Shampoo Free

How going shampoo free cured my dandruff (plus 4 Natural Remedies for Dandruff)

26 January, 2016

Every week or so I get an email about my book Happy Hair that totally blows me away. This week I just had to share it. It came from London, from a reader called Sami, who has had a long, arduous battle with dandruff.

Hi Lucy

Wishing you a great 2016. I just wanted to share my story with you regarding the rye flour shampoo recipe. Iam based in London and I am a male. I had a really sensitive scalp and had issues with dandruff for the past many years. I tried every shampoo expensive to organic. All herbal and other alternate options. So many oils just to solve my issue. I went to many dermatologists they gave me medication and gels but all in vain. I came across your blog while googling a remedy that could solve my issue. Its been 2 months and I cant imagine iam so happy and feels like I have a new scalp on my head.. No dandruff , no itching or flaking no dryness its just all so normal. I just wanted to thank you for sharing your blog and its like an inspiration for me . By the way I use rye flour (wholemeal) and it works great for me…


WOOOO! *puts pants on head and bounces victoriously on the trampoline* What a result!

I personally don’t suffer from dandruff really, only a tiny little patch of it that sprouts every so often.

(Although I have a lot of stuff generally sitting in my hair, sand and biscuits and leaves. I am mama to two wild children who have a hand on way of experiencing the world and their mother. But all of this comes out with my handy boar bristle brush.)

I can imagine how hard having an ongoing problem with dandruff is though, as I have had other battles with bits of my body where it feels like nothing, nothing is going to work. It is defeating and depressing.

Dandruff is definitelty not at all the fun that The Breakfast Club makes it out to be.

It impacts heaps of people too – apparently Head and Shoulders has been the best selling shampoo for yonks and yonks.

Some people find that anti dandruff shampoo works a treat – although research seems to suggest it only works as long as you use it– meaning it is simple keeping it at bay, rather than curing it.

Surely we can aim higher? Surely we can aim at curing our bodies, helping our bodies to thrive?How giving up shampoo cured my dandruff plus 4 natural remedies for dandruff

Dandruff – otherwise known as malassezia

Dandruff can be one of a few things. It might simply be a dry flakey scalp, due to the use of certain products, or diet, or circumstances. (Even constant air conditioning might be impacting your scalp’s health.) If it is this, then simple a good boar bristle brush and the odd sugar rub (to exfoliate the scalp) and more nourishing natural alternative shampoos will be the answer.

But for most people who feel that their scalp is long term getting them down, the problem is bigger than a few flakes here and there. For these people, it is most likely the spicy-curry-like sounding malassezia – a kind of fungus. Now our bodies at all time are a mixture of funguses and bacteria and there is no good or bad, technically. What there is, is a lack of right balance. So if your scalp is full of dandruff, the fungus has gotten the better of it.

Rock on, acid mantle

I love to talk about acid mantles. They absolutely rock. Our acid mantle is the protective layer covering our entire body, skin and scalp and all we have to do to keep it healthy is try not to interrupt it too much.

Learning about my acid mantle was pretty much the thing that made me realise how much the No Poo movement is based in science. So much research is appearing about the importance of our body’s microbiome and No Poo is basically a microbiome promoting regime.

Most of the high street bought shampoos and conditioners get way, way too involved in our acid mantle, stripping it of all the healthy sebum and bacteria it requires to protect us.

If we can get in to a rhythm based on water or one of the many natural alternatives to shampoo, we are handing our acid mantle a mega, mega gift. (And, if we struggle with dandruff or other scalp issues, ourselves a gift too!)

Please read more about the wonderful world of our skin and experiments in no products, but lots of healthy bacteria here.

Support from within
In all my travels amongst the world of Shampoo Free and Natural remedies I have begun to put huge stock in what we eat. Our skin is the talismen for what is going on inside. And if I can sum up everything I know about food into two things it is this:
Enjoy your food (oooh, I know! Counter cultural!)
Stuff yourself with probiotics

Probiotics are the answer to so, so, so many of our health problems. Ferment your food and eat it. Buy pickles and kim chi and kombucha whenever you can. Our acid mantle will almost certainly get stronger if we promote the balance of bacteria from the inside.

Why Rye Flour though?

My own theory about why Sami found rye flour to be so effective is that rye flour is incredibly bacteria – respecting! Rye flour isn’t one of the tamest washes – in fact, it is such an effective saponion that it feels like it rubs out every bit of sebum, some times. But I believe it does it in a way that doesn’t strip out our fungal/bacteria orchestra up there.

Rye Flour Shampoo

Look for the best, wholemeal, organic rye flour you can find. Put a table spoon or two of it into a cup and add enough water to make a paste. Rub into hair, leave for a few minutes and wash out. You will need to brush it heaps when it is dry, unless you seive your flour first. (Really recommend this!)
Please read my Rye Flour experiment over on Cosmo.
And watch my video here:

Other Natural Remedies for Dandruff
Whilst writing my book I came across quite a few effective natural remedies for dandruff – ones that would work expecially for folk who have given up shampoo, but possibly also for the die hard shampoo fans.

Apple Cider Vinegar is an increible dandruff busting natural remedy!
Get your hands on the most organic and the most natural apple cider vinegar you can. Ideally something with the Mother still in it (the original blobby plant thing from which it ferments.)

Add quarter of a cup of vinegar and quarter of a cup of water. Put it on your scalp, half way through a shower. This will be easiest to do using a squirty bottle. Allowing you to get right in on the scalp, covering every bit.

Leave it on for at least 20 minutes and do this three or four times a week.

Warning: if you don’t do a wash after this, the acv will quite possibly make your hair feel quite lank. It will have closed all the shingles on your hair shaft, make it super, duper sleek and shiny – but also looking greasy! (Such a bizarre thing.)

Dadruff often clears up with weeks of using this remedy, but for others it can take up to 6 months.

Rosemary Rinse is an ancient folk remedy for dandruff

One of the remedies I talk about in my book is based on a pretty ancient scalp-reviving tea rinse. Take a sprig of fresh rosemary and place it in a cup of hot water. Let it steep for twenty minutes and use the rinse on your head, mid shower, every week. (Make it fresh each time or do a huge batch of the tea and freeze it into ice blocks and defrost one each time.)

Plantain shampoo is the most secret natural remedy for dandruff

I recently made a mash of plantain, a weed that grows freely in every grassy field pretty much world wide! And I genuinely think it works!

Take a handful of the weed, add a few dashes of water, blitz it in a blender and place all over your problem areas. I think it exfoliates the dandruff and supports the acid mantle. My ittle patch of ‘druff hasn’t been back since.

Read the whole plantain as natural dandruff remedy experiment here.

Go for the long game

We are talking about the business of healing your scalp, possibly after a lifetime of abuse! Please, please give yourself months for this healing work. And eat sauerkraut every day.

PS- Here is a link to my ebook, Happy Hair: The Definitive guide to Giving Up Shampoo.

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  • ThaliaKR 1 February, 2016 at 7:59 am


    Nine months no poo here, thanks largely to you!

    I loved this sentence about vinegar: “Ideally something with the Mother still in it” – I thought you were emphasising Gaia 🙂

  • Bárbara Salinas 4 October, 2017 at 2:46 am

    Hey Lucy! I hope you are well.
    First of all I would like to congratulate you for your book. It was a real inspiration to me. I’ve been following no poo for almost one year and it has helped to reduce hair loss. However, I’ve been struggling with finding the best shampoo substitute and that’s why I decided to contact you. I’ve tried all the methods you propose in your book and the only one that has had a good effect on my hair is the Rhassoul clay. All the other recipes you suggest haven’t wash my hair properly. Even though I tried all of them as you recommend, my hair looks grassy and dirty. Rhassoul really makes my hair shiny, clean and increases the volume considerable. However, since I started using it I began to have a serious dandruff problem. I’ve never had dandruff before, so it’s quite frustrating. I’ve tried using coconut oil the night before washing my hair but I haven’t noticed any change.
    I decided to email you because I’m desperate. I don’t wanna go back to normal shampoo but I don’t know what else to do. None of the other methods helped me and the only one that seemed to have a good effect on my hair ended up giving me dandruff. I don’t know if you have heard any case like this before, but I would really appreciate if you could give me some advice.
    Thank you for your time.
    Kind regards,


    • Lucy 9 October, 2017 at 1:21 pm

      Hello! Have you even tried Rye flour? Tell me how you found that?
      And can you tell me about your water? I am wondering if you are battling really awful water?