How I cured my itchy scalp.

So.  I can’t say that my scalp never flakes, but I don’t really have dandruff.  However, I have had an itchy scalp, um, forever.  I have used dandruff shampoo since childhood, and assumed that it would be part of my routine forever.

I had discovered that salicylic acid-containing shampoos (like Neutrogena T-Sal) work better than… uh… whatever makes the blue dandruff shampoo blue.

Four or five months ago, though, I learned about the “no ‘poo” movement:  People “washing” their hair with baking soda, and using apple cider vinegar as a conditioning rinse.  I already buy my baking soda — which I use for everything — in 13.5 lb bags from Costco, and apple cider vinegar (raw, organic, unfiltered) in quarts.  So, I had the supplies on hand, and was already a fan of them.  Plus, I am always on the lookout for ways to make our household more natural.  I suspected that my normal regimen of Suave clarifying shampoo for the first wash, Selsun Blue Naturals for the second wash, and Herbal Essences None of Your Frizzness conditioner didn’t meet any benchmarks for “more natural”, and on my low-priority list at the back of my mind, I’d been wanting to figure out a replacement for them.  Win-win, all the way around, right?

So, I did no ‘poo for a few weeks and hated it.  It’s not so much that it didn’t work, exactly.  It’s because I have so much darn hair — it’s thick and reaches the small of my back — that the process took FOR-EV-ER.  Working enough baking soda into my hair to wash all of it required a LOT of baking soda and a LOT of time.  Then, it’s hard to rinse out.  The apple cider vinegar rinse helps with that because the acid neutralizes the soda.  However, I am already trying to minimize my water usage in the shower;  I could languish in a hot shower pretty much perpetually, but know that it is wasteful.  All that water draining as I’m trying to get enough soda into my hair to wash it, then enough water in my hair to rinse it…  I just could never get all of the soda out, even using up an entire water-heater full of hot water in the process.

As a consequence, my hair would feel heavy afterward, and I hated that.

I had read that there is an adjustment period where your hair needs to get “used” to not being stripped of its oils, etc., like normal shampoo does, and thought that, maybe, that’s what was happening to my hair.  But, I find myself suspicious of this because:

  1. Baking soda strips stuff of oil.  That’s one reason it’s an effective household cleaner.
  2. I deeply suspect that the “adjustment period” is not your hair balancing out, but you, as a person, finally getting used to how weird your hair feels after “no ‘poo”ing.

So, I shelved that idea.  Chalk me up as Not a Convert to No ‘Poo.

One thing I had noticed, though, was that my scalp was NOT itchy, at all, while doing “no ‘poo”.

I had already recognized that at least one of my children (Audrey) is “allergic” to Suave shampoo.  It makes her head peel.  I’ve know that for years.  Literally, about four years.  With a slowly-dawning “duh”, I thought, “Maybe my shampoo is what is making my head itch.  Maybe I need to switch shampoos.”  For nearly my whole life, I have used a clarifying shampoo as my first wash — I am not looking for frou-frou in my shampoo;  I just want my hair clean.  If I’m going to splurge, I save my $$ for conditioner.  Therefore, I use the cheapest clarifying shampoo I can find:  Suave.  Hmmm…  If it makes Audrey’s scalp peel, maybe I have the same problem, and that’s why my head itches.  <facepalm>

I shopped for various natural shampoos, to give it a go.

Lemme tell you, I hated that.  The cheapskate in me CRINGES over the per-ounce cost of natural and organic shampoos and conditioners.  And, I had a reasonable fear that I’d plunk down my $15-20 dollars for two bottles of stuff that

  1. wouldn’t clean my hair,
  2. would make my scalp still itch, and
  3. would totally waste my money.

Finally, I settled on Everyday Shea, mostly because I liked the info provided on the bottle, and it was 32 ounces, and about $10, which is a fair price for such a large bottle.  I’ve read some glowing reviews of it, but I’m here to tell you that stuff is CRAP.

  • It doesn’t clean worth a darn,
  • I had to use a good quarter to half-cup of both the shampoo and conditioner each time, to get a good lather on the shampoo, and to feel like the conditioner was being spread through my hair.

I had to stop using it, which made me groan at the waste.  I tried using it a few washes even after I knew it wasn’t working for me, just to try to get my money’s worth, but I just couldn’t continue.  Then, I tried — ahem — passing it to my children, because maybe their standards were lower than mine.  But everyone — husband and children included — uniformly reported, “This stuff is weird.  It’s so watery.  My hair doesn’t feel clean.  Do I have to use this?”  Now, the bottles — FOUR OF THEM, mind you, because I thought that if one variety of it didn’t work, maybe another did — are just sitting around my house (and yes, that’s $40 worth of crappy shampoo and conditioner), because I can’t bear to throw them away, but neither could I, in good conscience, give them to anyone.*

Nature’s Gate, which, while somewhat expensive on the outset (about $6-7), at least comes in healthy-sized 18 oz bottles, so the cost per ounce was lower than most of the other options.  It’s not organic, but it is sulfate-free, paraben-free, butylene glycol-free, and more.  I’m not sure — at all — which of those — if any — is what was making my scalp itch.  But, I thought it was likely to be at least one of those things.

I must say that, initially, I didn’t want to buy Nature’s Gate because I bought some, years ago, and the stuff smelled exactly like Old Spice, and it was a SSTROOOONGGGG scent.  So, I’d smell distinctly like a man whenever I used it.  That’s a no-go, even though I liked how it worked.  But, in the store, I noticed that there were several new varieties of their shampoo, and it had that chipper “New Improved!” graphic, and I hesitantly picked it up.  I opened the cap to smell.  Wow!  It smelled GREAT.  I plunked two bottles in my cart.

I’m happy to report that, a few months later, after using both the Aloe Vera and the Jojoba versions of Nature’s Gate shampoos and conditioners that

  • It cleans my hair, on ONE wash, even if it’s been several days since I last washed my hair.
  • I don’t have to use a ton of the shampoo, just a normal amount.
  • The conditioner conditions well, and even with my long, thick hair, I don’t have to use a gallon of it, either.  It’s thick and rich.
  • It doesn’t make my scalp itch.  I am itch-free, and no longer need to use dandruff shampoo.
  • And it smells great.  Not like a man at all.  But, my hubby likes it, so it doesn’t smell girly, either.

Overall, I’m very happy with Nature’s Gate shampoo and conditioner.  It’s still pricier than my penny-pinching self likes to pay.  BUT, it’s cheaper than dandruff shampoo.  And, I have been pretty successful buying it on sale.  Locally, to the Phoenix area, the everyday price at Bashas’, of all places, is LESS than at Sprouts, $6 vs. $7-something.  But, from the 25th of April (today) through the 2nd of May, all of Sprouts’ vitamin and bodycare goods are 25% off, so if you’re interested, it might be a good time to buy…  (And, NO, I’m not paid by Sprouts to say this;  I just like shopping there.)


*Although, if anyone I know IRL is reading this, and wants to try it, even after my thumbs-down review, you’re welcome to.  I’ll give you my bottles.

About Karen Joy

I'm a partially-homeschooling mother of six -- 3 boys ages 19, 17 and 15 years old, and three girls: 11, 8, and 3. I like birding, reading, writing, organic gardening, singing, playing guitar, hiking, the outdoors, and books. I very casually lead a very large group of homeschooling families in the Phoenix area. I have a dear hubby who designs homes for a local home builder and who is the worship pastor of our church. I live in the desert, which I used to hate, but now appreciate.

Posted on April 25, 2012, in Hair, Health, Reviews, Shopping and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 14 Comments.

  1. Thanks for this Karen! I’ve always had a hard time finding shampoo that doesn’t make my scalp itch. I was able to figure out that the ones with citrus in them give me tiny blisters (similar to the blister rashes I get when I eat wheat) but I’ve never found a shampoo that completely eliminated the itchies. I will have to give this a try!

  2. Thank you for the advice. I too, have had an itchy, flakey scalp for years. I will give this a try.
    One thing I have learned about hair care, hot water brings oils to the surface. So to keep the oils a bay, keep your hands out and use a cold water rinse for the nice and shiny.

  3. Hi Karen! This is Jennifer, from Alaffia / EveryDay Shea (our value line). I’m really sorry to hear that the EveryDay Shea shampoo & conditioner did not work for your family, and I’m happy to hear you’ve found a more natural choice that works for you–well worth the investment :-).

    If you’d like to return your products to us, please contact our team at or 360-860-8860. And, feel free to reach out to me with any questions: Thanks so much!

    Happy hair wishes,

  4. I haven’t used shampoo in months and I love it!! I dissolve about 1 tablespoon in 1 cup of water, and then squirt that on my wet hair in the shower. I too have extremly thick, long hair. It did take a couple weeks of adjustment, but now I can go 3-4 days without needing to wash my hair. I do the same with the vinegar rinse, I mix about 1 tablespoon in 1 cup of water,and squirt all over my hair

  5. I’ve used Head & Shoulders (and LOTS of Pantene conditioner for my thick curly hair) for as long as I can remember – but you’ve inspired me to try Nature’s Gate. Not sure where I’ll find it here in GA, but I’ll look around. Thanks for the recommendation!

  6. I’ve found only two shampoos that don’t bother my scalp, and they both have wheat extract in them. Aveeno’s Nourish & moisturize and Aveda’s Be Curly. I also keep some Scalpincin handy because that always works!!

  7. Hi! I am a hairstylist and cheapskate. I can tell you, I’m starting to think I got into the business solely for the product discounts… Anyhoo, clarifying shampoo is designed for once-a-week use or after swimming. It strips the hair of its natural oils along with any gunk. It’s not a daily shampoo (even if it claims to be on the bottle) Suave’s variety should NEVER be used because it is made from the same ingredients as the stuff they use to strip the wax off of floors, just in a different order. Dandruff is a scalp condition, waxy patches that flake off. It is NOT the same as a dry, itchy, flaky scalp. My point is: an itchy scalp is caused by using a shampoo that is not pH balanced for YOUR hair and scalp. A good way to help balance it out is Tea Tree shampoo (not green tea, that’s a scent) with aloe. Then, after that bottle is gone, ask a professional to point you in the right direction based on YOUR hair. We are TRAINED and LICENSED for this.

    • I believe that is simply industry literature telling you that you need all this stuff to buy. My own testing has found that conditioners and hair products makes heads itch. Even my husband has now chucked the conditioner. PH has nothing to do with it.

  8. Conditioner and any hair product makes your head itch. Before I go backpacking I shampoo and make sure it is squeeky clean. No conditioner. No hair products. I can go on a week outing without washing it and no itch. Lately, I’ve chucked my conditioner all together and simply rub some safflower oil into it after I get out of the shower. Its nice and soft, and calms down frizz. Some people use coconut oil, I’ve used both, any kitchen oil will probably work. Just like hand lotion, CONDITIONER DOES NOT WORK. Oils are better. My hair starts getting oily about day 3, but I’ve been meaning to try out what some people to do manage that by adding some baby powder and brushing it through. So far I’ve been simply doing up do’s on day 4 and 5. Life is short, keep it simple.

  9. Thanks for sharing this! I am new to the blog sphere but thought it was cool to see someone else who is a Celiac and Christian. I was just looking for hair care as I have always had the exact same problem. Tomorrow I am going in search of this. I am hoping my local natural Co op has it. Thanks for your review! I just tried yes to carrots brand shampoo and condition and didn’t like. Feeling hopeful now!

  10. I remember being in a class and having my teacher yell at me because ‘the classroom isn’t a hair salon, I have used something that felt really nice, like my hair is soft but it would stay like that it would tangle I’m so excited because your suggestion work… It’s better than what was suggested to me, the people who did my hair said either Mane and tail shampoo which is a shampoo for horses and… You get my point, or I had the lice treatment suggestion which I Denied immediately because it’s just itchy scalp. I have long thick dark hair so this has always been a problem.YOU JUST SAVED ME. Thank you

  11. I found your post today. I also don’t have dandruff. Ironically I don’t wash my hair that often so it isn’t over use. I have used several expensive shampoos and am currently using T-sal. Like you, I found the blue stuff made my head itch eventually. The problem is with the conditioners. Every time I find one that works with my long hair and doesn’t make my head itch it gets discontinued! I will try Nature’s gate.

  12. THANK YOU!!! Same problem here, and I SO didn’t want to go through the ingredients and try shampoo by shampoo to figure out which ingredient was makin’ me itchy. I’ll give Nature’s Gate a go. I also just wanted to let you know, I’ve had bottles I didn’t want anymore and donated them to a women’s shelter. It may be crappy to me, but they don’t have any shampoo at all, sometimes, sooo… I feel okay giving what doesn’t work for me. Anyhoo, thanks again! YAY!

  13. I switched to Natures Gate calming shampoo. It was much less expensive than what I previously used. I initially used the apple cider vinegar rinse and baking soda for about 2 weeks. I am happy to report that the itching, scabs, and burning went away. I color my hair and do not want to stop yet. The shampoo makes my hair tangle and doesn’t lather like other shampoos. The calming shampoo smells OK. Some of the other Natures Gate shampoos are very strong smelling and unpleasant to me. I am so pleased that I read your report and tried it. I am thankful to have this issue cured.

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