shampoo. The minute he doesn’t use it, the itchiness and irritation starts again. So, I’m thinking the usage of Selsun blue is causing its inflammation.  I’m ready to have him change shampoos to see if it helps. Can you suggest either a clean/sulfate free shampoo for him or a clean anti-dandruff sulfate free shampoo?

A: Hi Friend!  (I won’t use your name so we don’t expose your poor hubby!)  I am going to start by saying that I am not a doctor, and I cannot diagnose your husband’s condition.  However, if it is indeed dandruff, then I have some suggestions.  Most dandruff shampoos (even the prescription ones) contain coal tar, which is a known carcinogen.  My personal opinion is that when one has sensitive or problematic skin or hair, the answer is to treat it gently with TLC, not further agitate it with harsh chemicals.

First, switch to a super Clean shampoo that is free of coal tar and sulfates, which overdry the scalp.  Look for ingredients like rosemary, neem oil, tea tree oil, and aloe.  All are anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and anti-fungal.  He may want to try washing his hair every other day (instead of lathering up every single time he takes a shower) and he could  add a Clean conditioner to his showering routine.  Below  you will find five Clean, Bare Beauty-Approved shampoos for dandruff and sensitive scalps.


Skinny Skinny Organic Bar Soap Shampoo with Neem, Lavender and Tea Tree

Cost: about $8 for 4.3 oz.  Purchase it here.

Ingredients: saponified oils (extra-virgin olive*, extra-virgin coconut*, palm*, avocado*, neem*, unrefined fair-trade shea butter*), essential oils (lavender, eucalyptus, tea tree).


Max Green Alchemy Scalp Rescue Shampoo

Cost: about $16 for 8.8 oz.  Purchase it here.

Ingredients: Purified Water, Aqueous Herbal Extract (Glycyrrhiza Glabra* (licorice) Root, Tussilago Farfara+ (coltsfoot) Leaf, Achillea Millefolium* (yarrow), Salix Alba+ (willow), Tabebuia Impetiginosa+ (pau díarco), Arctium Lappa* (burdock) Root, Berberis Aquifolium (mahonia), Calendula Officinalis* (calendula), Equisetum Arvense* (horsetail), Urtica Dioica* (nettles)), Sodium C14-16 Olefin Sulfonate (coconut derived surfactant), Cocamidopropyl Hydroxysultaine (coconut derived surfactant), Sucrose Cocoate (sugar/coconut emulsifier), Coco-Betaine (coconut derived surfactant), Leptospermum Petersonii (lemon tea tree), Melaleuca Alternifolia* (tea tree), Lavandula Angustifolia* (lavender), Pelargonium Capitatum* (geranium), Rosemarinus Officinalis* (rosemary), Oryzanol (rice extract), Hydrolysed Soy Protein (hair strengthener), Glycerine (vegetable source), Panthenol (pro vitamin B5), Sodium Chloride (solar sea salt), Macadamia* Ternifolia (macadamia) Seed Oil, Parfum (fragrance of plant origin), Xanthan Gum, Ascorbyl Palmitate (vitamin C ester), Aloe Barbadensis* (aloe vera) Leaf, Mixed Tocopherols (plant derived GMO-free vitamin E). * Organic + Wildcrafted.


Avalon Organics Tea Tree Scalp Treatment Shampoo

(They also make a Tea Tree Scalp Treatment Conditioner.)  Cost: about $11 for 11 oz.  Purchase it here or at Whole Foods.

Ingredients: Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice (1), Aqua (Water), Coco-Glucoside, Lauryl Glucoside, Sodium Coco-Sulfate, Sorbitol, Avena Sativa (Oat) Bran (1), Calendula Officinalis Flower Extract (1), Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract (1), Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Peel Oil, Eucalyptus Globulus Leaf Oil, Melaleuca Alternifolia (Tea Tree) Leaf Oil, Mentha Arvensis Leaf Oil, Mentha Piperita (Peppermint) Oil, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Oil, Beta-Glucan (1), Babassu Oil Polyglyceryl-4 Esters, Bisabolol, Citric Acid, Decyl Glucoside, Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein, Inulin (1), Sodium Sulfate, Tocopheryl Acetate, Alcohol (1), Benzyl Alcohol, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Benzoate, Limonene (1) Certified Organic Ingredient


Nature’s Gate Tea Tree Calming Shampoo

They, too, make a coordinating conditioner.  Cost: about $10 for 18 oz.  Purchase it here or at Whole Foods.

Ingredients: Water, Cocamidopropyl Hydroxysultaine (Coconut Derived), Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate (Coconut Derived), Disodium Cocoamphodiacetate (Coconut Derived), Lauryl Glucoside (Vegetable Derived), Glycerin (Vegetable Derived), Melaleuca Alternifolia (Tea Tree) Leaf Oil, Panthenol, Hydrolyzed Soy Protein, Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Borago Officinalis (Borage) Seed Oil, Tocopherol (Vitamin E), Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract, Hamamelis Virginiana (Witch Hazel) Extract, Humulus Lupulus (Hops) Extract, Melissa Officinalis (Balm Mint) Extract, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract, Urtica Dioica (Nettle) Extract, Nasturtium Officinale (Watercress) Flower/Leaf Extract, Quillaja Saponaria (Soap Bark) Bark Extract, Ascorbyl Palmitate (Vitamin C), Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride (Plant Derived), Leuconostoc/Radish Root Ferment Filtrate, Polysorbate 20, Hydroxypropyl Methylcellulose (Plant Derived), Sodium Hydroxide, Glyceryl Undecylenate (Vegetable Derived), Phenoxyethanol, Citric Acid (Vegetable Derived), Fragrance*.  * Phthalate free


John Masters Organics Zinc & Sage Shampoo + Conditioner

Cost: about $20 for 8 oz.  Purchase it here or at Whole Foods.

Ingredients: Aloe barbadensis (aloe vera) leaf juice*, aqua (water), babassuamidopropyl betaine, decyl glucoside, disodium cocoamphodiacetate, glycerin, zinc gluconate, zinc pyrithione, rosmarinus officinalis (rosemary) leaf extract*, urtica dioica (nettle) root extract*, chamomilla recutita (chamomile) flower extract*, salvia officinalis (sage) leaf extract*, equisetum hyemale (horsetail) extract*, lavandula angustifolia (lavender) extract*, salix alba (willow) bark extract*, carica papaya (papaya) fruit extract, yucca schidigera (yucca) leaf/root/stem extract*, panthenol (vitamin B5), allantoin, wheat amino acids, chlorophyll, riboflavin, sodium benzoate, potassium sorbate, vanilla planifolia (bourbon vanilla) fruit oil*, rosmarinus officinalis (rosemary) leaf oil,* salvia officinalis (sage) oil*, simmondsia chinensis (jojoba) seed oil

There are also two homemade hair treatments that many swear by.  You could mix up a large batch of either or both and keep them in old shampoo bottles – label them with a marker, though!  🙂


He can try an apple cider vinegar rinse, which is the same pH as most conditioners.  Apple cider vinegar rinses are commonly used for relief of dry scalp, oily scalp, lackluster tresses, and basically every other hair issue out there.  Mix two tablespoons of ACV with one cup of water and pour over wet hair in the shower.  Rinse with cold water.  Done.  Don’t worry about the smell.  It goes away.  (You can also lather up with a Clean shampoo afterwards, if you desire, but I would try to do without and see how it goes.)


Another inexpensive homemade remedy for dandruff is a an essential oil scalp massage.  Mix one quarter cup of jojoba, almond or olive oil with a one half teaspoon of  rosemary, tea tree or neem oil and massage into wet hair in the shower.  Rinse and lather up with a Clean shampoo.

I hope that helps!  Please let me know how it goes!

Does anyone else have any recommendations for treating dandruff?