Curly Hair Care

Flaky head n’ shoulders? Here’s What You Need to Know (Plus Tips to Treat Dandruff)

Tips for dandruff in curly hair

I’ve struggled with an itchy, flaky scalp since school.

This was WELL before I started the CG Method (before any of you go – Oh it must be all the products you’re using!)

*Rolls Eyes*

Dandruff is actually a chronic problem for many – it never truly vanishes.

Sometimes, it keeps coming back, no matter what anti dandruff shampoo, scalp scrub, DIY oils you use, like a sneaky villain.

Did you ever wonder why is there such a BIG industry with anti dandruff shampoos if all of them really, genuinely work? In one study, this was actually the title – DANDRUFF: THE MOST COMMERCIALLY EXPLOITED SKIN DISEASE

I’ve also noticed so MANY people who after starting the CG Method, struggle with dandruff or feel helpless on what to do next.

I mean, we don’t want the dryness that comes from harsh shampoos but we don’t want to be that person in the anti-dandruff commercials either, scratching away and leaving a snow fall dust on the shoulders.

So, in this post, I’m going to in very easy way, tell you why your dandruff doesn’t go away and what to do about it step by step with natural and chemical treatments even if you follow a no sulphate, no silicone hair diet.

I’ll tell you what I DO each week to make sure my scalp remains as clean as possible, which helps in healthy hair growth.


This is NOT medical advice. This is just what I have found after researching as well has my personal experience. I would strongly recommend you consult a dermatologist if you’re having itchy, dry scalp, any stinging sensation, redness etc – they will be the best to tell you the root (haha) cause of it!

Let’s start with the basic – what is dandruff anyway?

What is Dandruff?

Dandruff is a milder, more common version of seborrheic dermatitis, a scalp condition that causes red, flaky and itchy skin.

In people who suffer from dandruff, there is an excess of yeast-like fungus called malassezia globosa (it normally exists on the scalp & doesn’t create problems in most people) or there is a stronger reaction to that fungus.

This fungus feeds on your scalp’s natural oils and produces ‘oleic acid’ (a fatty chemical) that causes the skin to shed.

Hello greasy white/yellow flakes!

While there is a lot of hoo-haa online about the reasons for dandruff like- dry scalp, oily scalp etc, there is no conclusive proof that either of those reasons definitely cause it.

Understand it as a abnormal immune response of your body to the yeast, which is why some steroids help reducing shedding and dandruff.

Any treatment to dandruff is temporary- it doesn’t last too long. After the initial suppression of the yeast, after some time, their population increased to initial levels and so, the dandruff was back.

So for some people, it’s a chronic condition that needs to be managed throughout your life, especially in winters which always makes the dandruff more severe.

And it doesn’t have anything to do with ‘poor hygiene’ per se, unless you’re literally someone who doesn’t wash/comb her/his hair in weeks!

So if you’re someone who feels ashamed or embarrassed about getting dandruff even after trying so hard to remove it – stop!

It is not contagious, just physiological scaling and can be managed.

Difference between a Dry Scalp, Dandruff & Other Scalp Conditions

This is where it is especially important to see a dermatologist about your itch – maybe the flaking is happening because of a super dry scalp or it could be something more serious like Psoriasis or Eczema.

How do you tell the difference?

A dry scalp usually has smaller, drier white flakes whereas dandruff can be yellowish and oilier. But a dry scalp can actually lead to dandruff too.

You can shampoo less or use milder shampoos even switch to a co-wash to reduce scalp dryness but dandruff needs more stronger measures.

Psoriasis appears as thick, reddish patches that can crack and bleed too.

So if you’re confused, don’t try to self-medicate. Just ask your doctor for his/her diagnosis!

Does Dandruff Cause Hair Loss?

If untreated, dandruff and excess shedding can block hair follicles, preventing new hair from growing.

Poor scalp hygiene will arise if you ignore the problem which won’t help your #longhairgoals!

So don’t ignore the itch. Try these things I’ve listed below. Start from natural methods and move on to stronger, chemical ones if the dandruff still refuses to go away.

Natural, DIY Remedies to Dandruff

Sometimes if the dandruff isn’t very severe, desi nuske (homemade diy’s) can relieve the itch.

Some of the remedies are –

  1. Tea tree oilAnti-microbial and anti-inflammatory, this oil is used to treat psoriasis and acne. Apply it after mixing with a thicker carrier oil like coconut oil as pure tea tree oil is very strong and your scalp can get sensitive. Don’t keep any oil on your scalp for too long though – that can actually increase shedding. Keeping oil in your hair for an hour or so is more than enough I find.
  2. Apple Cider Vinegar Rinse – ACV (with the mother) actually balances the PH of the scalp and can stop the fungus from growing.  More than the itchiness though, ACV rinse makes hair super shiny too! Simply mix 1/4th ACV (With the mother) with 3/4th parts water and spray on to the scalp after shampooing your hair and rinse it off after a few minutes.
  3. Baking Soda – This acts like a gentle exfoliant and also has anti-fungal properties. Please exercise caution when you do this, baking soda can be very harsh for naturally wavy or curly hair.
  4. Lemon – The harsh astringent acids in lemon apparently break down the fungus leaving your scalp feeling clean and fresh. To do this, squeeze out the juice into a bowl and rub it on the parts that get itchy the most. Rinse and wash hair as usual.
  5. Aloe Vera – It is known to soothe irritated, inflamed skin and can help relieve itchiness. Just take some fresh aloe-vera gel and rub it well onto the scalp.
  6. Neem – Known for it’s anti-microbial properties, neem can also help reduce inflammation and itching. Just make sure you boil a small amount of the leaves in a lot of water – keep it diluted otherwise it can actually be too strong. You can also try Neem combs to comb your scalp.
  7. Curd – Like lemon, if you grew up in India, you would have had curd put on your scalp by your elders to treat dandruff. I don’t know why it works but no harm in trying, right?
  8. Scalp Scrub – Olive Oil+ Sugar – this helps to exfoliate the dead skin cells from the scalp. Just scrub it onto your scalp before shampooing and rinse off well after a few minutes. You can also use a shampoo brush. You can also try products like Gold Rawkyn – Detoxifying Scalp Scrub(Use my code CURIOUS10 for 10% OFF Sitewide)
  9. Regular Scalp Brushing – I know this is hard when you have wavy or curly hair but brushing the scalp well helps to loosen up those oily-flaky clumps. You can do this right after you lightly oil your hair and scalp!
  10. Soap Nut Shampoo – Try this DIY shampoo instead of your regular shampoo.
  11. Shampoo Often – Instead of harsh anti-dandruff shampoos, simply increase your frequency of your regular sulphate & silicone free shampoo.
  12. Shampoo Brush – Scrub the scalp well with a shampoo brush. It will help break apart those flaky clumps of dandruff.
  13. Stress Less – Since dandruff happens due to a weak or compromised immune system (leading to inflammation), high levels of stress can actually increase dandruff! Make sure you don’t worry too and keep an active, healthy mental state.

Now, if you’ve tried ALL or many of this but it doesn’t seem to work for you – don’t stress. I used to try these DIY treatments too and it would not help!

Instead use a medicated shampoo or any shampoo with these strong, anti-fungal ingredients.

Chemical Ingredients that work Against Dandruff

Why does a dermatologist recommend a medicated shampoo even when they can be very harsh and drying?

Special anti-fungal and anti-microbial ingredients in the shampoo, like zinc pyrithione, selenium disulfide, sulfur, salicylic acid, ketoconazole, hydrocortisone and tar are highly effective in clearing out dandruff and stop the growth of the yeast. (Read more about these here)

Head & Shoulders has Zinc pyrithione as a key ingredient, which is why it works! (It also has silicones so don’t use this if you follow a CG Method of taking care of your curls.)

They also help loosen up build-up from oil and products and do a deep cleanse of the scalp.

So look for shampoos that have any of the ingredients mentioned above- most medicated shampoos have one or the other as an Active Ingredient.

What Shampoo Do I Use For Dandruff

Most anti-dandruff shampoos will have one or two of the ingredients mentioned above but they will likely to have silicones too!

Now if like me you are following the CG Method, you can’t use those.

Instead, I use medicated shampoos namely Ketoconazole and Nizoral.

I get them from the chemist and they both actually have the same active ingredient, I just bought both together once for fun now I alternate.

And yes, that makes my curls super dry because there are no silicones to soften my hair.

So how do I prevent my hair from becoming super dry and hay like when I use them? By following the steps below!

  1. Wet your hair well.
  2. Cover your hair with a pocket-friendly, moisturising conditioner from mid-length to ends. Just smooth it on generously.
  3. THEN apply the medicated shampoo to your scalp with the tips of your fingers and scrub well.
  4. Keep it on for a few minutes and then rinse it off.
  5. This way when the shampoo slides off, there will be a layer of conditioner to protect the lengths of your hair from the dryness!
  6. You can also choose to oil your hair before shampooing to protect it too.
  7. Sometimes, I deep condition right after using the shampoo to restore the moisture back into my curls.

Should You Co Wash

Co Wash

If your scalp is suffering from dryness, not severe dandruff, you can co-wash without any worries. If your scalp is horribly itchy, it will be better if you clarify/ use a proper shampoo.

Don’t JUST co-wash without cleansing & clarifying since it can clog your scalp over time. Also, use a shampoo-brush with your co-wash, it helps immensely to exfoliate your scalp!

How can I remove dandruff permanently?

As I wrote earlier, sometimes using a anti dandruff shampoo now and then keeps the dandruff at bay.

If it doesn’t, keep it from coming back with severity by being regular with your shampoo/diy treatements – whichever works for you.

Shampoo often, perhaps twice a week in the beginning to reduce the dandruff, then switch to once a week once it calms down – just keep your scalp regularly cleansed.

But DON’T shampoo everyday – you don’t want to remove your scalp’s natural oils completely so that it overcompensates by producing excessively as a reaction.

Use a co-wash if you need to wash your hair every day & shampoo twice a week.

Leaving Products in – Does it Cause Dandruff

styling products

With wavy curly hair, most of us can’t afford not to use a leave in conditioner, curl cream etc!

So I would recommend if you find using products increases itchiness for you, don’t apply it anywhere near your scalp.

Apply it from mid-length to your ends and then just with your palm smooth on the crown a tiny amount of the leave in so you can avoid crown frizz.

Also do this with your head flipped over, it is easier to apply products that way without it dripping back into your scalp. Then use a t-shirt while you’re in that position to scrunch out excess product.

I will not recommend plopping for you if you are trying to reduce dandruff in the beginning – it might just encourage the product to drip back into your scalp.

In the end, if you’re using any styling products, make sure you clarify and deep cleanse once in 2 weeks to ensure there’s no product build-up that can potentially irritate the scalp.

Does Conditioner Cause Dandruff

I found no conclusive studies for this claim- I had dandruff years ago when I’d never even heard of something called conditioner.

But the same points I spoke about above apply here too – don’t scrub it into your scalp and make sure you rinse it off well (especially from the crown).

Can You React to an Ingredient in a new shampoo

Absolutely. Your skin can be super-sensitive and can react to something in your shampoo, conditioner or products.

There are also a class of ingredients called the ‘Itchy M’s’ which are – Methylisothiazolinone, Benzyl alcohol, Imidazolidinyl urea, Diazolidinyl urea, Sodium Hydroxylmethylglycinate, Methyl, Propyl, Butyl and Ethyl parabens, Phenoxyethanol, DMDM hydantoin, Quaternium-15 that are used as preservatives and can cause an itchy scalp.

Check your product stache and see if you’re using anything that has any of this if you suddenly find you have dandruff & switch to something else.

CG-Friendly Shampoos to treat Dandruff

There are a few shampoos on the market that don’t have any harsh sulphates in them but have other ingredients like tea-tree oil, charcoal, salicyline acid, etc that can help purify or exfoliate the scalp.

Some of them are-

  1. Wow Organics Anti-Dandruff Shampoo
  2. Jason Natural Dandruff Relief Shampoo
  3. Trader Joes Tea Tree Tingle Shampoo With Peppermint, Tea Tree And Eucalyptus Botanicals
  4. SheaMoisture African Black Soap Shampoo
  5. Nizoral: Ketoconazole 1%
  6. L’Oréal Paris EverFresh Antidandruff Shampoo Sulfate Free

You can find a brilliant list of so many more here on Sceince-yhairblog site (this website is a treasure trove).

I hope all of this helps. Don’t skip the trip to the doctor if you think your dandruff is hard to manage– I can’t stress this part enough.

Do you have any personal tips for dandruff that I can add here? Drop them in the comments below and I’d love to check them out!

Until next post, see you on my Instagram @thecuriousjalebi. If you have any doubts you want to ask, drop them on my personal coaching group on Facebook – Ask Jalebi!

  • Reply

    During winter dandruff problem increases and I will try these remedies at home and thanks for providing this information.

    • Reply
      Pallavi Juneja

      I hope it helps! Thank you for stopping by 🙂

  • Reply

    Hey is nizoral still available in india? I have looked everywhere and can’t seem to find it anymore. I heard Johnson and Johnson sold the brand to an American firm and now it’s apparently very popular in the west.

  • Reply

    Hi ! Thanks for the tips, the Nizoral Ketoconazole 1% have any sulfates ?

    • Reply
      Pallavi Juneja

      It does unfortunately but it works for me!

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