Scalp Build Up: 4 Things You Have To Know

When looking into a mirror, finding the occasional white speck on your hair isn't a cause for concern. No one wants to get dandruff, but at the same time, it's not too difficult to get rid of. It just means you need to moisturise your hair better, so it gets back in shape.

But in excess, white specks may be something you need to take a closer look into. Instead, you may be dealing with scalp buildup, also known as seborrheic dermatitis. This is unlike dandruff or dead skin cells that often fall on your hair strands or shoulders. If you suspect seborrheic dermatitis, a proper hair care regimen is vital to treating this scalp buildup.

1. What Is Seborrheic Dermatitis?

Seborrheic dermatitis is a skin condition affecting part of your scalp. It manifests as dry or scaly patches of skin. They appear red and can easily be confused with dandruff. This condition may also occasionally affect other body parts, such as:

  • Face
  • Eyelids
  • Ears
  • Chest
  • Cheeks
  • Nose

Symptoms of this hair condition often start as stubborn patches on the scalp or areas with hair follicles present. Without proper treatment, it can cause irritation and scarring, especially when scratched or picked on.

The good news is that this hair condition is treatable. You won't have to worry about destroying your hair, so long as you understand its causes and the best hair care products to use and avoid. Let's dive in.

2. Causes Of Scalp Buildup

Identifying a clear culprit can be challenging, with many factors influencing scalp buildup. For instance, some people are at a higher risk of developing this hair condition due to pre-existing medical issues. Eating habits and even heart conditions are also known to trigger scalp buildup.

But if you're otherwise a healthy individual, there are specific triggers to watch out for, such as:

  • Stress
  • Harsh chemicals
  • Detergents
  • Solvents
  • Soaps
  • Cold, dry weather
  • Medication (i.e. prosoralen, lithium, interferon)
  • Skin cells
  • Excess sweat
  • Excess oil production

As mentioned, you can attribute various factors to the cause of scalp buildup. We'll identify the most common ones below to help you find the best preventative treatment.

Natural Buildup

Natural buildup on the scalp comes in two forms: dead skin cells and sebum (waxy and oily matter).

Our body produces skin cells in a constant cycle of dying and repair. Dead skin cells automatically shed while new ones grow to replace them.

However, this is only an ideal situation. Some individuals have dead skin cells that don't entirely shed quickly, leading to excess scalp buildup. This causes flakes to form and fall from the head.

Sebum is another natural buildup on the scalp. Oily glands are responsible for producing this substance, which is a natural occurrence for any healthy individual.

For some, however, genetics predispose them to produce higher sebum levels, causing scalp buildup. It often appears as oily hair that's greasy to the touch.

It would be best if you did not also forget that your scalp produces sweat. Combined with excess oils and dead skin cells, sweat can lead to greasy patches of hair and, often, an unpleasant odour. 

Hair Product Buildup

The average individual who isn't too concerned about their hair may be indiscriminate with product use. They may resort to just using any shampoo, conditioner, waxes, pomade, etc.

Use of just any kind of hair product generally isn't recommended. Switching from product to product can also lead to undue stress in the hair and scalp, leading to buildup.

Many hair products have waxy compounds that stick to the hair and scalp. Always thoroughly wash your hair to rinse the residue if you use such products. Residue tends to stick to the hair and may come from other compounds, like styling gels, creams, foams, and oils.

Scalp Buildup And Hair Loss

If you're wondering whether scalp buildup causes hair loss, the simple answer is yes, if you don't treat it as soon as possible.

In such cases, the accumulated dead skin cells, oil, and sweat can block your hair follicles. All these could lead to folliculitis or inflammation of the hair follicles.

In severe cases, folliculitis results in crusty sores that don't seem to heal or go away on their own. The result is permanent hair loss and scarring.

Worried if you have excess scalp buildup? Not to worry, as there are some changes you can make to have a healthy scalp once more.

3. How To Get Rid Of Scalp Buildup

Not all hope is lost when dealing with scalp buildup. Several home remedies and treatment plans are at your disposal, helping reduce discomfort and flakiness.

Removing scalp buildup rests on using the right hair products, practising proper hair care, moisturising, and exfoliating your hair. Below are some helpful tips to help get you started.

Use The Right Shampoo And Conditioner

Contrary to popular belief, not all shampoos and conditioners have the same formulation. Some shampoos work best on a particular hair type, while others might not.

Before picking a shampoo to remedy your scalp buildup, consider the following hair types and combination types:

If you're unsure about your hair type and don't have the luxury of visiting a stylist, you can do this simple check: read the ingredients list of your shampoo bottle. If an ingredient is placed first on the list, it's abundant in the shampoo.

Check out this list of hair types and ingredients to look out for:

  • Oily Hair - Lauryl sulfates, sulfosuccinates. (These help reduce sebum buildup on the scalp)
  • Average And Dry Hair - Laureth sulfates (These remove sebum)
  • Oily Scalp, Dry Hair - Lauryl sulfates, or hydrating shampoo. (These limit sebum buildup and moisturise hair at the same time.)
  • Dry Or Damaged Hair - Sarcosines, alkanolamides, sodium lauraminopropionate, ammonioesters, silicone. (These help cleanse the hair of chemicals without eliminating too much sebum to prevent drying.)

Avoid using products with parabens, as it may lead to further irritation. Try one made of natural ingredients, like Two Herbs' Daily Clarifying Shampoo. It contains coconut acid, which helps clean and removes dirt from the scalp. It also has aloe vera, which is prized for its antibacterial and antifungal properties.

Wash Your Hair Regularly And Thoroughly

Another way to keep your scalp healthy is to practise proper and thorough washing. As mentioned, using different hair products could lead to residue buildup in the scalp and hair. It's a good habit to wash them off every few days or depending on your hair type.

For oily hair, it's advisable to wash it every one to two days. Meanwhile, individuals with dry or damaged hair should consider washing it every three to four days.

All hair types can benefit from thorough and frequent washing (without added solvents or chemicals). Here are some tips:

  • Rinse hair before applying shampoo - Shampoo lathers and foams better when you apply it on well-rinsed hair. It also disperses more efficiently, allowing you to maximise its benefits, and use less of the product simultaneously.
  • Rinse with warm water first - Warm water opens up the cuticles, allowing shampoo to penetrate them and remove dirt. It's a great way to make your conditioners work more effectively and keep your hair healthy in the long run.
  • Add water to your shampoo - Before directly rubbing shampoo on your head of hair, add a bit of water to it first. Doing this allows the shampoo to spread more quickly. It's also a great way not to use too much product all at once.
  • Shampoo your scalp thoroughly - Since you're dealing with scalp buildup, focus on cleaning your scalp, not the ends of your hair.
  • Massage your scalp in gentle strokes - If you tend to aggressively scrub your hair during a bath or shower, you may want to change it. Instead, try massaging your scalp in a more gentle and circular motion using the tips of your fingers. Avoid using your nails to prevent further scabbing and injury.
  • Apply conditioner only to the ends of the hair - If you have scalp buildup, your hair is more moisturised than the average person without this condition. So, when applying conditioner, focus only on the ends of the hair. Your scalp doesn't need further moisturising since it already has an abundance of it. Instead, work on moisturising split and dry ends for better results.

Detangle Your Hair

It's a good habit to brush your hair now and again. Detangling helps avoid clumps in your hair, which scalp buildup could stick to.

For this method, use a bristle brush, as it's suitable for all hair types. This brush allows for more even oil distribution throughout your hair.

For those with naturally coarse strands, consider running your hair under lukewarm water while brushing it. Work your way from the bottom up to the roots. Divide your hair into small portions and layers, ensuring all bases are covered. Avoid washing under cold water, as it may make the hair frizzier and more brittle.

Try Exfoliating Your Scalp

Did you know you can exfoliate your scalp as well? If you're already familiar with doing it on your skin, this is another technique to prevent scalp buildup.

We recommend our Scalp Peeling Gel which helps remove dead skin cells, oil, and styling product buildup. The hydrolysed yeast protein helps moisturise the scalp, making it less prone to breakouts and dandruff.

Scalp exfoliation is generally for healthy individuals who don't have existing scalp infections, like open sores, psoriasis, impetigo, seborrheic dermatitis, etc.

4. Preventative Measures Against Scalp Buildup

Prevention is always better than a cure. So, if you're prone to having scalp buildup, heeding the following tips may be handy:

  • Don't use too many hair products - Hair products are great at moisturising, maintaining hair health, and so on. However, too much of anything good can lead to adverse effects. Use products sparingly and add only little amounts to your scalp whenever possible.
  • Maintain healthy hair - Avoid drying out your hair from harsh chemicals and chemical straighteners. If you like dyeing or perming your hair now and again, too much chemical use can affect its condition.
  • Follow proper hair care routine - Even if you don't have scalp buildup, make it a habit to do everything right regarding hair health. This means using the correct shampoo for your hair type and rinsing your hair thoroughly after lathering and brushing it often.


Scalp buildup can be messy and irritating over time. It can lead to itchy, red flakes on the skin and a combination of excess oils and dead skin cells.

The best way to treat a scalp buildup is to follow preventive techniques. We list some of the best practices in this guide for you to check out. 

For more information on hair care, contact Two Herbs. We provide natural herbal hair treatment in Singapore for people with hair loss, scalp/dandruff problems, and other hair woes.

Frequently Asked Questions About Scalp Buildup

Why Is There Gunk On My Scalp?

The gunk on your scalp is likely sebum. It's caused by excessive production of oils from your scalp's sebaceous glands.

Why Is There White Stuff Falling Off My Scalp When I Scratch It?

The white stuff from your scalp is likely dandruff flakes or dead skin cells. Scratching them off causes them to loosen and fall off from your scalp.

What Does Folliculitis Look Like?

Folliculitis appears as small red bumps or white-headed pimples on the hair follicles. It's a skin condition where the follicles become inflamed due to staphylococcus aureus infection.

What Vitamin Deficiency Can Lead To Folliculitis?

If you have severe folliculitis, your body may be deficient in Vitamin A.

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