Skin & Body Care

I Just Broke Up With Dandruff, Thanks to This $15 Shampoo

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Thanks to the genetic lottery and my years-long gig as a beauty writer, I've always had great hair. But what hides beneath my bountiful 2B texture is a greasy, flaky, and uncomfortably itchy scalp that's perpetually in need of relief. So, on my endless search for soothing products and anti-dandruff hair care, I came across Paul Mitchell's Tea Tree Special Shampoo — and I've been a convert ever since.

My scalp is basically a breeding ground for dandruff, and it's an issue I've had for as long as I can remember. Several family members have similar, less severe issues with the condition. Plus my constant battle with trichotillomania — a body-focused repetitive behavior that gives you the compulsion to pull out hair during times of stress — definitely worsens the situation on my scalp. 

Joshua Zeichner, director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, previously told Allure that this BFRB can actually lead to physical damage on the scalp. "In some cases with chronic hair pulling, inflammation may develop around the follicles, leading to permanent damage," he says. This inflammation can also lead to other issues like irritation, scabs, and flakes.

Thankfully, this shampoo relieves the itchy, sometimes painful flaking and irritation on my scalp through its main ingredient, tea tree oil. In case you need to brush up on your ingredient knowledge, New York City-based board-certified dermatologist Arash Akhavan says that tea tree oil has antibacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-inflammatory benefits to rid your scalp of excess oil, sweat, and product build-up. "It has also been shown to reduce the symptoms of dandruff and other inflammatory conditions of the scalp," he says.

Paul Mitchell Tea Tree Special Shampoo

Paul Mitchell Tea Tree Special Conditioner

Another key ingredient to this shampoo's formula is peppermint oil, which makes my hair smell like candy-canes — 'tis (almost) the season, right? — while it acts as a second cleansing defense. "Similar to tea tree oil, peppermint oil has anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and anti-fungal benefits for the scalp," says Akhavan. "It can help with itchiness of the scalp and can sometimes be helpful for those with excessive scaling."

Put these two intensive ingredients together, and you've got a recipe for a cleansed, soothed, and (nearly) flake-free crown — which is exactly what I got after using this shampoo for about two weeks.

This invigorating cleanser started off as a cooling gel, and then immediately turned into a tingly lather as I massaged it into my roots. I'll be honest: The tingling sensation is a bit intense, which I personally love, but sensitive scalps may prefer a less stimulating option.

 My scalp felt like pounds of product-induced grime just shed off like a snake (gross), and the constant urge to scratch at my head was immediately soothed. It also gets bonus points for being safe for color-treated hair, which is essential for maintaining my balayage.

My pre-shower hair, on the left, was in desperate need of TLC. Once I washed it with Paul Mitchell’s Tea Tree Special shampoo and conditioner, my hair looked cleaner, felt silkier, and became effortless to style.

To get the full Paul Mitchell Tea Tree Special experience, I also used the conditioner from the brand's popular line. It has the same base of ingredients as the shampoo, with the addition of aloe vera extract to soften and hydrate hair. The post-shower results were a silky-smooth and glossy mane with less flaking than I ever expected. To enhance the look, I styled my hair using the Color Wow Dream Coat and my Dyson AirWrap with the volumizing brush attachment.

I've been using the Paul Mitchell Tea Tree Special duo for about two weeks now, washing my hair every other day, and I can happily say that my dandruff-stricken scalp has gone from snow-storm levels to a light dusting of flakes on the usual problem spots. Did all of my flaking go away? No, but I don't think any over-the-counter product will do that. This shampoo quickly and efficiently addressed my greasy, itchy scenario, which was all I wanted.

Now, excuse me while I freely play with my part and slip into a black sweater — since the flakes are at a minimum, these are the few luxuries I can once again enjoy.

Ready to revitalize your scalp? You can buy the Paul Mitchell Tea Tree Special Shampoo for $15 and Conditioner for $17 at Ulta Beauty stores and

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