Dryness, itchiness, embarrassing flakes and excessively oily scalps – the plights of dandruff reach far and wide.
It’s no wonder that scalp health is the beauty buzz word of late, because having a glossy mane, starts with the skin that covers your head.
Our handy guide looks at common signs of an unhealthy scalp and gives you the tools you need to easily and effectively treat your scalp.
Dandruff, what’s that then?
The most common form of dandruff is pityriasis capitis. Still, the word ‘dandruff’ is, in fact, a generic term that covers flaky scalps – whether that is seborrheic dermatitis, eczema, or psoriasis, all of which we see a lot of in our clinic.
Whilst most associate dandruff with a dry scalp, this could not be further from the truth. Dandruff is usually oily – the scalp, just like the skin, constantly sheds and produces oil and sweat, all of which form a protective layer over your scalp. The excess sebum is absorbed into the flakes, making them sticky and oily.
To understand dandruff, you need to look at the biology of the scalp:
Dandruff is formed by the skin’s natural acid mantle’s reaction and an ever-present organism referred to as Pityrosporon Ovale.
Normally, sweat and sebum secrete from the scalp to maintain a healthy mantle. However, when something upsets the homeostasis, the secretions change, causing the skin to lose its resistance. This, in turn, causes the bacteria to flourish. When these bacteria multiply, the scalp’s skin is shed more rapidly leading, to dandruff flake.
Illness, hormonal changes, and stress may also be behind the reason your scalp suffers from excessive flaking or infection. Chemical hair care products can also disrupt your scalp’s natural acidity and pH balance because when it is too alkaline, it begins to flake.
Itching or burning?
An itchy scalp also signifies an imbalance in your scalp, which is usually caused by one of three reasons:
- bacteria, caused by a build-up of sebum – as discussed above
- a reaction to a particular ingredient used in a product
- may signify head lice, as the eggs can appear to look like surface dandruff. If you are concerned about this, we recommend you seek medical advice
How often should you wash your hair?
This is the holy grail question that divides opinion and really is a matter of preference.
A common myth among those with excessively oily hair is that you should wash it every day to keep it healthy, but we believe this couldn’t be further from the truth: overuse of your shampoo can actually lead to the scalp producing more oil. It is a vicious circle; harsh ingredients will strip your scalp of protective oils and its delicate micro-flora.
If you feel the need to wash your hair daily, we recommend using natural shampoo formulas, serums, and conditioning treatments that nourish and moisturise your scalp. Consider giving your scalp treatment with these botanical oils for dry skin.
How do you break the itch, flake cycle?
Treat dandruff: Persistent flaking may be due to an overproduction of yeast or fungal infection. Consider using an anti-dandruff shampoo containing both anti-microbial and anti-fungal ingredients such as coal tar, zinc pyrithione, piroctone olamine, or ketoconazole. Just be sure not to rely on these permanently, and once flaking subsides, rotate with a more gentle, natural shampoo.
Avoid stripping surfactants: Detergents such as sodium laureth sulfate or sodium lauryl sulfate can be drying on the scalp, causing redness and irritation – especially when they have not been correctly formulated alongside ingredients that neutralize the irritation. Opt for an SLS-free clarifying shampoo instead, which will help to calm irritation and inflammation. Follow the link to find out more about sulfate-free shampoo.
Avoid silicone ingredients: Look out for any words in the ingredient list ending with –methicone. The role of silicones in hair care products is to form a barrier on the scalp. Not only do they block follicles, making a wonderful breeding ground for bacteria, but they also prevent the penetration of ingredients.
Consider essential fatty acids: That tight, dry feeling may be due to a lack of moisture in your scalp, both in your diet and topically. Linoleic acid is a great beauty nutrient that will help to give that dryness some relief.
Beware of styling products: Reduce the number of styling products you use on your hair. Hairsprays, gels, and curl-boosting products contain glue and resin-type ingredients that can suffocate the scalp if they’re not washed out regularly.
CBD tincture: When applied topically, this is a calming agent that helps relax the scalp without any psychoactive effect. However, CBD oil differs from CBD tincture. It can be applied directly to the scalp for desired results, including the provision of good blood circulation and preventing the scalp from losing moisture.
Your skin and scalp are composed of similar ingredients such as fats, ceramides, and proteins.
If your scalp is suffering from any of the above, you could do a lot worse than take the same approach to your scalp as you would for your skin. The acid mantle on your scalp is a balanced eco-system; if something upsets it, then it can easily be thrown off balance.
Consider using gentle, non-stripping products that will protect the scalp and keep it healthy. Clay, Hyaluronic acid, ceramides, and salicylic acid are common ingredients found in your favourite skincare products. Lately, many hair care companies include them in hair care products because they work wonders – not only for your skin but also for your scalp.