As someone who used chemical relaxers from the time I was 10 until I was 24, I’d accepted my excessively dry scalp as a side effect of constantly pursuing straight hair.
Among the ingredients of my preferred relaxer brand were propylene glycol, a synthetic liquid which according to the CDC can irritate the skin after repeated use, and calcium hydroxide, which can also be found flooring strippers and industrial cleaners. So of course after monthly exposure to these harsh toxins, my scalp was on strike.
One of the reasons I decided to stop relaxing my hair in 2010 was my out-of-control dandruff. I really just wanted a healthy scalp and hair and I knew I couldn’t achieve that while slapping propylene glycol on my head every couple of weeks. After growing my hair out over the course of a couple of months and then chopping off the last of the permed ends, I was finally on a path to a flakeless scalp. I stocked up on natural products such as raw shea butter and coconut oil. Anything that sounded like the opposite of ashy was bound to find its way into my shopping cart.
But after my first few washes and conditions as a natural, the huge transformation I’d hoped for didn’t happen. My hair was thicker, stronger and healthier, but I couldn’t go three days after a wash without embarrassing flakes popping up between every part.
I went into full-on assault mode with typical remedies for dry scalp. First, I bought SheaMoisture African Black Soap Deep Cleansing Shampoo, which left my hair feeling soft and hydrated. But it’s sulfate-free, and since I use a lot of styling products and sweat profusely when I work out, I needed something a bit stronger to get rid of the buildup.
Next, I tried my friend’s prescription dry scalp medicine. It was a foam that I applied directly to my scalp, which must have been specially formulated to only work on her because it was like putting air on my head and expecting a miracle.
I’d heard great things about Glover’s Dandruff Control Medicine for Hair and Scalp, and the retro packaging made me feel it’d been around for a long time, so it must work. Let’s just say it was a waxy mess that took several rinses to come out if my hair completely.
At my wit’s end, I stopped trying to focus on a single solution to kill my flakes and experimented with a cocktail of products. Here’s what has finally gotten rid of my chronic dry scalp:
Anything with sulfates. Right now I’m using Nexxus Hydra Light Weightless Moisture Shampoo, but I don’t have a preference. The Nexxus is strong enough to clean the product residue from my hair, but doesn’t leave it stripped. I’ll wash once with it and then switch to the Shea Moisture African Black Soap for extra conditioning.
Briogeo’s Curl Charisma curl defining conditioner is the best I’ve ever used -- and I’ve used dozens, trust. A dime-sized amount thickens into enough coverage for my very large Afro, and I’ll place a plastic bag on my head and leave it on for 40 minutes to an hour. It leaves my hair feeling lush and moisturized.
This step is key. I only wash my hair about twice monthly, so I make sure to oil and massage my scalp every couple of days to keep dandruff at bay. Alikay Naturals Hair Growth Oil is a mixture of rosemary, olive, jojoba, sweet almond, tea tree and other oils that work together to keep me flake-free.
It took years, but I can finally say that I’ve rehabilitated my scalp after more than a decade of toxic practices.
Have you also struggled with dry, flaky scalp? Share your remedies in the comments section below!