The downside of having striking dark locks is twofold: gray hairs and white flakes are nearly impossible to hide. My boyfriend David is prematurely plagued with both of these pests, which have become so noticeable that sometimes the salt on his head outweighs the pepper. Although he has come to embrace his sporadic white hairs as a sign of wisdom, the flakes are a non-negotiable. To chase the dry white dust from his head, I got him a bottle of Ahava Anti-Dandruff Shampoo with the hope that it would do a superior job than the drugstore brands that have resulted in more regret than relief.

In his words: "Head and Shoulders makes your head tingle and leaves hair feeling not great. CVS-brand Head and Shoulders destroys hair. T-gel stinks so badly it must be toxic and makes conditioner a must." I figured there has to be a more natural, less noxious alternative that eliminates dandruff equally if not more effectively than mainstream products. Could an off-beat shampoo rooted in the rich resources of the Dead Sea region be the answer?

David seems to think so, which is a pretty strong endorsement coming from someone who has years of experience combating a snowy shoulder. After ten consecutive days on Ahava, he noticed a visible reduction in dandruff. As soon as he stopped using the shampoo, the flakes returned. So in terms of performance, Ahava got top marks. Even though it seemed to sap any semblance of volume from his usually bouncy curls, it did leave them shinier and healthier than other anti-dandruff cleansers.

Texture and smell received more luke-warm reviews, since the shampoo's gooey consistency is difficult to work into a lather and its inconspicuous fragrance doesn't manage to mask natural hair odors. 24 hours after cleansing with Ahava, a thick mass of hair sometimes begins to smell strangely similar to a wet dog. I assumed that this is simply the price you have to pay for a more natural formula that doesn't deodorize the hair with the damaging chemicals found in most drugstore options. But after a look at Ahava's ingredients, I realize that this shampoo is hardly "natural".

Besides Dead Sea water (which has dubious cosmetic benefits), I could not locate a single so-called plant extract touted on the label. Instead, I found DMDM hydantoin, an antimicrobial formaldehyde releaser preservative, and iodopropynyl butylcarbamate, another preservative which has the potential for contact allergies. In addition, there is cocamide DEA, a common foaming agent in shampoos that contains the suspect cancer-causing agent diethanolamine.

You certainly can't accuse Ahava's shampoo of not cleaning the hair shaft. The formula packs in a quadruple dose of detergents: sodium laureth sulfate, lauryl glucoside, magnesium laureth sulfate, and cocamidopropyl betaine. While lauryl glucoside is a 100% plant-derived surfactant that is mild to the skin, the others are synthetic compounds capable of contact allergies at best and severe irritation at worst. High concentrations of sodium laureth sulfate can result in direct damage to the hair follicle, permanent eye damage, and even liver toxicity.

All in all, Ahava's shampoo may not be picture perfect in the purity of its formulation, but it does manage to rein in the outbreak of dandruff, a difficult task when the cause of this condition remains inconclusive. While some types of dandruff can be attributed to a fungus in the scalp, other theories include poorly functioning sebaceous glands. Essentially, dandruff is the excessive flaking of dead tissue, which can be controlled only by regular cleansing. Ahava's anti-dandruff shampoo makes a point of magnifying its cleansing strength, thus leaving a rejuvenated scalp and flake-free shoulders.

Ingredients:

Water (Aqua), Sodium Laureth Sulfate (and) Lauryl glucoside, Magnesium Laureth Sulfate, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Sea Salt & Water (Dead Sea Water), Polyquaternium 7, Disodium Undecylenamido MEA-Sulfosuccinate, Cocamide DEA, Bispyrithione (and) Magnesium sulfate, Tetrasodium EDTA, Fragrance (Perfume), DMDM Hydantoin (and) Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate, Xanthan Gum, Lactic Acid