How To Tell If Your Scalp is Healthy
Whether or not you have a scalp care routine already, the fact remains that a healthy scalp is the key to lustrous, commercial-ready hair. But given the number of products you likely use on your hair, and the environmental stressors it is subjected to daily, problems like redness, flaking, and irritation can often pop up to ruin your good hair day. Luckily, we have uncovered some of the main signs that your scalp is unhealthy to help you know when it’s time to visit a professional.
First Off, What Does a Healthy Scalp Look Like?
Considering your scalp is covered with a forest of hair, it can sometimes be difficult to discern whether your scalp is at its peak health, but it’s definitely worth assessing. It’s very important to maintain a healthy scalp, since this is where the hair follicles reside and where your hair starts to grow. A healthy scalp should be clear of flakes and irritation or redness, and it should be free of dryness, or any signs of infection, or disruption of the skin on the scalp. Any itchiness, irritation or burning sensations might be signs of an unhealthy scalp.
What Are the Signs of an Unhealthy Scalp?
A flaky scalp is often due to something called seborrheic dermatitis — commonly known as dandruff — and is linked to a yeast called malessezia on the skin. It can also be due to contact dermatitis, which is a sensitivity to hair products. In the case of seborrheic dermatitis, dandruff shampoos — especially ones that contain ketoconazole, selenium sulfide, salicylic acid, or zinc pyrithione — can be a big help. Sulfate-free shampoos and shampoos with milder surfactants that won’t strip the skin of natural oils are also beneficial for those experiencing flakiness. If you have a lot of flaking on your scalp, the dead skin cells can mix with sebum and can clog pores, so it’s best to treat it as soon as you see it. Clear pores mean healthier hair.
An itchy scalp is frustrating at best and a sign of a medical scalp condition at worst. While it’s true that hair product buildup can sometimes cause itchiness, this alone doesn’t necessarily mean your scalp is unhealthy. Hair product buildup isn’t caked on to the scalp, and a deep cleansing shampoo will easily remove product buildup. More serious scalp conditions, however, will not be able to be managed by simply exfoliating the scalp.
So, how do you know if the itchiness you are feeling is something to take seriously? If you have a scalp condition that’s lingered for more than three months, it’s time to pay your certified trichologist a visit. They will serve as the gateway between your medical provider and hair stylist. They’ll be able to suggest individualized treatments and offer nutritional advice, as well as recommend certain lifestyle changes to improve the health and appearance of the scalp.
Notice some redness on your scalp? It could be the result of something more innocent — an irritation or allergic reaction from an ingredient in a particular hair care product, recent trauma from excessive heat, a hairstyle that created too much tension on the hair follicle, or even a sunburn. Sometimes, though, redness can occur if the scalp is inflamed by a skin condition. Redness on the scalp accompanied with other visible characteristics like flakiness can be signs of more serious conditions like chronic inflammation, bacterial or fungal conditions, psoriasis, or eczema. Significant inflammation on the scalp can, in some cases, contribute to hair loss, so it’s best to visit your dermatologist if you’re concerned.
Excessive Hair Shedding
Shedding 50 to 100 hairs a day is expected, especially if you wash your hair less frequently, but if you’re seeing trails of hair in your car, on the floor in your home, or on your pillow, this is your scalp’s way of telling you that something bigger way be wrong with your body. By design, our bodies are made to survive. So, when the body is lacking, it will take nutrients and energy from the system of hair growth in order to sustain itself. If you’re noticing hair loss in a pattern (for example, on the temples or on crown of the head), consult with your dermatologist. They’ll be able to identify whether there is a more serious issue or if you’re experiencing something like stress-related hair loss.
How To Get A Healthy Scalp
Some simple changes to your regimen can make a big difference in the health of your scalp and hair. If none of the following options help, see a dermatologist for advice.
Use Gentle Hair Care Products
Avoiding products that contain sulfates, alcohols, or fragrances may help improve your overall scalp health. They tend to strip away natural oils in your hair and remove dead skin cells, which makes the scalp dry and prone to irritation. Also, avoid any hair care products that contain harsh chemicals and hair treatments such as dye and bleach. These may cause damage to the hair shaft and scalp skin.
Rather than scrubbing your scalp when shampooing, massage it instead. This will increase circulation and avoid causing abrasions on the scalp.
Wash Less Often
It’s natural to think that in order to avoid oily hair, you should wash more often. However, this may backfire. Shampooing your hair too often strips away the natural oils. In turn, your scalp may produce more oils in order to keep it hydrated, resulting in oily looking hair. Anyone who already struggles with a dry or itchy scalp would benefit from increasing the time between washes to balance out the oil production. No more than 3-4 times a week tops.
Try an Omega-3 Supplement
Omega-3’s and Fish Oils nourish the hair by stimulating circulation in the scalp. They also reduce the inflammation that could be associated with the hair loss. Be sure to talk to your doctor to confirm a supplement is appropriate for you and to help you find the best one.
Use a Scalp Scrub
Just like a scrub you’d use on your face; a scalp scrub is a way to exfoliate the skin on your head. Scrubs contain physical or chemical exfoliants and help remove the excess skin cells, oil, and dandruff, and may dilate the blood vessels under your skin, potentially boosting hair growth.
A healthy scalp leads to healthy hair, so it’s important to pay attention to yours. If you notice any itching, redness, flakiness, irritation, pain, or excessive hair loss and these symptoms bother you, see a dermatologist. They can help determine if there is an underlying health problem or if you should change your hair care routine.
You can also support a healthy scalp through everyday habits. This includes using gentle products and being kind to your hair. Don’t wash your hair every day, if you can. When you do wash it, gently massage your scalp rather than rubbing it. A diet rich in vegetables and fruit also supports a healthy scalp. Taking a fish oil supplement and probiotic may also be beneficial.