Get Rid of Itchy Scalp and Dandruff With Tea Tree Oil

After two bi-weekly treatments, my dandruff was all “See you on the other side, bitch!,” and now my scalp is sexy again.
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Courtney Brunson
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After two bi-weekly treatments, my dandruff was all “See you on the other side, bitch!,” and now my scalp is sexy again.

So there I was, head slumped forward over my Kindle, absent-mindedly digging my nails into the skin beneath my bangs, when it started snowing. WTF????? I first thought, followed by my frantic realization — OH MY GOD THAT’S NOT SNOW THOSE ARE FLAKES OF MY HEAD SKIN!!!!! As I screamed over the sound of my heart palpitations, spiraling deeper and deeper into a black hole, I knew this was the end.

I. Hate. Dandruff. It horrifies me. I refuse to eat coconut cake because it looks like it’s covered in dandruff. I hate orange juice pulp because it’s like having — you guessed it — dandruff floating in my glass. I was only able to ignore my winter-induced raw, irritated, itchy scalp until I turned into a walking Parmesan cheese monster.

Me going, “OMG NO ITCHY SCALP I HATE YOU DANDRUFF NO WHY ME NOOOO!!!!!!!” while spiraling into the previously mentioned black hole.

Me going, “OMG NO ITCHY SCALP I HATE YOU DANDRUFF NO WHY ME NOOOO!!!!!!!” while spiraling into the previously mentioned black hole.

While most dandruff is caused by dry skin, it can also be the result of irritated oily skin, sensitivity to hair products, or fungus — ahhhh!! Personally, I think my dandruff is caused by a history of eczema, shitty New York tap water, and chronic bad juju. After my traumatic episode, I searched the racks of Duane Reade for any type of drugstore-brand scalp treatment, when I came across a familiar face: tea tree oil.

Of all the oils taking residence in my medicine cabinet, there’s a reason why I would kick them all to the curb for tea tree oil. Well, there are actually a few reasons — reasons that were discovered after a solid afternoon of research while sitting in the Books-a-Million café. I read some weird Australian medical journal, a study from the National Center for Biotechnology Information, and even a report from the American Cancer Society for this info, so y’all better appreciate it.

Hydrocarbons in tea tree oil called “terpenes” fight many types of bacteria (like MRSA) and can treat acne, skin fungus, and cold sores. Tea tree oil is able to cure dandruff and itchy scalps because the oil contains moisturizing benefits in addition to its anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antifungal, and antiseptic properties. It also penetrates any blockage between your skin and sebaceous glands while screaming “Bye Felicia!!!” to gross pore cooties. I’ve used this ingredient to not only cure my scalp woes, but to murder cystic pimples and treat gross ingrown hairs. Basically, TEA TREE OIL IS MY BAE.

Dessert Essence Tea Tree Oil, $4; Hollywood Beauty Tea Tree Oil Skin & Scalp Treatment, $3; Dessert Essence Organic Tea Tree Oil, $13.

Dessert Essence Tea Tree Oil, $4; Hollywood Beauty Tea Tree Oil Skin & Scalp Treatment, $3; Dessert Essence Organic Tea Tree Oil, $13.

Here are the oils I currently own and use. The Hollywood Beauty Tea Tree Oil is the scalp treatment I found at Duane Reade on sale for less than four dollars. Please learn from my mistakes and store this upright to avoid oil leaking everywhere. The Desert Essence Eco-Harvest Tea Tree Oil  and Organic Lavender Tea Tree Oil were sent to me, but you can still find them online or at Whole Foods — I checked for you guys. Both brands will do the trick.

Essential oils (like the two Desert Essence products) are concentrated and very strong, so you must dilute the oil before applying it to your skin. Please, I’m begging. This is a super important detail when you’re already dealing with an angry, irritated scalp. You can dilute the oil in a couple ways: Wet the cotton bud of a Q-tip under water before saturating it with oil for spot application, or mix a few drops of oil with water in a dish or refillable bottle. Think of this step as similar to wetting your Beauty Blender before dipping it into foundation. 

Oh, and if you have sensitive skin, apply a small amount of diluted oil to a test area on your scalp first. Resist the urge to go balls out and pour oil all over your head in an itchy rage.

Most products designed specifically for the scalp, like the Hollywood Beauty Skin & Scalp Treatment, are mixed with other oils and can be applied directly to the skin. For instance this one has safflower oil, rose hips fruit oil, plus a million others.

Like I mentioned earlier, the Desert Essence oils are concentrated so I’m warning you — the smell is stroooooong. If you’re really into herbal-y scents like Eucalyptus, then this will be your jam. I marinate in tea tree overnight when only my apartment ghosts and I have to suffer the smell, or during the day when I know that I will not be wearing pants or abandoning my PS3.

To avoid a puddle of grease on my pillowcase I wear one of my many du-rags to bed. Yes, I said one of many. I used to tell people I slept in “satin scarves,” but let’s call a spade a spade and accept that I go to bed wearing a du-rag. Do not fear carrying a strong smell or having greasy hair forever, because these oils shampoo out very easily in the shower. I treat my scalp right before a “wash day," and can’t detect any residue post-shower. Hooray!

I’ve noticed immediate results from applying tea tree based oils to my scalp. The cooling sensation (it’s like my pores are saying “aaahhh”), and immediate itch-relief leave me free of the urge to scratch and dig my dirty claws into my head — which usually exacerbates the problem. After two bi-weekly treatments, my dandruff was all “See you on the other side, bitch!” and now my scalp is sexy again. Yes, scalps can be sexy.

Anybody else have some nasty dandruff they want to get rid of? Also, let me know if you have any cool itchy scalp remedies you think I should try!

Say hi to Courtney on Twitter and Instagram at @courtneypizza.