Warning: Mildly gross post. Also, this might be considered pretty vain to those who don't really worry about their hair (and on a normal basis I don't), but I'm always happy to find troubleshooting articles on the Interweb when I do worry and I thought I would leave one in case someone else ever needed it.
I'll be completely honest with you guys:
1) Since I've become a student, I've cut my bath and body expenditure drastically. Where I used to make trips to L'occitane with my salary, almost everything I now use can be found for under £10 in Boots.
2) My hair is going through a relatively okay stage right now. I'm quite happy with it, but I don't know how long this stage will last.
3) This is because it just came through an absolute shitstorm of a stage, one that happens on and off, but that has happened with extreme severity recently.
4) My skin has been pretty dry all my life, and I occasionally had dry scalp when I was at home and it was manageable with drugstore shampoo (and the occasional costly Phyto or L'occitane product) but I came here and Winter hit and my scalp had never been so dry ever before. It was flaking and itching and all those horrible things that happen when your skin is dry and you just can't get to it and it was SO bad that I looked like one of the images that popped up when you googled "dry scalp". I wish I were kidding, but not even. It got to the point where I switched (expensive) shampoos three or four times in a month and just went through a really uncomfortable period of thinking it would never be fixed.
5) During this time, my hair was all right, not in a terrible state, but it was falling out madly from all the tugging and pulling and shampooing and trying to make my scalp right again. NOTHING WORKED - Lush's Karma Shampoo, Coal tar, tea-tree oil, honey, you name it, I tried it. I don't know if you're familiar with how frustrating it is to go out and worry constantly about dry scalp and have to keep your hair in a tight bun, but let me tell you, it's not cute.
SO. For those of you who may have come across this problem before and were not able to find anything that worked, I have one solution here, that might work for you and that isn't so expensive that you'll regret having tried it.
Let me re-iterate before I go on that it may or may not work because like skincare, haircare is intensely personal, but this is coming from a girl who tried everything from T-gel to tea tree and finally found something that just made the problem go away, literally OVERNIGHT.
Here's my solution:
From L to R: Pure tea tree oil, Lush Snake Oil Bar, Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
I found, through trial and error, that these three things in tandem have done wonders for my hair. Here's how:
Tea Tree Oil: This didn't work on its own and I was wondering why until I found that it's anti-bacterial and is meant to kill things that cause dandruff or itching, but doesn't moisturise and treat your scalp per se. Oh.
Snake Oil: This is the most expensive component. It was something like £5 for that little bar, and I nearly didn't get it, but I'm glad I did. It looks brand new in the picture and this is after I've used it for a month, shampooing my hair every two or three days. So it should last you ages. It contains peppermint oil and lavender oil and has a really strong smell, but is very therapeutic, and most important, has the all important oil base that is key for dry scalps.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil: This is extremely moisturing and I already use it on my skin, so why not my hair? It's cheap, most people don't react badly and it's all natural and feels great.
SO. Here are the steps you need (and there are only a few):
1) Moisturise your scalp. Before you wash your hair, rub the snake oil bar in your fingertips and melt the butters. Rub them well into your scalp all over. I have to rub the bar three times to feel that my whole scalp is covered. Then, I get a coin-sized amount of olive oil (um. I guess twenty Singapore cents or ten UK pennies?!) and massage it into my scalp with my fingertips. Don't skimp on this massage. Really get it well in, but not with your nails, your fingertips. Your scalp and roots should feel well and properly greased. Leave it for at least half an hour before you shampoo. I watch an episode of something while waiting, though most definitely not The Hills. Just saying.
2) Wash your hair. Use a shampoo that's fairly mild and meant for dry scalp. Not dandruff, dry scalp. Dandruff happens when your scalp is oily, so a dandruff shampoo is meant to address that and could actually worsen dryness. I use a cheapo Boots Dry Scalp shampoo (about £2) which is relatively unperfumed and feels quite light. You can use whatever you want, but make sure it's not causing the dryness first and that your shampooing technique isn't damaging your hair further. Condition as per normal.
One video I find very helpful on how to shampoo well is this one, by a youtuber called Yayalifestyle:
Her videos, mainly about hairstyling and haircare are great. And if her frugal, friendly, down-to-earth demeanour doesn't convince you, the best head of hair I've ever seen on a human being should.
3) Maintain. After shampooing and conditioning your hair and so on, you should find your scalp is feeling more soothed and your hair looks healthier. You should notice fewer flakes on your pillow (or whatever yardstick you use) and if it works, pretty soon, no flaking at all. I do the above two steps every single time I shampoo (and if I'm swimming I do the moisturising pre-swim) and to maintain it, before I go to bed, if my scalp is feeling a bit grouchy or tight, I massage a few drops of the tea tree oil and hit the sack.
And that's it. Three really simple, inexpensive steps to dealing with dry scalp, which in turn improves the quality of your hair. Your hair should feel cleaner and lighter, but moisturised and healthy.
I go one further by never using heat or excessive product on my hair, and I trim the ends myself whenever I think it needs it.
This is how it looks without any styling:
I really hope this helps if you're someone whose out there and has been trying to find a way to deal with this.
My own hair is far from perfect right now, it's not the most shiny, silky mane you'll ever meet, but right now, it's long, feels much much more healthy than it has in a while, it's manageable and it's problem free. And after everything it's gone through, that's all I can ask.