What is the most annoying thing about dandruff—the flakes all over your shoulders or the itchy scalp? Dandruff is hardly ever a serious medical condition (except the kind caused by psoriasis), but it can be persistent and extremely annoying. It seems to be triggered by an imbalance of yeast living on the scalp. Readers have shared a number of inventive home remedies that may help.
Have you ever heard of using Listerine for dandruff? Someone told me that he heard on the radio how Listerine helps to get rid of the embarrassment of flaky scalp.
A gentleman called in to our public radio show with an amazing story about Listerine mixed with baby oil. His veterinarian had recommended this combination for relieving itchy spots on his Dobermans and horses. He found that it worked and tried it for his own dandruff. He said it gets rid of dandruff in two to three days. Of course, this is not scientific evidence. But Listerine does contain a number of essential oils (thymol, eucalyptol, menthol, and methyl salicylate) that may have antifungal properties. Since dandruff appears to be caused in part by a fungus (yeast), it stands to reason that a fungus fighter could provide benefit. Other ingredients in dandruff shampoos also counteract fungi. Selenium sulfide, zinc pyrithione, and the antifungal drug ketoconazole (Nizoral) are all effective fungus fighters. The caller did not tell us the precise ratio of Listerine to baby oil, so if you want to try it, you will have to experiment.
A few weeks ago you wrote about someone using Listerine and baby oil to treat dandruff. More than 40 years ago, my family was using plain Listerine for this purpose. It was advertised as a dandruff treatment during World War II, and it worked wonders.
We were fascinated to discover a 1943 ad for Listerine Antiseptic against “infectious dandruff.” These days Listerine is advertised only for oral hygiene.
MILK OF MAGNESIA
I have been using milk of magnesia on my face for seborrheic dermatitis for the past two months, and my face flakes are gone! I pour it in my hand, massage it on my face (forehead, eyebrows, around the eyes, nose, cheeks, and chin) while showering, and rinse it off at the end of the shower. End of problem. It’s a great, cost-effective alternative to expensive Nizoral, and it works better.
Seborrheic dermatitis is like superdandruff, causing flakes and itching. It appears not only on the scalp, but also on the face. We are glad to hear the milk of magnesia solved the problem.
For several months now, I have had a problem with a scaly, flaky scalp. I finally went to the doctor, who prescribed medicated shampoo and mometasone topical solution. Nothing worked. Then a friend suggested Miracle Whip. I rubbed it into my scalp and left it in for a couple of hours. I now have a flake-free scalp. Any idea why?
We checked the ingredients in Miracle Whip. They are water, soybean oil, vinegar, high-fructose corn syrup, sugar, modified food starch, egg yolks, salt, mustard flour, artificial color, potassium sorbate, spice, paprika, natural flavor, and dried garlic. We can’t imagine why any of these compounds would clear the flakes from your scalp, but others have praised Miracle Whip as a good hair conditioner.
A few weeks ago someone reported success using Miracle Whip on a scaly, flaky scalp and wanted to know why it worked so well. I think the effective ingredient is vinegar. It’s lots cheaper and less messy than Miracle Whip. There are many Web posts on this and I’ve found from personal experience that vinegar works great.
Other readers agreed that a dilute vinegar rinse helps reduce dandruff. One suggested mixing four parts warm water to one part apple cider vinegar and using this solution to rinse hair after shampooing. She is 80 and has been using this remedy successfully for 55 years. Other readers use equal amounts of water and vinegar.
All my life, I have used dilute vinegar to rinse my hair after shampooing. It works on dandruff and on feet to stop odor. And it’s cheap!
A number of people have confirmed that vinegar (before or after shampooing) is effective against dandruff. The acidity makes it difficult for yeast to thrive. Dandruff and foot odor are both caused in part by yeast that lives on the skin.
My wife reads your column and told me about a vinegar rinse to control dry scalp. I have suffered from this problem for years. I have used a huge variety of shampoos, including expensive prescription ones. Sometimes my itchy scalp made it difficult to sleep. The vinegar mixed with an equal amount of water has made a huge difference. Thank you! I have even started rinsing my dog’s coat with this solution after a bath. Some areas where his coat was thin have grown back. We spent hundreds on vet bills, and I am pleased to have solved this so inexpensively. I can’t thank you enough.
Many people report that vinegar fights dry skin. Some find that rinsing the hands in a vinegar solution is helpful. The vinegar rinse might also discourage yeast that lives on the scalp and causes dandruff, seborrheic dermatitis, and intense itching. We’re glad it helped.
Joe Graedon & Terry Graedon, The People’s Pharmacy: Quick & Handy Home Remedies, published by National Geographic