We spend literal months of our life washing, styling, and obsessing over our hair – but how much attention do we give our scalps? Not much and, when you think about it, it’s a pretty major oversight! Not only is a healthy, happy scalp more comfortable, it’s the foundation of hair that looks and feels fabulous, and grows shiny, strong, and long.
The truth is, healthy hair starts long before the strands, so we’ve created this article to get to the root of good scalp health. From itching and flaking to hair thinning (eek!), here are the signs of an unhealthy scalp. Read on to learn how to spot them, and the simple steps you can take to get things back in balance.
HOW TO SPOT AN UNHEALTHY SCALP – 5 WARNING SIGNS
If you notice any of the following issues, you likely have an angry, stressed, or slightly dysfunctional scalp. The good news? In most cases, all it takes to nurse your scalp back to health is a little time and some tender loving care!
An itchy scalp isn’t just annoying, it’s super embarrassing if you can’t help scratching during that important meeting or date. Itchiness can indicate a few different scalp issues, such as general dryness – triggered by things like cold, dry air and over-washing – or irritation caused by a new shampoo.
Another obvious culprit is head lice, especially if you have kids, while build up from all those styling prods can give you the unwanted feels. You might also have an inflammatory skin condition such as psoriasis or seborrheic dermatitis – with the latter being a major cause of the dreaded ‘d’ word. (That’s dandruff to you and me.)
Hair loss or slow growth
Stress, post-pregnancy hormones, genes, a restrictive diet, or traction alopecia from that too-tight topknot… There are a bunch of reasons you could be experiencing hair loss or thinning. And if your scalp is irritated or itchy? Excessive scratching could be damaging your hair follicles and causing some hair loss as well.
While we can’t all be Rapunzel, hair that’s growing at a snail’s pace shouldn’t be ignored either. It could be another indicator your scalp health is less than gold-standard.
Shoulders sporting a heavy dusting of flakes? Take it as a sign everything’s NQR up top your head. While a dry scalp can result in a few flakes, a dead skin cell tsunami is typically caused by dandruff. And, despite a common misconception that dandruff spells dryness, our oily-skinned friends are, in fact, the ones most likely to suffer.
Without wanting to gross you too much, this is due partly to a yeast called Malassezia globose. This not-so-friendly fungus lives on scalps and feeds on oils secreted by the hair follicles. And the more oil there is to feast on, the more troublesome it can become.
In some people, an immune response kicks in, increasing the rate of skin cell renewal – and flake shedding – dramatically. According to a report in the Journal of Medical Chemistry, in those with dandruff, new skin cells on the scalp take two to seven days to mature, die, and shed – compared to a whole month for those without dandruff!
Lank, greasy locks
Medications, genes, diet, and lifestyle contribute to oily hair, while over-washing can also supercharge sebum production. At scalp level, build-up from styling products can also clog the follicles, weighing hair down and increasing oiliness. So, if your roots are relentlessly greasy (with or without flakes), it’s probably time to consider your scalp situation.
Burning, pain or sore spots
A burning, painful scalp could occur if you’re allergic or intolerant to the haircare prods you’re using, or even due to a dodgy dye job. Scratching at dry, flaky skin can also cause inflammation and painful scabs.
The worst part? Constant picking can even cause the scalp to go into protective mode and produce MORE dandruff. Consider yourself warned.
HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR SCALP’S HEALTH
Good scalp health starts within, so if yours is unhappy, make sure you’re eating a nutrient-rich diet and managing stress. It’s also crucial to choose the right shampoo and conditioner for your hair type, and beneficial to upgrade your cotton pillowcase to a hydrating, snag-free alternative.
Use a scalp scrub
However, one of the most beneficial things you can do is exfoliate your scalp. Think about it. You exfoliate your face, so why wouldn’t you show your scalp the same consideration? Covered in hair, hidden under dirty old caps, and subjected to sun, sweat and pollution, your scalp takes a bit of beating. To put it bluntly, it’s a hotbed of dirt, oil, product build up and bacteria that a regular shampoo won’t really budge.
Using a scalp scrub, such as our Deep Clean Scalp Scrub, is the easy way to dead skin cells and debris, relieving itching and preventing flakes. Combining hydrating, exfoliating and stimulating ingredients (in our case, coconut oil and shell, volcanic ash, AHAs and caffeine) a scalp scrub helps to eliminate dryness, reduce oil and promote a healthy environment for hair growth. Simply use before shampooing, once or twice a week.
Choose a sulfate-free shampoo
Speaking of shampoo, make sure you use a gentle, scalp-loving formula like – wait for it! – our all-new Like A Virgin Super Hydrating Shampoo! Packed with botanical goodness, our hydrating, hyaluronic acid-enriched formula cleanses and restores shine from root to the tip, without irritating sensitive scalps.
While most shampoos use a group of drying detergents called sulfates to wash away dirt and oils, ours uses natural ingredients to create a rich, cleansing lather. Natural surfactant soap nut and antibacterial coconut oil team up to deeply cleanse the scalp and strands – without stripping the skin and hair of moisture.
Finally, if your scalp symptoms persist or are severe, always speak to a GP. They’ll be able to provide personalised advice, prescribe medicated haircare products or, if necessary, refer you to a dermatologist or trichologist.
Pevnzer, H. 2020. What Is Dandruff? Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, and Prevention. Everyday Health.
Villines, Z. 2018. The Difference Between Dandruff and a Dry Scalp. Medical News Today.
Written By: Pip Jarvis
Edited by: Vidhya