Q. Dandruff is caused by a yeast (fungus). Here’s how I got rid of it 40 years ago with amber Listerine. I parted my hair in the middle, soaked a cotton ball with the Listerine and saturated the exposed scalp with the Listerine. Then I parted my hair about 1/2 inch from the original part and soaked the newly exposed scalp with Listerine.
I repeated this over my entire scalp. The idea was to get Listerine in direct contact with my entire scalp to kill the yeast. It probably took at least 45 minutes to do this procedure. I used a towel over my shoulders to catch the drips. I left the Listerine on for a short while afterwards. Then I washed my hair as usual.
One week later I repeated the procedure with the Listerine. The dandruff went away and has never returned.
A. It may come as a surprise to many readers that the makers of Listerine used to advertise their antiseptic as a treatment for “infectious dandruff.” One 1930 newspaper advertisement offered this:
“Here’s an easy way of getting rid of dandruff. When your scalp itches or burns, when your hair is dull and lifeless, and when you are bothered with loose dandruff, start using full strength Listerine on the hair and see how quickly you note improvement…Being a germicide capable of killing germs in 15 seconds, it readily takes care of any infection that may be present…LISTERINE: The Safe Antiseptic–Kills germs in 15 seconds.”
Dermatologists didn’t think of dandruff as “infectious” and the FDA determined that the makers of Listerine could no longer advertise their mouthwash for the scalp. Now, however, there is a growing realization that dandruff may indeed be caused in part by a yeast-like fungal infection (Malassezia). Although most of us harbor some yeast on our scalp, for reasons that are unclear, some people react to this yeastie beastie with inflammation and irritation. That leads to cellular growth and flakes, ie, dandruff.
As far as we can tell, there have been no randomized placebo-controlled, double-blind clinical trials of Listerine against dandruff. Would it work? Quite possibly. There are antifungal ingredients in Listerine.
You are not the first person to tell us that old-fashioned amber Listerine was effective, though we have not heard of this treatment as a definitive “cure.”
Anyone who would like to read more about some other dandruff remedies, especially details on rotating different kinds of dandruff shampoos, may find our Guide to Hair and Nail Care of value.
Let us know your own experience dealing with dastardly dandruff. There is room in the comment section to share your story.