What Causes An Unhealthy Scalp?
Let's face it. The scalp is probably one of the most overlooked parts of our body. We know the first thing about keeping our skin moisturised and healthy. But we seem to be at a loss when it comes to the scalp.
This shouldn't be the case.
Healthy hair will always begin with a healthy scalp. But what exactly are the causes of an unhealthy scalp? How do we keep all the dryness, flaking, and sebum buildup at bay?
This guide discusses all the possible reasons why our scalp may be unhealthy. And what we can do to restore our hair and scalp health to their former glory.
What Is An Unhealthy Scalp?
An unhealthy scalp can mean multiple things—dryness, flaking, excessive oil buildup, dandruff, itchiness, breakage, slow hair regrowth, etc.
An unhealthy scalp may be due to several overlapping factors. For instance, scalp issues may arise from excessive use of hair care products which contain harsh chemicals.
In extreme cases, scalp conditions may also be due to an untreated skin disease that causes the scalp to shed dead skin cells and lead to premature hair loss.
What Causes An Unhealthy Scalp?
We often think that the scalp is independent of the rest of our skin. But, we must consider it as an extension of our skin. This is why keeping a healthy scalp is vital to hair growth and health.
Poor scalp health can result in several issues, which can cause thinning hair, hair loss, or damaged follicles.
As mentioned, there is no clear culprit as to the cause of these common scalp issues. Contributing factors can be anywhere from using silicone-based hair products, which can cause clogging in the follicles and prevent the scalp from absorbing proper nutrients, or genetics.
For instance, if you have an oily scalp and dry hair, it's likely due to using too many hair care products and an excess sebum buildup. Such products may be part of your hair care routine, but they do more harm than good.
Fortunately, not all hope is lost. There are still ways for you to promote hair growth by keeping your scalp in good condition.
Tips For A Healthy Scalp
1. Use The Right Hair Care Products
Not all hair products are built the same. Some contain non-scalp-friendly chemicals that can block the hair follicles and cause irritation.
So, read the product label beforehand if you're using any kind of product — be it shampoo, conditioner, or hair mask, for instance.
Watch out for anything that contains sulphates, fragrances, or alcohol, as these can lead to stripping off the natural oils from your scalp.
Meanwhile, fragrances and alcohol can dry your scalp further by syphoning all the moisture from your hair. Aside from a dry, irritated, and itchy scalp, you may also observe damaged and frizzy hair.
Dye and bleach are two other chemicals to avoid on your scalp. You may be fond of using them, but they can cause painful chemical burns and damage the hair shaft.
2. Don't Wash Your Hair Too Often
Washing your hair should always be part of good hygiene, as long as you don't overdo it. Too much washing can alter your scalp's microbiome, causing harmful bacteria and fungi to take over.
How often you should wash your hair depends on your hair type and how much oil your scalp produces.
For example, washing two to three times daily is ideal if you have straight and wavy hair. Meanwhile, if you have straight and thinning hair, which is more prone to oil buildup, it's best to wash it three times a week or every other day.
3. Gently Shampoo Your Scalp
Instead of aggressively scrubbing your scalp when shampooing, gently massage it. Massaging helps facilitate blood circulation in the scalp, preventing possible abrasions and irritation.
Another tip is to rinse your hair before applying shampoo. Don't shampoo on dry hair, as this doesn't allow the scalp to absorb all the nutrients fully.
After rinsing, gently massage for one to three minutes or a bit longer, depending on your hair type and thickness.
4. Try A Scalp Scrub
Just as you would use a scrub to exfoliate and shed off dead skin, it also helps to scrub your scalp. A scalp scrub helps remove product buildup, excess oil, dirt, and dead skin cells which may form at the hair roots.
Scalp scrubs have also been known to promote hair growth by helping dilate blood vessels under the scalp.
5. Eat Brazil Nuts
Brazil nuts are abundant in selenium, a mineral vital for hair growth. Selenium also promotes the production of vitamin C. This vitamin is essential for hair growth and regrowth, as it helps eliminate harmful free radicals that speed up ageing.
Other foods for a healthy scalp include eggs, green leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, and white meat. These are rich in proteins and minerals that can support a healthy scalp.
6. Drink Probiotic Beverages
Probiotics prevent harmful bacteria from getting out of hand and provide other health benefits to the gut.
Drinking a serving of a probiotic drink daily is beneficial for gut health and the skin. The gut and skin are "mediated" by the host immune system that balances the body's microorganisms.
And, since the scalp is skin, probiotics may also impact scalp and hair health. Probiotics containing two bacteria strains, Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus, are recommended if you're dealing with a minor scalp condition.
7. Apply Tea Tree Oil
Seborrheic dermatitis, or dandruff, is one of the more common scalp issues. It leads to scaly patches, flakes, and a general feeling of greasiness on the hair.
Although experts are still unsure of the true causes of dandruff, they believe it may have something to do with increased sensitivity to Malassezia, which naturally occurs on the scalp.
Malassezia is a kind of fungus that infects your hair follicles. The condition is also known as folliculitis, which causes dryness and itchy pimples to develop on the scalp.
Rich in antifungal properties, tea tree oil may help combat seborrheic dermatitis and folliculitis.
A clinical trial seemed to support this belief. The participants were instructed to use shampoo, which contained this type of oil, over several weeks.
At the end of the trial, those who used the shampoo observed a 41% reduction in dandruff compared to the control group.
Are you suffering from poor scalp health? We understand the frustration of being unable to keep the dryness and itchiness at bay.
While the biggest culprits seem to stem from the overuse of different products, genetics also play a role in your scalp condition.
Fortunately, you're not powerless. There are a few tips and tricks you can do to improve scalp health for healthier hair.
Frequently Asked Questions About
The Causes Of An Unhealthy Scalp
How Do You Know If Your Scalp Is Unhealthy?
Unhealthy scalps are usually the result of undiagnosed and underlying skin conditions, like eczema or psoriasis. A tell-tale sign of poor scalp health is hair loss, breakage, acne, cysts, itching, dandruff, redness, etc.
What Are Some Common Scalp Diseases?
Here is a list of common scalp diseases:
- Contact dermatitis
- Skin allergies
- Lichen planus
- Alopecia areata
- Seborrheic dermatitis
What Can Heal Your Scalp?
A damaged scalp can be repaired by treating it with medicated shampoo, which also helps reduce itching. Consult with a trichologist or scalp specialist to find the most effective treatment options for your condition.
What Foods Cause Scalp Inflammation?
If there are foods good for scalp health, there are certain foods you may want to avoid:
- Refined sugars
- Vegetable oils