I have been a long-time sufferer of one of the most embarrassing bodily misfunctions known to woman: dandruff. Sure, there are lots of worse ones, like hairy arms or halitosis, but they aren't as uncontrollable and sneaky.
I swear it all started in the late '80s when I hair-sprayed the shit out of my bangs, forming a shellacked skyscraper of hair. This was somehow meant to soften the blow of all that headbanging. White Rain betrayed me, changing its aptly titled aerosol hairspray so I was forever raining white dandruffy flakes onto all my black clothes.
I tried all sorts of products to get it under control. I expected some payback, but all those tar and salicylic acid shampoos weren't doing shit. Then, worse, my eyebrows started to get flaky. What? The dandruff spread down my scalp and onto my face? You've got to be kidding.
I Googled it and discovered, alas, this is a symptom of something called seborrhea dermatitis, which causes red inflamed bumps to appear around the crown of your head and ears. I took closer note of what was going on up top (I generally try not to look too closely at myself); there were red bumps around my scalp. So what was the cure? Steroids.
Uh, my body goes berserk on meds. I needed something else, something so crazy it might work. That's when I decided to stop using shampoo and conditioner -- the last facets of civilization, the last semblance of self-care. At this point, it was like, "Fuck it, what do I have to lose?"
I decided to go with the baking soda hair-cleansing technique. Something about the abrasive, scrub-like texture and all that dead skin on my head made sense. Exfoliation. So I filled a jar with baking soda and brought a little bowl and pestle into the shower with me. I dumped some baking soda into the bowl, added just enough water to make a paste and stirred it around a bit. Then, I just kind of tossed it onto my head; I put a wad in my palm and quickly splashed it onto my scalp and all over my hair, which I proceeded to scrub and scrub. It felt kind of nice. I turned the water up nice and hot and rinsed.
Next, the “conditioner.” I had heard of a few things: beer, lemon juice and apple cider vinegar. I am a big fan of apple cider vinegar in general; it's one of those crazy cure-alls, and it's anti-fungal. I had a little travel shampoo bottle and a big bottle of ACV. I poured the ACV into the bottle about a third of the way and filled the rest with water. Then, I poured that crazy concoction all over my head and left it in for 5 minutes while I did a body scrub. Warning: Do not shave your legs while you have ACV dripping from your head; damn, it burns.
After rinsing, I strode naked into my bedroom, where my husband was reading, to enjoy the wanton adoration he tends to bestow on me in this state, only to hear him say, “What is that smell? It's horrible!” To which I responded maturely, “Oh, deal with it.”
Warning #2: As long as your hair is wet, you'll stink like vinegar, but once it dries you are good to go.
After a few weeks of doing this, my hair was kind of oily and the flakes were not much improved. Losing hope, I added a couple new things. I started adding a few drops of tea tree oil to the baking soda mix, and I bought a natural hairbrush and started brushing my hair twice a day. Prior to this, I never brushed my hair except in the shower. I have wavy hair and brushing it dry just makes it look, well, weird and frizzy.
I stuck with it, considering the first month the awkward phase. Because it was winter, I alternated between cute hats and braids to cover up the oily look. My awkward phase paid off because a few weeks later, my dandruff had significantly decreased. Every time the flakes came on strong, I just brushed them out and I was safe from embarrassing mishaps for the rest of the day. And, the best part: My hair looks all kinds of lush and shiny.
There are some drawbacks. I spent the winter in Ecuador and apparently, you can't buy baking soda there without a prescription; something to do with cocaine production. So traveling this way can be cumbersome. All these mixing implements also take up significant shower space. But overall it's worth it. I get compliments on how great my hair looks all the time. I love to brag about my secret; it freaks people out.
How do you feel about the idea of quitting shampoo? What do you swear by to help your dandruff?