The scalp has a high amount of hair growth and many sebaceous glands, distinguishing it from the skin of the rest of the body.
It is also a rich environment for microbes and can develop various disorders such as dandruff, seborrheic dermatitis, atopic dermatitis, psoriasis, and alopecia.
Thus, it is vital that you keep your scalp clean with regular washing and exfoliation to avoid scalp disorders. (1)
Reasons for Increased Hair Loss Due to Unhealthy Scalp
Hair loss can occur when the scalp is not in a good condition, which can be due to the following:
1. Poor lifestyle and unhealthy habits
A poor lifestyle and unhealthy food habits are leading causes of an unhealthy scalp. Stress, pollution, and eating junk food are some of the common factors causing an unhealthy scalp. (2)
Another reason behind an unhealthy scalp is the buildup created over the scalp skin due to the regular use of shampoo, oils, hair sprays, and other hair products. (3)
2. Not cleansing the hair timely
If the hair is not cleansed or exfoliated regularly, dead cells and product buildup can clog the hair follicles, resulting in scalp dryness, hair loss, breakage, and more. (4)
Regular use of shampoos containing harmful substances such as sulfates, alcohol, parabens, and mineral oils impairs the health of your scalp.
3. Product buildup
Washing your hair with a clarifying or chelating shampoo daily can reduce the natural oils from your scalp and create dryness, irritation, and flaking, among other problems.
Not cleaning the hair at least 2–3 times a week can also be harmful as it causes product buildup that leads to inflammation and impairs hair growth. (4)
Maintain the right balance by shampooing and conditioning your hair with a shampoo according to your hair type. (5)
How to Take Care of an Unhealthy Scalp?
Observe the following measures to keep your scalp in great condition:
1. Find the right shampoo and conditioner
To treat an unhealthy scalp, you should find the right shampoo and conditioner according to your hair type. Don’t ask your best friend for advice on which shampoo to buy for your hair, but consult a dermatologist if your hair is having extreme hair fall.
2. Avoid purchasing products with evil ingredients
When browsing through the grocery aisle, check the list of ingredients on the label of the product you’re buying. When you see harmful ingredients such as SLS, parabens, mineral oils, and fragrance on the label, do not purchase it.
3. Use hydrating products
Buy a deep conditioner to restore lost moisture and hydration to your damaged scalp. Most people only use a shampoo and neglect using a conditioner for the hair, but that could cause hair breakage and fall in the long run.
4. Exfoliate properly
Just like your skin, your hair needs to be exfoliated but not too much. Use a good-quality scalp scrub and a good hair pack to exfoliate and nourish your scalp and hair.
Tackle your dry scalp by applying coconut oil to it before you shampoo it, as it adds much-needed moisture and nourishment to your scalp.
5. Consume a balanced diet
A balanced diet is necessary to maintain healthy hair and scalp as what you eat daily has a significant role in keeping your scalp and hair healthy at all times.
You should include omega-3 fatty acids, iron, and zinc in your diet to increase the thickness and shine of your hair. They also help in keeping your hair well moisturized and hydrated.
Add more nuts, legumes, and leafy vegetables to your diet and you will reap the benefits on your scalp.
Types of Scalp Disorders
The most common problems that can affect the scalp are the following:
1. Dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis
Not washing the scalp and hair for 1–2 weeks can cause flaking, while Malassezia fungi, lipids, and other factors are the cause of dandruff on the scalp.
The warm and dark environment of the scalp is an excellent breeding ground for microbes that cause dandruff flakes to appear, resulting in dryness and flakiness of the scalp.
Seborrheic dermatitis differs from dandruff as the redness and flakiness in seborrheic dermatitis extend to the nose and eyebrow areas. Its cause is attributed to the fungus Malassezia. (6)
Psoriasis is an acute inflammatory condition of the hair scalp with the appearance of sharply demarcated lesions with white scaling. The overgrowth of the Malassezia fungi is one of the features of scalp psoriasis. (6)
3. Atopic dermatitis
Atopic dermatitis is another chronic inflammatory skin disorder affecting the scalp. Genetics, environmental factors, faulty skin permeability, and others are thought to be the reasons behind it. (6)
4. Scalp aging
Scalp aging is the body’s response to internal and environmental changes that cause damage to the scalp at various levels.
For example, hair aging affects the hair color, causing it to go gray, and diminishes hair production, causing alopecia. It also affects the structural properties of the hair fiber. (7)
How to Keep the Scalp and Hair Healthy
Your scalp and hair can be kept healthy by doing the following things regularly:
1. Wash your hair well
The dead cells, oil, dust, and pollution in the air can easily clog the hair follicles in the scalp and cause irritation, impaired hair growth, and fungal and bacterial growth on the scalp – these results in scalp issues such as itchiness, irritation, and dandruff. (8)
Thus, keeping your scalp clean with an excellent shampoo without silicone or minerals is important.
Tea tree oil is the best option for bacterial growth prevention. Exfoliation of the scalp is essential for keeping it clean and free of dead cells.
2. Keep your scalp moisturized
The human scalp possesses oil glands that generate sebum, a natural oil essential for well-hydrated and healthy hair. When the scalp lacks sebum, the hair becomes dry and less manageable.
Along with a good diet, the practice of applying hair oils to your scalp can keep it nourished and well moisturized.
Using pure coconut oil helps nourish the scalp and hair as it is one of the most absorbent oils among oils. Avoid using hard shampoo and washing your hair frequently. (9)
3. Protect your scalp from damage
A damaged scalp causes a delay in hair growth, hair fall, and hair breakage. Certain factors can damage the skin on your scalp, including UV radiation, intense temperatures, and harsh chemicals.
It would be best to avoid harmful habits such as direct sun exposure for long periods, using an incompatible shampoo that irritates your scalp, and washing your hair with hot water for a healthy scalp. (9)
4. Maintain the pH of your scalp
An unhealthy scalp has a distorted pH balance. A healthy scalp pH is crucial for retaining moisture in the hair.
Acid tends to break the hair cuticles, and water is not retained in the hair, causing it to dry out quickly. (10) Therefore, it is essential to maintain the pH balance of the scalp to prevent fungal and bacterial growth.
To this end, always use shampoos that help keep your hair’s pH balanced. (10) (5)
General Queries Related to Scalp and Hair
How is a healthy scalp essential for healthy hair?
The health of your scalp decides the quality of your hair. When your scalp is unhealthy, you face many scalp issues and hair loss. The condition of your scalp also affects average hair growth.
What are the common signs of an unhealthy scalp?
Common signs of an unhealthy scalp are flakiness, redness, itchiness, excess hair loss, etc.
How can I keep my scalp healthy?
Use a mild shampoo that is sulfate-free and paraben-free. Have a nutritional diet and timely exfoliate your scalp to remove dust and dead cells.
Why is it essential to maintain the pH balance of my scalp?
A balanced scalp pH is essential to maintain a healthy scalp. Excess acid can break the hair cuticles, creating moisture retention challenges. As a consequence, hair dries out quickly.
Moreover, maintaining the pH balance of the scalp is also necessary to prevent bacterial and fungal growth as well as inflammation.
A healthy scalp is vital for healthy hair. Thus, always look out for the causes and symptoms of an unhealthy scalp.
Prevent product buildup and do not use chemical-filled hair products. Instead, use compatible shampoos and exfoliate regularly to avoid an unhealthy scalp.
- R; G. A practical guide to scalp disorders. The journal of investigative dermatology. Symposium proceedings. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18004290/.
- Guo EL, Katta R. Diet and hair loss: Effects of nutrient deficiency and supplement use. Dermatology practical & conceptual. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5315033/. Published January 31, 2017.
- Nayak BS, Ann CY, Azhar AB, Ling ECS, Yen WH, Aithal PA. A study on scalp hair health and hair care practices among Malaysian medical students. International journal of trichology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5551307/. Published 2017.
- Punyani S; Tosti A; Hordinsky M; Yeomans D; Schwartz J; The impact of shampoo wash frequency on scalp and hair conditions. Skin appendage disorders. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34055906/.
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- Trüeb RM, Henry JP, Davis MG, Schwartz JR. Scalp condition impacts hair growth and retention via oxidative stress. International journal of trichology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6369642/. Published 2018.
- Trüeb RM, Rezende HD, Dias MFRG. A comment on the science of hair aging. International journal of trichology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6369639/. Published 2018.
- Asifa N, Kusagur MS, SugaReddy. Prevalent practices and perceptions in hair cleansing. International journal of trichology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5596653/. Published 2017.
- Gavazzoni Dias MFR. Hair cosmetics: An overview. International journal of trichology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4387693/. Published 2015.
- Gavazzoni Dias MFR, de Almeida AM, Cecato PMR, Adriano AR, Pichler J. The shampoo ph can affect the hair: Myth or reality? International journal of trichology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4158629/. Published July 2014.