Q. I have suffered with an itchy and flaky scalp for many many years. I have been to dermotologists and used various prescription and over the counter remedies to no avail.
Last year my hairdresser told me to use T/Gel Shampoo along with applications of Sea Breeze. This has amazingly taken care of my problem and now I can wear dark colors without worrying about “snow on the shoulders.”
I cannot believe I went through all of those years trying all those remedies and actually found this simple and inexpensive solution to my problem.

A. Congratulations! We are delighted that this combination has worked so well for you. T/Gel Shampoo contains coal tar as its active ingredient. It has been used for years to control dandruff. We’re actually surprised that your dermatologist never mentioned this approach.
Another reader wrote that Sea Breeze, twice a week in the shower, cleared up her itchy scalp too. The Sea Breeze pore astringent she was using had eucalyptus leaf oil, benzoic acid, camphor, salicylic acid and alcohol. Some of these ingredients may have anti-fungal activity which can knock out the yeast that often causes itching and flaking.
Common approaches to treating dandruff utilize chemicals such as zinc pyrithione, found in Head & Shoulders and other dandruff shampoos. This compound disrupts the metabolism of the scalp fungus (Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, Dec., 2011).
Repeated use of the same compound may result in the yeast developing resistance, which could explain why a shampoo that worked at first loses efficacy. That’s why we often recommend rotating different types of dandruff treatments, switching from a zinc-based product to a selenium-based shampoo after a few weeks.
We have included details on how to follow this regimen in our Guide to Hair and Nail Care. You will also find remedies for hard-to-treat nail fungus in this guide.
Readers tell us that dandruff treatments that work for one person don’t always work for everyone else. That may be due to individual differences in the reaction to Malassezia fungi, as well as differences in the particular species. Some day dermatologists may have an easy way to determine which species predominate on a patient’s scalp, but for now we are stuck with trial and error.
Luckily, many readers have done some of that trial and error for all of us and have found some fascinating home remedies for flakes and itching. One says: “I happen to have long hair and issues with yeast-based dandruff. I use a mixture of amber Listerine and cider vinegar when the itchies act up. I haven’t had any problems with my hair drying out as a result.”
You can also find lots of cool remedies for dandruff and an itchy scalp in our book, The People’s Pharmacy Quick & Handy Home Remedies. If you know someone with unsightly flakes on his shoulders, maybe this would be a subtle and super holiday gift.

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  1. Inez M. C.

    My scalp is so itchy even right after I shampoo. I have tried them all. I read where you recommended Sea Breeze with t-gel What do you do; mix them together and leave on when you wash?

  2. EWB

    I have had high blood pressure (HBP) for many years with various treatments during this time. I had several episodes of AFib this spring and my cardiologist prescribed Flecainide Acet (50mg 2x daily). I also take Pradaxa (75mg 2x daily) since June 2012. Other HBP medications I take are Hydralazine tabs (50mg 2x daily–dosage increased over the past year), Carvediol Tabs (3.125mg 2x daily)–generic for Coreg, and Valsart/HCTZ (320/25mg, 1x daily)–generic for Diovan HCT. I developed a problem with scalp itch almost 2 years ago which my dermatologist said was seborrhea dermatitis and prescribed the genetic for Nizoral. This did not help at all.
    I am now trying Selsun Blue which is helping minimally. I am convinced that my scalp problem stems from the HBP medications but my cardiologist is only concerned in treating my HBP and not too interested in the side effects of the medications. The scalp itch has increased more with the increase in medication dosage over the past 6 months and is a source of great, great stress and terrible discomfort.
    PEOPLE’S PHARMACY RESPONSE: Hydralazine can cause rash. Ask your doctor whether that might be the culprit, and whether there might be a substitute. DO NOT STOP THIS or any HBP drug on your own.
    Unfortunately, the itch that is making you so miserable may not even have been reported by physicians, since they would see it as a minor side effect. It’s not life-threatening; it is only ruining your quality of life.

  3. Beth L.

    If the dandruff is caused by an organism, some special substance may be needed; but I found that mine was just flaky dry skin, and it was ended by keeping a hairbrush in the shower to scrub my scalp with regular shampoo. A second sudsing to get a good foam when I did the scrubbing worked like a charm.

  4. Rich

    I was prescribed finasteride 5MG for symptoms of BPH (nocturia). It was effective for the nocturia but had the diminished sexual experience effects described on your recent program. After about 10 months I started cutting the tablets in half. The 1/2 dose continued for about 6 months with no abatement of the side-effects.
    I’ve been off finasteride for 3 months and the side-effects are continuing. However the nocturia is still reduced. At this point, I would trade a little nocturia for a better sexual experience. After hearing the side-effects reported of your program, because of my age, 70, I’m afraid I will see little improvement. Thanks for the information.

  5. mti

    Hibiclens Antiseptic/Antimicrobial Skin Cleanser (or the cheaper Walgreen brand) has eradicated the chronic itching. Liberally rub it into affected areas, leave for 10+ minutes then shampoo with your reg shampoo. Tea Tree oil mixed into shampoo & left on for several minutes made little improvement.

  6. colleen

    For 20+ years I struggled to control the constant white flakey curse. After a week vacation swimming daily in the salt water, it miraculously stopped. Upon returning home it came back somewhat so I started rinsing with saline in the shower. Eventually stopped all together and 2 yrs later it never returned. My dermatologist is skeptical but it worked!

    • Jon

      Hi Colleen – I’m very curious on the saline that you use to rinse with in the shower. Is it something you made? I’d really appreciate your recipe, if you wouldn’t mind sharing it!!

  7. CeeZee

    I, too, fought dandruff for decades until at an annual physical my doctor said that instead of dandruff I had scalp psoriasis and suggested Dermarest. That worked, but even better was the maximum nutrition diet prescribed by Dr. Joel Fuhrman. My scalp is clear without the shampoo. Now I can shampoo with what’s best for my hair, I feel better overall, have not had one of my recurring sinus headaches, and I’ve dropped two dress sizes without trying. Go fork medicine!

  8. Laura

    I also have itchy scalp and have found relief using first baking soda + water to “wash” my hair followed by an apple cider vinegar + water rinse to condition/close the cuticle. Best of all, my hair is no longer greasy in between washings, and if I notice it getting a little straw-like from the baking soda, one washing with regular shampoo seems to do the trick. No more itchiness, no more having to shampoo daily, and no more need for conditioners!

  9. jim a.

    Thanks for sharing this with us. I too went thru years of falling flakes from dandruff. The route I took will be disliked by shampoo and conditioner corporations … I switched to Dr Bonner’s Castille with Almond and Hemp Oils. I use the minimum amount — just a few drops — which will create suds on my scalp. I have fine hair which is almost shoulder length. I want to keep the oils in my hair, but wash the dirt off my hair. And I scrub my scalp hard with my finger tips — to force the oils in my scalp’s sebaceous glands to come our from my scalp. I had found that i was getting swelling nodules with crusty tops on my scalp and I hypothesized that the yeasties were making it into the sebaceous glands, causing them to push out more oils. Instead of scraping the crusty surface of these sebaceous swellings with a fingernail, I finally chose to press on the swollen gland to expel the oils. It worked. No more dandruff. And, since I use so little shampoo, I find I no longer have to use a conditioner.

  10. Sharon

    Many years ago a doctor told my grandfather to use Listerine for dandruff and itchy scalp. I’ve also read about using it recently as well.

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