My sister has blogged about how she washes her hair with vinegar instead of shampoo. I tried to follow her example, but I just couldn't handle the smell, and it didn't work for me -- my scalp itches mercilessly if I go two days without washing it, and the vinegar did not seem to relieve the itching. The best alternative I had found to nasty chemical dandruff shampoos was tea tree oil (melaleuca) shampoos, widely available through natural-food-type stores, but the one I liked best changed its formulation and was no longer effective. Then one day, while Jessie and I were at a Whole Foods in Kansas City or someplace, Jessie noted that Dr. Bronner's sells a tea tree castile soap, and suggested that I might mix it with an unscented shampoo.
Now, I've been familiar with Dr. Bronner's soaps for most of my life. I've used the peppermint and almond scents as shower and sink soaps, following the directions to "Dilute! Dilute! Dilute! OK!" (A single 8 oz bottle of concentrate lasted for my entire 10-month bike trip!) I've spent many a dull moment reading the labels. I even tried using the peppermint soap as a toothpaste once, since the label says you can, though I can't recommend it. A few times I had tried washing my hair with the peppermint, and didn't find it very effective. But I had never tried the tea tree scent.
It turns out, it makes a great dandruff shampoo! No need to mix it with other hair products, just use it straight. It relieves the itchiness and flakiness of my scalp for well over a day. The little 2 oz bottles (pictured at right) are great for travel -- an extremely tiny amount of the concentrate will lather enough to reach my scalp and cover my hair -- but I also keep a diluted 8 oz bottle in the shower for use with a scrub cloth. I use a conditioner as well on my mustache and beard to keep them soft, but haven't needed to do so with my hair.
I hope this will encourage those of you who use dandruff shampoos to try using Dr. Bronner's Tea Tree, since it has many environmental benefits... it's organic and fair-trade, derived from all natural and renewable ingredients, sold in a 100% recycled and recyclable container, and you can refill the small bottles from the larger containers to save even more packaging. I haven't tried to calculate the cost per washing, but I am certain it's also far more affordable than mainstream shampoos. So give a 2 oz bottle a try, and see if it works for you!