The Necessity of Scalp Care

Most people concern themselves with hair care, finding the right shampoos, conditioners, and treatments, but scalp care often flies under their radar. The scalp is the foundation of healthy hair; however, more than that, the scalp is susceptible to problems, including:

  • Cysts
  • Irritation
  • Itchiness
  • Flakiness
  • Sun damage
  • Acne
  • Hair loss
  • Pain

Scalp Hygiene, Hair Health, and Medical Conditions

The scalp and hair have a symbiotic relationship — if one is healthy, the other usually is. When the scalp is unhealthy, a person can experience different medical conditions, such as atopic dermatitis or seborrheic dermatitis. Both conditions can cause hair breakage, rough texture, hair loss, etc.

Atopic dermatitis is commonly known as eczema. The chronic condition causes itchy and red skin. While there are many potential causes of eczema, atopic dermatitis is often a reaction to hair care products like shampoos or dyes.

Seborrheic dermatitis or dandruff also causes redness and itchiness but can also be characterized by flakiness—dandruff results from dry skin buildup or oiliness.

Maintaining a healthy scalp is about knowing and adhering to proper scalp hygiene. If you experience scalp problems despite practicing good hygiene, consult with your primary care physician or a dermatologist.

Treating the Scalp and Common Conditions

While common, dandruff is a challenging condition to treat. Many over-the-counter products claim to treat the condition, but you must be careful about which items you choose. People are typically better served to consult their dermatologists or doctors for better and more practical remedies.

If you choose to go it alone and use OTC products, shampoos, or treatments, you will need to be selective. You will want to ensure the products have proper ingredients, including:

  • Selsun blue (selenium sulfide)
  • Salicylic acid
  • Dermazinc (pyrithione zinc)
  • Nizoral A-D (ketoconazole)
  • Tar

You do not need to use these products habitually. In fact, consumers should only use the items until the symptoms subside. Using certain products too often can nullify efficacy, meaning the items will not be as effective. Experts recommend alternating treatments every few months to avoid a loss of effectiveness.

If so, you can also try at-home remedies for treating the scalp. Some of the most effective treatments include:

  • Avoidance of styling products
  • Avoidance of products containing alcohol
  • Applying mineral oils to the scalp
  • Applying aloe vera to the scalp
  • Using tea tree oil in shampoo
  • Taking fish oil supplements

Promoting and Maintaining a Healthy Scalp

You may already have a healthy scalp, but that does not mean you are off the hook. Scalp health is an ongoing and ever-changing element. Adopting healthy practices is the only way to ensure or encourage continued health.

One of the best things you can do for your scalp is to avoid shampoos and conditioners with sulfates, alcohol, or fragrances. Certain ingredients in commercial beauty products can irritate the scalp, causing damage and promoting different conditions.

Additionally, do not overwash your hair. Most experts agree that you only need to wash your hair three to four times per week. Washing your hair more often can strip away natural oils, the same oils essential for a healthy scalp. Also, when shampooing your hair, massage the product into the hair, don't scrub. Massaging increases circulation and blood flow to the scalp.

A healthy scalp is vital to a healthy, full head of hair. Caring for your scalp can reduce the risks of specific conditions and improve hair feel, appearance, fullness, and thickness.

Save Your Scalp From Breakouts

Nothing ruins a good hair day like discovering a blemish on your scalp. The abundant oil glands and hair follicles are at the root of acne in this area. Over time, a buildup of oil along with dirt and dead skin cells can clog the pores, leading to pimples. Styling products such as gel, hairspray and mousse compound the problem by leaving residue behind. 

If you regularly experience acne around your hairline and beyond, you know how frustrating it can be. These smart strategies can help you banish scalp breakouts.

Switch Up Your Routine

Start the process of clearing up your scalp with a new hair care routine. Any products you use, including shampoo and conditioner, should be oil-free. Look for labels like anti-acnegenic or non-comedogenic to find formulas that won't clog your pores. This also applies to cosmetics like foundation and powder, as well as moisturizers, lotions and other skincare products.

You can try medicated shampoos with ingredients that help with the causes of scalp breakouts, such as:

  • Benzoyl peroxide and tea tree oil, which fight bacteria that leads to acne
  • Ciclopirox and ketoconazole, which combat fungal causes of acne
  • Glycolic acid and salicylic acid, which remove dead skin cells that clog the pores
  • Jojoba oil, which alleviates inflammation associated with acne

Skip hair products when you plan to stay home and try to use fewer formulas in general. Using multiple cosmetic items increases the chances of irritating and inflaming your scalp.

Step Up Your Schedule

If you tend to go more than a day or two without washing your hair, consider shampooing more frequently to stay on top of breakouts. It's especially important to wash your hair after you work out to get rid of excess sweat, dirt and oil. 

When you shampoo, focus your efforts on your scalp to clear away clogging materials. You can also use a soft-bristled brush to gently exfoliate the area. After washing and conditioning your hair, be sure to rinse completely. Soap and product residue can cause breakouts along the hairline.

Keep It Clean

Contact with bacteria causes acne, so anything that touches your face, neck or head should be washed often. This includes pillowcases, bedding hats, headbands, visors and scarves. Clean phones and headsets frequently with antibacterial wipes.

Let the Scalp Breathe

If you spend several hours wearing a headscarf or hat each day, try to choose a looser garment to let air flow circulate to your scalp. When you're at home, leave your head bare if possible to prevent sweat and oil from becoming trapped.

Support Skin Health

Getting the right nutrients helps maintain the health of your skin, which means you'll experience fewer breakouts. Make sure you consume at least the recommended daily amount of vitamins A, D and E, either in your diet or with an over-the-counter supplement. Eating plenty of fresh fruits, whole grains and veggies supports overall wellness, which in turn keeps the scalp healthy.

Take Notes

Scalp breakouts sometimes result from allergic reactions. When you notice a blemish, write down your recent food and beverage intake. You may begin to see a pattern of acne that occurs when you eat certain ingredients, which will allow you to prevent the issue by avoiding these triggers. 

See a Dermatologist

Some cases of scalp acne require medical treatment. Your dermatologist may prescribe stronger acne medications, light therapy, antibiotics or steroids to resolve serious breakouts that don't respond to self-care at home.

Keep in mind that it can take up to six weeks to notice a difference in your scalp with these strategies. See your doctor if your acne continues with treatment or causes more severe symptoms, such as inflammation, infection and hair loss.