How to Keep Your Scalp Healthy

By Lindsey Johnson
magnifying glass looking at girl with dandruff

Skin is the largest organ of the body and subject to many causes of irritation. Just as we spend time, money and effort on taking care of our skin, we also need to take care of our scalp!

Is it Dandruff or Dry Skin?

Sometimes the scalp produces itchy, dry flakes that may peel off into the hair. While dandruff and dry skin can present in a similar fashion, the causes for each are quite different.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, dandruff is caused by excess oil and typically produces large flakes. Dandruff is often caused by seborrheic dermatitis, which is a skin condition that can be caused by stress, a buildup of yeast, certain medications, hormonal changes, dry weather, harsh detergents or soaps and certain medical conditions such as HIV and Parkinson’s disease, according to the National Eczema Association. Seborrheic dermatitis is a very common form of eczema and often also seen on infants as cradle cap.

On the other hand, dry scalp is caused by a lack of moisture. Those with dry scalp may experience dryness in other parts of the body due to the moisture loss. Dry scalp is often caused by contact dermatitis, where the skin is exposed to an irritant in a shampoo or hair care product. Cold, dry weather can also cause dry scalp. Sometimes dry scalp can be caused by other conditions such as psoriasis, actinic keratosis or tinea capitis (also known as scalp ringworm).

What Can I do to Take Care of  my Scalp?

If you are experiencing flaking but unsure of the cause, try some simple home remedies to see if it alleviates the problem. Switching to a gentle, moisturizing shampoo is a good first step. Washing hair less frequently may help with dryness issues caused by overwashing. Ensuring you are drinking plenty of water and managing stress will also contribute to a healthy, flake-free scalp.

Apple cider vinegar has antifungal, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties and when diluted with warm water, can be a beneficial treatment post-shampoo. Another common kitchen ingredient, organic coconut oil, has been shown to help with itchy scalps. It contains a saturated fat called lauric acid that contains antimicrobial properties.

This lauric acid also helps with absorption into the skin to create a soothing mask for the scalp.

Essential oils such as peppermint and tea tree oils may also be a successful home remedy, according to Healthline. Peppermint oil
mixed with some olive oil and used as a pre-shampoo treatment may help reduce dandruff and skin irritation. Tea tree oil has antifungal, antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. Tea tree oil can be particularly potent so it is also recommended to mix with olive oil and massage into the scalp before washing.

essential oils with rosemary sprigScalp massage? Yes, please!

We’ve all enjoyed the luxury of a scalp massage when the hairdresser washes our hair. Those few moments of a head rub feel so good! Guess what – you can do it too as part of your scalp care routine!

Whether you use your fingers, a scalp massager or a brush, there are many benefits to that head rub (and you don’t have to wait for your next haircut!). A research study published in the Journal of Physical Therapy Science showed a decrease in cortisol and norepinephrine (stress hormones) as well as a reduction in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure with a scalp massage intervention.

That’s right — it can help reduce stress! Healthline states that routine scalp massages can also help prevent dandruff. One other benefit of scalp massages is stimulating hair growth if done repeatedly over time. (Plus, it just feels good!)

Incorporating scalp care into your regular skin and hair care routine will help create a healthy head. If you suffer from a dry, itchy or irritated scalp, simple remedies may alleviate the problem. However, if your symptoms are severe, last longer than a few weeks, are swollen or painful to touch or causing severe itchiness, call your primary doctor or dermatologist to rule out other potential causes.

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