Healthy Scalp Tips for All Hair Types

Flakes? Bumps? Itching? Odor? What do these 4 things have in common? They are all very prevalent issues of the scalp. So, this month, CLn® Skin Care is breaking down what causes each of these issues, and what you can do to manage them. Because bald can be beautiful, pixie cuts can be glam and long, flowing locks can be luscious. But scalp issues are never, ever pretty.

Flaking—The Causes

Dandruff: Many people use the term “dandruff” to describe all flakes. But dandruff, or seborrheic dermatitis, is just one cause of flakes. Dandruff is very common and is almost always more embarrassing than it is harmful.

Eczema and psoriasis: Both conditions can cause cell build-up or scaly patches on the scalp. Scratching can worsen the appearance, not to mention lead to open cuts.

Infrequent washing: Dry shampoos can work miracles on busy mornings, but skip one too many real shampoo sessions, and cell buildup can result. Shampooing hair and scalps (even if bald) removes excess oils and dead skin cells, and is recommended at least every few days for anyone suffering from flaking.

Dry, cold weather: Arid, chilly air can deplete moisture from any area of the body, including scalps. Cold weather is often to blame if flaking occurs only when the temperatures dip and/or humidity levels decline.

Hot showers or heat styling: High temps can disrupt your skin’s barrier, including your scalp. Excessive heat not only dries out skin, but can also cause your body to overcompensate by ramping up oil production.

Bumps—The Causes

Folliculitis: According to dermatologist Jerald Sklar, MD, “Folliculitis is infection or inflammation in the hair follicle or in an open pore of the skin.” Scalps contain 10s of thousands of follicles and pores, so chances are, you’ll end up with a bump or two from time to time.

Barber’s Itch: Have a shaved head or close-cropped hair, and also bumps? You could be suffering from Barber’s Itch. Also known as Pseudofolliculitis barbae, this condition is caused by coarse and/or curly hairs. According to Mark Jackson, MD, “the curl of the hair can make it difficult for the hair to exit through the follicle opening, thus creating a bump, an ingrown hair and more inflammation. Chronic manipulation, such as shaving or scrubbing, creates worsening of the condition.”

Acne: Acne can appear on the body anywhere that oil + bacteria + dead skin cells combine, and the scalp is no exception. Wearing hats or sweatbands or not showering after working out can increase chances for acne of the scalp. Hairline acne is common, and can be painful.

Itching—The Causes

Dandruff, eczema and psoriasis: It is no coincidence that the same conditions that cause flaking can also cause scalp itching. And the more you scratch, the more flakes you may release.

Infection: Tinea capitis, known as ringworm of the scalp, is a fungal infection that can cause circular, scaly, itchy patches on the scalp. In extreme cases, hair loss may occur in affected areas.

Contact reactions: Many shampoos, conditioners and styling products contain alcohol and fragrances. The immediate result might be shiny, delicious smelling hair, but continued use of irritating ingredients can cause itching, tightness of the scalp and even rashes.

Odor—The Causes

Not washing enough: As previously stated, skipping one too many shampoo sessions can cause scalp problems, including odor. Bacteria on the scalp, when allowed to overgrow, can give off an unpleasant sour or musky odor.

Wearing hats too frequently: Wearing hats—particularly if they are not washed regularly—can trap sweat and oil against the scalp, resulting in stale or unappealing odors.

Open sores: Skin conditions can lead to weeping or oozing sores. If left untreated, these sores and their fluids can give off an unpleasant smell.

Scalp Solutions

As you can tell by now, many scalp issues are interrelated. This is actually good news, because it means just a few simple changes could knock out or prevent several issues at once. Here are our top 5 solutions to keep your shoulders flake-free, your scalp smooth, and your confidence high…

  1. Shampoo the right way: Over-washing with harsh products or shampooing daily may actually dry the scalp, leading to more flaking. Consider using a specialized shampoo and experimenting with the best frequency of application. CLn® Shampoo is a clinically tested, hypo-allergenic formula for normal to oily scalps prone to itching, folliculitis and dandruff. It can be used 1-3 times per week. CLn 2-in-1 Gentle Wash and Shampoo can be used more frequently for dry hair and scalps. It carries the National Eczema Association seal, and is suitable for scalps prone to eczema and psoriasis.
  2. Clean your razor: Shave your head often? Then change or clean your razor blade often, too. Blades can grow bacteria, which can be introduced to follicles during shave sessions. A 10-30 second dip in rubbing alcohol or peroxide is all it takes, and neither product will damage razors.
  3. Wash hats, headscarves and headbands: Just as washing hair often enough reduces issues, washing items that cover scalps can reduce issues. A good laundering removes sweat, oil and bacteria from your items, keeping them clean for when they come in contact with your scalp.
  4. Keep it cool: Avoid hot showers and try to minimize heat styling. Indoor humidifiers can also help prevent moisture loss from skin and scalps during drier months.
  5. Work with a dermatologist: Don’t dismiss scalp issues like flakes or itching if you think you have a skin condition. Dermatologists are trained to diagnose and treat scalp issues, and many times the solutions are simpler than you’d think!

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