I have a not-so-cute confession to make: The first two weeks I was in Kuala Lumpur, my hair was littered with dandruff. I’ve never had dandruff before in my life, so I was freaked out, grossed out and suuuuper confused about what was going on.
My boyfriend, who I just moved in with, wouldn’t let me anywhere near his side of the bed (rude.) and I was constantly trying to find cute ways to cover my flaky scalp with a scarf so people wouldn’t know what was going on. But even under the scarves, I couldn’t stop itching my head, and the teeny tiny flakes were all over my laptop by the end of the day (too much? Sorry, but it’s true.).
I tried everything to fight it — from herbal remedies like coconut oil, hibiscus oil and apple cider vinegar to some not so herbal remedies like chemcial-filled dandruff shampoo — and nothing worked. I even threw away my $40-a-bottle Bumble and Bumble shampoo and conditioner because I thought it had turned on me, which was pretty depressing. I would go to sleep at night thinking I had finally solved the problem only to wake up with nasty, white skin flakes on my pillow. It sucked.
But what was the deal?
I’ve known since I got to KL that tourists can’t drink the tap water because it’s not filtered the way we’re used to (aka could result in a “surprise cleanse” as I’ve started lovingly calling it), but I had no idea that it could have harmful effects on my skin and hair, too… which, in retrospect, was pretty dumb.
Apparently, the water here is considered “hard water,” which means that it has a really high mineral content, as well as crazy high levels of chlorine. The minerals in the water can build up on your scalp and create a scaly film, which prevents moisture from entering the hair and basically makes your scalp super dry and super oily at the same time.
… So that explains the white flakes shedding off of my head .
Because the products were doing nothing to help with the problem, I had to go right to the source: The shower head. Per the recommendation of a woman I met during an Infrared sauna session (more on that later), I picked up a “Negative Ion Showerhead” that promised to combat the effects of hard water on my hair and skin.
The shower head, which kind of looks like a maracka you’d make in Kindergarten arts and crafts, is filled with negative-ion minerals that reduce the effects of the minerals in the water. It has three compartments, each with tiny balls of far infrared ceramic, tourmaline and calcium sulfite. The ceramic balls aid in anti-oxidation, and emit a large amount of anions and far infrared wavelengths to improve blood circulation and cell revitalization and to delay cell aging.
Pretty cool, right?
Since I’m on a freelance writer’s budget, I couldn’t justify springing for the $100+ version that she recommended, but I did have the chance to try a cheaper, drugstore version, and it (kind of shockingly) actually worked. After two uses, the flakes on my head had all but disappeared. Sadly, it was not quickly enough for me to fish my $60 Bumble and Bumble shampoo and conditioner out of the garbage (AHHHH!!!!!) but it did finally get my boyfriend to agree to come close enough to my head to be big spoon again, which was appreciated.