Anyhoo, I've tried all sorts of different things to remedy the situation. I've used anti-dandruff shampoos (H&S, Clear, etc.) and they couldn't even put a dent in the flakery. I've tried oils (olive, tea tree, etc.), gently massaging in as directed, but all they've done is make me an even oilier Italian. I even tried biotin supplements at the suggestion of a hair stylist whose husband faced the same problem years prior and found his remedy in that B vitamin. If anything, the biotin seemed to supercharge my flaking. Nothing ever seemed to work, so I'd inevitably deploy the nuclear option and shave off the whole damn thing, exposing a layer of dead flakes on my red, irritated skin. If anything, I appeared to be allergic to myself and there would be no real fix other than shaving.
But then a friend recommended I try Neutrogena T-Gel. He said it worked for him when nothing else would, so I figured it was worth a shot. Well, I went to Walmart and bought the Equate version of the extra strength T-Gel, and holy crap, it actually worked. For the first time in my life, I had a flake free beard. It was a freakin' miracle.
Maybe not a real miracle. Maybe just science. But what kind of science? The active ingredient in T-Gel is coal tar, and not knowing the science behind said tar, I checked out WebMD. Here's what it said:
This medication is used on the skin to treat the itching, scaling, and flaking due to skin conditions such as psoriasis or seborrheic dermatitis. Coal tar belongs to a class of drugs known as keratoplastics. It works by causing the skin to shed dead cells from its top layer and slow down the growth of skin cells. This effect decreases scaling and dryness. Coal tar can also decrease itchiness from these skin conditions. (Coal Tar Topical - WebMD)Shed dead skin and slow down growth of new skin cells? That sounded like exactly what I needed. I had way too much skin forming under beard and it was causing problem. T-Gel was perfect. But what about side effects?
Skin/scalp irritation or staining of skin/hair (especially in patients with blonde, bleached, dyed, or gray hair) may occur... Long-term use of this product can cause hair follicle problems (tar acne). (Coal Tar Topical - WebMD)Skin irritation? I already had skin irritation. Staining? I have brown hair, so no worries there. Tar acne? I don't actually know what that is, but it sounds like pimples, and I'm not too prone to pimples, so I don't care! None of those side effects sound all that terrible when compared to horrible skin itching and flaking.
If you have the same beard problems as me, maybe give T-Gel a try. It's pretty cheap, a bottle lasts a long time, and only has to be used every other day (or less depending on how bad your condition is). Just lather up your beard in the shower, wash your parts, then rinse your beard, and you'll be all set. And if it doesn't work for you, donate it to some other long suffering beardo in the hopes it will work for them.