Many of us take our scalp's health for granted and don't give this area of our body much thought. When we think about improving our hair's health and appearance, we focus on shampoos, conditioners, hair masks, and other products to provide nourishing benefits. However, your hair is an extension of your scalp, so it makes sense that the healthier the scalp, the healthier the hair! Taking measures to maintain your scalp's health is the first step to preventing numerous hair-related problems such as dandruff, hair loss, excessive oil buildup, psoriasis, and even acne. So, how can you keep your scalp healthy?
What does an unhealthy scalp look like?
Did you know that your scalp has its own microbiome? The scalp, in particular, is rich in microflora. It consists of bacteria and fungus, but it can cause several complications such as seborrheic dermatitis, eczema, or dandruff when these balances are thrown off.
Other signs of an unhealthy scalp
- Hair loss
- Change in hair texture
- Flaky scalp
- Greasy hair
- Itchy scalp
Different types of scalp conditions
Luckily, most scalp conditions are common and can be treated completely. Let's take a look at what's potentially causing bumps and blemishes on your scalp. Always check with your dermatologist before self-diagnosing or changing your hair care routine.
- Psoriasis: Characterized by pink plaque spots with a silvery scale, this rash can affect any part of the body, but the scalp is one of the most difficult to treat. Most of the time, psoriasis is itchy but can sometimes be asymptomatic.
- Seborrheic Dermatitis: This condition looks like greasy, yellow scales. Also known as cradle cap, one of the most common conditions, usually found in infants under one year old.
- Hair loss: Hair loss can occur suddenly or over time and may be temporary in some cases. Losing 50 - 100 hair strands is considered normal; excessive hair loss should be brought to a medical expert's attention.
- Scalp acne: Not only is it irritating, but scalp acne can also turn into cysts if left untreated. Often these breakouts are caused by product buildup clogging pores on the hairline and scalp.
What causes an unhealthy scalp?
Various factors could play into an unhealthy scalp. Overactive oil glands, poor nutrition, stress, pollution, hair product buildup, or even hats can contribute to scalp problems. If you have begun to notice a change in your scalp's health, you may want to try changing up some everyday habits to get things back to normal.
Are fungi the cause of dandruff?
Different types of bacteria and fungi inhabit our scalp. The most important one is lipophilic (oil-loving) yeast called Malassezia. This type of fungus makes up about 45% of its normal microflora. In people with dandruff or seborrheic dermatitis, it is the predominant yeast type with about 75%, 83% respectively of the scalp's resident microflora. It is believed that overgrowth of the Malassezia produces a kind of free fatty acid that irritates the scalp skin, causing redness, itching, and dandruff.
How can I improve my scalp health?
There are a handful of elements that maintain a healthy scalp. They include moisture, PH balance, cleanliness, protection, and circulation. Here are our dermatologist-recommended tips for keeping your scalp healthy and happy.
Choose the right shampoo.
The optimal scalp shampoo should help maintain your scalp and hair clean and healthy. Besides removing excess oil and buildup of products, it needs to help stimulate the scalp to regrow new hair, reduce the effects of DHT on hair follicles, provide micronutrients to the hair follicles, and help reduce the numbers of resident bacteria and fungi. Good examples for medical-grade scalp treatment shampoos are the MDhair's Restore and MDhair Regrowth customized shampoo that you can find right here.
The MDhair customized restore shampoo was specifically formulated to support healthier hair regrowth in people with dry and sensitive scalp and people that are prone to seborrheic dermatitis and psoriasis. This excellent dermatologist formulated helps balance this scalp microflora with probiotics, reduce the fungi associated with seborrheic dermatitis with tea tree oil, reduce inflammation with green tea and Zinc Pyrithione and remove dead skin cells with salicylic acid. This shampoo SLS free, fragrance-free and cruelty-free
What are the key ingredients to look for in scalp treatment shampoo?
- Balancing scalp microflora: Lactobacillus Ferment (probiotics)
- Scalp hydration: Aloe Vera leaf Extract
- Anti-inflammatory: Aloe Vera leaf Extract. Zinc Pyrithione
- Exfoliation of dead skin cells: Salicylic acid
- Antifungal: Tea tree oil, Aloe Vera Extract
- Anti-oxidants: Green tea Leaf Extract, Vitamin E
To achieve a head full of healthy, lustrous hair, it's essential that the hair follicles are kept clear, clean, and maintained. They must not be weighed down with oils (sebum) or obstructed by things such as dandruff, dead skin cells, or inflammation.
When the follicles become filled with oil and dirt, a blackhead forms and causes a blockage. Often, this blockage becomes irritated and leads to the development of pus-filled pimples and scalp acne. It may also cause red, scaly, itchy skin or develop other skin diseases such as eczema, psoriasis, or seborrheic dermatitis.
When looking for products to support a healthy scalp, avoid ones with heavy sulfates, alcohols, or synthetic fragrances. Don't overwash your locks, either. Shampooing too frequently strips away natural oils, causing the hair to overcompensate and produce more sebum to keep it hydrated. This results in extremely oily hair.
Exfoliating the scalp boosts the skin cell turnover rate and can improve skin health. Scrubs contain chemical or physical exfoliants to remove dead skin cells and oils from the surface of your scalp. For excessive buildup, look for a shampoo containing salicylic acid to use weekly.
Make sure to brush your hair daily with a natural, soft bristle brush to redistribute scalp oils, invigorate blood circulation, and slough off dead skin cells and debris. Adding exfoliation into your scalp care routine will also help with dandruff flaking off throughout your day.
Treat yourself to a scalp massage.
In addition to feeling great, scalp massages increase circulation to the scalp, encouraging hair growth, soothing nerves, and relaxing the muscles in the brain. Regular massaging can alleviate itchiness and irritation while promoting blood flow and hair growth.
To give yourself an effective, soothing head massage, apply gentle pressure to the scalp and move your fingers in a circular motion. Massage from the base of your neck up to your hairline and repeat this process using varying speeds and pressure. Spread your fingers wide, so you can reach your entire head and rake your fingers through your hair, scratching gently. After massaging, wrap your head in a warm, damp towel with a few doses of your favorite essential oil and relax for a few minutes.
Protect your scalp from damaging sun rays
Skin cancer is the most diagnosed cancer in the United States, and it is often found on the scalp. Since the scalp is exposed to the sun daily, it's important to wear a hat or scarf to protect your head if you plan to be out in the sun. UV rays may also exacerbate hair thinning and transform healthy hair into damaged, dry locks. Look for hair products that contain UV-fighting ingredients, or purchase a lightweight sunscreen to spray onto your scalp before extended periods in the sun.
Maintain a healthy diet
What you put into your body significantly affects your skin and hair health. Eating a well-balanced diet rich in vegetables, fruits, healthy fats, and lean proteins will help keep the scalp well supplied with nutrients to produce healthy new cells. If you suffer from a dry scalp, consider supplementing your diet with Omega-3s and fish oils. This can help keep your scalp moisturized and flake-free. Iron, zinc, and biotin are essential vitamins and minerals that support scalp and hair health.
Drinking at least 2 liters of water per day will improve your overall hair and skin health. When your scalp is dehydrated, it will not perform its best and may be susceptible to dryness and itchiness.
Best shampoo for dry flaky scalp and dandruff
- A Study on Scalp Hair Health and Hair Care Practices
- The Shampoo pH can Affect the Hair: Myth or Reality?
- Melaleuca alternifolia (Tea Tree) oil: a review of antimicrobial and other medicinal properties
- Treatment of dandruff with 5% tea tree oil shampoo.
- Antifungal activity of Aloe vera leaves.
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