Natural Remedies for Smelly Hair Syndrome

| Modified on Sep 09, 2020
Smelly Hair Syndrome Natural Remedies

Your hair may be one of the first things that others notice about you. If you deal with smelly hair or scalp, however, you may be too ashamed to leave your house for work or school, let alone meet new people. The problem of a smelly scalp or locks is significant enough for it to earn its own name, which no one cares to own, “Smelly Hair Syndrome.” While it may seem to outsiders that you just need to go home and wash your hair, those who suffer with SHS know it isn’t so simple. For some, it is only a matter of hours after washing that the dreaded smell returns!

What Causes Smelly Hair and Scalp?


If you have a bacterial or fungal infection on your scalp, your hair and scalp will likely not smell very good.

Poor Health

Toxins leaving your body through your scalp can cause an odor. Other health issues or imbalances can cause your hair and scalp to have an odor.

pH Imbalance

Your hair, skin and scalp are all meant to be slightly acidic. If they become too alkaline or very acidic, you may end up with an odor.

Hormonal Imbalances

If your hormones are not working correctly body odor or scalp odor can be a result.

Remedies for Smell Hair and Scalp

1. Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar can be used to improve your hair and scalp inside and out. Taking 1-3 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar in a tall glass of water once or twice a day can help restore your body’s pH. It also helps to detoxify the body and promote good digestion, both of which can help your scalp!

Apple cider vinegar can also be used topically for your hair. Keep a bottle in your shower that is ½ vinegar and ½ water. After you wash your hair, pour some of this onto your hair and scalp and allow it to dry, without rinsing it out. Apple cider vinegar is a natural deodorizer, natural antibacterial and natural antifungal. It also helps to balance the pH of your hair.

2. Borax

Borax can be used topically to treat fungal issues. If your scalp and hair are smelly due to fungus, borax can be of help. Dissolve ½ cup of borax in a gallon of water. After your shower, rinse your hair and scalp with this solution and allow it to dry on your hair. Do not do this more than 2-3 times a week. Borax can be drying to the hair.

Borax can also be used internally to treat fungal issues from the inside out. It is also a natural remedy for hormone balancing. See this page for extensive information about using borax internally.

3. Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree essential oil can kill bacteria and fungus. You can keep a bottle of tea tree oil in your shower. When you shampoo your hair, add one drop of tea tree oil to your daily ration of shampoo. You can do the same with hair conditioner.

4. Avoid SLS Products

Hair products often contain numerous chemicals that contribute to hair and scalp problems. To begin with, eliminate products with SLS (sodium laureth sulfate.) Check your health food store for natural hair products, though, be warned, not every “natural” product is very natural after all. Check out our page on shampoo alternatives.

5. Cotton Only for Your Head

Many things touch your head each day, from your pillowcase to your ball cap to the headrest in your car. Synthetic materials that are in continuous contact with your head and hair do not allow them to breathe. They also are more likely to retain odors or bacteria. Use cotton pillowcases. Put a cotton towel on the headrest in your car. Wear cotton caps and headbands only, and wash them regularly, rinsing with a vinegar solution.

6. Oil Treatment

Treat yourself to a hot oil hair treatment. Massage coconut oil into your hair and scalp. Work the oil from your scalp outward. If you have long hair, do this carefully lest you tangle your hair. Cover your oiled hair with plastic wrap and a towel. If possible, leave this in overnight, otherwise an hour or two. When your remove the towel and plastic, wash your hair. You may need to shampoo twice. Coconut oil is a natural antifungal and antibiotic and is also nourishing to your hair and scalp.

7. Turmeric

Turmeric is a broad spectrum healing herb. It can be used internally to fight infection and purify the blood. Taking a dose of turmeric daily may relieve the underlying cause of your smelly scalp. Golden milk is one way to take turmeric that many tasty and effective.

What have you tried for Smelly Hair Syndrome? Please send us some feedback with your results! Continue reading to learn what natural cures our readers have used to cure their smelly hair.

Lime Juice

1 User Review
5 star (1) 

Posted by Marina (Australia) on 05/06/2017

After painting outdoors and getting old paint on my hair and sweating in the heat for three weeks, I developed what's known as smelly hair syndrome. I tried lots of remedies including tea tree oil, lavender oil, apple cider vinegar, yoghurt, white vinegar, lemon juice, lemon myrtle, henna, antibacterial soap and more (I can't even remember). I also tried a combination of a lot of them to no avail. After having to put up with this embarrassing funk for more than a month, I was at my wits end looking for remedy. It was so embarrassing, I wouldn't even get close to anyone. I was certain they could smell it. I would shower and within a few hours, the smell would kick in. I normally wash my hair weekly and it doesn't smell at all. It doesn't get overly oily either and even with the stinky funk whiffing through my scalp, I didn't really have anything else going on with my scalp. It wasn't itchy, there were no flakes, no hair loss and no extra oil production. My head was clean but it just smelled something awful! The length of my hair didn't seem to smell either. If I rubbed my fingers through my hair and smelled my fingers, it smelled normal. But if I rubbed my scalp, yuk!

Finally, the last thing I tried worked. I put the juice of one large lime mixed with water in about a 50:50 ratio, added it all over my scalp with cotton wool. I massaged it in really well and left in my hair for about half an hour. I then rinsed it off in the shower. I didn't shampoo my hair afterwards. I towel dried it really well, then dried it really well with the hair dryer and finished off with cold air... as I normally do. My hair ended up soft and shiny and you guessed it, no smell! I'm guessing the lemon juice didn't work because of the sugars in it whereas lime juice has much less. I also have a lime tree growing with an abundance of fruit at the moment and that's why I randomly decided to try it out. I couldn't believe I found something that worked. Finally! It also smells lovely and you don't have to smell like a salad as you do with the vinegar.

Replied by Marina

Just an update to my previous post on the lime juice. It did work but if I stopped doing it at least weekly, although it was subtle, it would come back a little so I kept doing it. I don't know, maybe I'm paranoid but I figured it was better to be safe than sorry. The lime juice however was lightening my hair too much so I came up with another concoction that worked even better and worked on many levels. If anyone is interested, I mixed the following and applied it to my scalp, massaging it in with cotton wool and applied any balance through the lengths of my hair. I left it on for an hour before washing it:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • the juice of half a lime
  • 1 clove garlic, grated
  • 1 teaspoon grounded black peppercorns
  • 2 heaped teaspoons natural yoghurt

All the ingredients were organic if that makes any difference. The olive oil and yoghurt is conditioning plus the yoghurt adds beneficial bacteria to the scalp, the black peppercorn helps with hair loss, (not that it was falling out) and has many minerals, the lime juice breaks down the sebum and kills bacteria, the garlic also kills bacteria but also fungus.

It's been three weeks since I last did this and so far I only had to do this once and I'm not getting any hint of it coming back. The other thing I did was to make sure to change my pillowcase every couple of days and added vinegar and lime juice to my washing respectively, as a pre wash and softener. However I was doing that even when I was doing the lime juice treatment alone.

I know how embarrassing this is so I hope this helps someone.

Replied by Marina

Another update. I'm still good. No hint of it coming back at all this time. For me, the lime juice was good but I felt I needed to keep doing it now and then, especially after a work out. The lime juice, garlic, olive oil, pepper corn, yoghurt combo, however, worked in the end. I only had to do it once and my scalp is completely back to normal. If it comes back, I'll come back and post again.


1 User Review
5 star (1) 

Posted by Nomoresmell (London, Uk) on 09/09/2020

I had a big issue with smelly hair syndrome for almost 2 years. It was a nightmare and I tried absolutely everything, from natural remedies to medicated shampoo from the doctor. Nothing worked in the slightest.

Then I was given strong penicillin antibiotics a couple of months ago for something else (swollen fingers from coronavirus! ) and it has totally cured the smelly hair issue! I am so massively relieved.