My Scalp Care Routine for Dandruff, Smelly Hair and Dry Scalp

Sponsored by Zion Health. All opinions are my own.

Three years ago, I decided to share a problem I had been embarrassed about for months: smelly hair and a flaky scalp. I’ve dealt with dandruff since childhood, but suddenly I was struggling with exacerbated scalp issues and hair that smelled bad after washing it. To put it bluntly, my hair smelled like wet dog every time I washed it. I finally stumbled upon a coal tar shampoo that addressed and fixed nearly all of my concerns in one wash. After sharing this solution online, I was shocked at how many other people had the same struggle and was overwhelmed by the thanks from those who had success with my fix.

Budget Friendly Scalp Care Routine for Dandruff, Smelly Hair and Dry Scalp | Slashed Beauty

Over time, however, I noticed the shampoo was quite harsh. With extended use, it started drying out my hair and fading my hair color faster. I started rotating in other products to help maintain my hair’s health and shine, but eventually I knew it was time to curate a new nourishing routine with scalp care at the forefront.

Note: This is not medical or professional advice. It’s always a good idea to consult a dermatologist with scalp problems.

Best Dandruff Shampoo from the Drugstore: Derma E Scalp Relief Shampoo | Scalp Care Routine for Dandruff, Smelly Hair and Dry Scalp | Slashed Beauty

An entire year went by before I found the Derma E Scalp Relief line. I initially made the switch solely for the color safe claim, and was blown away by the effectiveness at soothing my scalp and targeting my issues. The Therapeutic Psorzema Herbal Blend formula replenishes dry, irritated and scaly scalp, and also contains tea tree which helps purify, menthol to calm itchiness, and salicylic acid to eliminate flakes and surface build up. Aloe Vera Extract, Vitamins A & E and Provitamin B5 all help moisturize, replenish and nourish the scalp and hair for shine, strength and manageability. It checked literally all the boxes for me— my scalp instantly felt more comfortable after use and my hair wasn’t stripped of moisture or color. It keeps it soft, manageable, and greatly reduces flakes. I use the shampoo ($10.99) every time I wash my hair, which is about once a week.

As for conditioner, I like the one from the same Derma E Scalp Relief line but I tend to prefer richer formulas for my thick wavy hair. I typically turn to Maui Moisture, since their products do not contain silicones that could clog or cause buildup. Since I only wash once a week, I’ve actually been using their Shea Butter Hair Mask in place of conditioner most days.

Just switching my shampoo helped a bunch, but it was really the addition of two more products/steps to my scalp care routine that made a huge difference in the overall maintenance and long term health of my hair.

Zion Health Deep Cleansing Scalp Scrub | Scalp Care Routine for Dandruff, Smelly Hair and Dry Scalp | Slashed Beauty

The second addition to my new hair care routine was a scalp scrub. Exfoliating your scalp brings just as many benefits as exfoliating your face (they’re connected, after all!), and made a noticeable difference for me. I use the Zion Health Scalp & Hair Scrub which helps exfoliate, dissolve buildup, balance pH levels and restore luster to the hair. It’s made with super gentle salt granules that are much smaller than I’ve seen in similar products, making it easy to spread across the scalp and hair. The Zion Health scrub also contains super beneficial ingredients such as Mangosteen Powder (fights bacteria and fungi, helps inflammation), Ionic Minerals (removes product buildup without stripping oils or nutrients), plus coconut oil, vitamin E and argan oil to help nourish, condition and balance the scalp.

Scalp Detox: Exfoliating Using Scalp Scrub for Oily Hair, Flaky Scalp | Scalp Care Routine for Dandruff, Smelly Hair and Dry Scalp | Slashed Beauty

I use the scalp scrub after shampooing and before conditioning. As you rub it into your scalp, it creates a subtle lather that you can work down the shaft of the hair. Since I have really thick hair, I divide my hair by parting it and working in 3-4 large sections.

The results were obvious to me— my scalp felt fresher after using this just once, and I get almost no flakes and much less oil between washes. With the removal of product buildup, other hair products can now work more effectively on my hair as well. This Scalp & Hair Scrub is 100% vegan, sulfate free, paraben free and gluten free, and you can get 10% off with the code Slashed10 on their website, making a single jar only $17.99! The site also offers free US shipping at $30.

Pacifica Scalp Love Serum | Scalp Care Routine for Dandruff, Smelly Hair and Dry Scalp | Slashed Beauty

Finally, I started using a scalp serum for extra hydration both right after I wash my hair and mid-week. The Pacifica Scalp Love Rosemary Mint Serum ($11) both soothes and hydrates the scalp, but won’t leave it feeling oily at all. The formula is rather thin— I like to apply it to my finger tips and rub it into the scalp that way. This can also be used as a pre-wash detox to loosen buildup, or an overnight treatment. It has a very subtle minty fragrance that’s not prominent once applied. Since I live in a desert climate, this has been perfect for a little boost as needed.

Dandruff Products That Won't Dry Your Hair Out | Scalp Care Routine for Dandruff, Smelly Hair and Dry Scalp | Slashed Beauty

After this routine, I follow up with any styling products and I’m set! This scalp care routine has freed me from constantly worrying about flakes, and the wet dog smell hasn’t returned. While everyone has different hair needs and may want to target other concerns (thinning, curl care, frizz etc), I would highly recommend incorporating any of these scalp care products into the mix to help maximize the rest of your routine.

What do you do for scalp care?


      1. I’m completely new to better hair care and I was struggling with coconut oil causing more overall damage. I really want to try the Maui conditioner but am nervous! I found this site after searching for help when my hair suddenly started smelling bad when wet after shampooing and conditioning.

        1. I really like the maui moisture line! I used the dandruff routine for a while until I felt like my scalp was balanced enough to start using “normal” products again!

  1. I noticed my hair after a few days smells like musk or dear smell. My hair produces alot of oil so I wash every other day. It has gutter in my pillows, it’s seems to get into everything. Is this what you went through?

    1. Not entirely, mine mostly smelled when wet– musty, a bad kind of earthy– but didn’t have much of a smell when dry. But especially if you have an oily scalp then a scalp care routine would probably greatly help you for balancing!

  2. These product look great! I also suffer from itchy scalp in the winter many times, but this year has been fairly benign for me – I think working from home and not going out in the cold as much has helped.

  3. I didn’t know Derma E had hair products! I need to go check that out. The serum also sounds really nice too!

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