Scalp health is vital to hair growth. It’s as simple as that. The reasons, though, are a bit more complex. Here, Dr. Palm breaks down the signs our scalps give us that say they are either healthy or not-so-healthy. And if yours is saying the latter, not to worry – she also offers tips on reviving the often forgotten area.
Our scalps supply the network of blood vessels that nourish the base of the hair bulb, allowing it to grow with the proper nutrition, oxygenation and removal of toxic byproducts. When one of these necessities is interrupted, hair can be greatly effected. The result can be hair loss, sudden shedding, loss of hair density and even changes in hair architecture such as decreased hair strand width, sudden brittle hair or even a change in color.
Are you having one or more of these symptoms? If so, I’m sure you’re wondering how can you know if your scalp’s health is the reason? Well, according to Dr. Palm, it really depends on the underlying cause for the symptoms. Non-scarring inflammatory conditions such as seborrheic dermatitis (or inflammatory dandruff) can cause redness, flaking, scaling, itching, tenderness and rashes. In some rare cases, acne-like lesions may result. Or, another reason could be an external exposure to a noxious substance, such as a hair dye someone is allergic to, which can cause redness, swelling, itching, hives, scaling, oozing, bleeding and in very rare cases, a systemic-wide body response called anaphylaxis.
Some extreme unhealthy scalp conditions can lead to scarring alopecia, which is a permanent form of hair loss. In these instances, areas with previous hair can become inflamed, particularly around hair follicles and the hair strand width becomes very small, like peach fuzz. In extreme cases, the affected areas of the scalp can be scarred and completely devoid of hair. Some causes of this condition include forms of lupus and centrifugal cicatrial alopecia. Unfortunately, Dr. Palm says for some of these conditions, effective treatment can be elusive.
Signs of a Healthy Scalp
- Normal coloration of the skin
- No visible flaking or redness
- Not overly shiny or dull
- Hair density should be normal for the individual
- No areas of skin breakdown (crust, scabs, acne or lesions)
- Non-chemically treated hair should be lustrous, strong and the strands should be uniform in width
Tips for keeping a Health Scalp
- Consistent Hygiene
This can vary with a person’s age and ethnicity. For example, someone who has a dry scalp may require less frequent washing/shampooing.
- Avoid possible irritants
Paraphenylenediamine (PPD) and occasionally peroxide from hair coloring and permanent hair treatments can be severe irritants or causes of allergy on the scalp. If redness, itching, pain, oozing or a rash of any kind develop after a hair treatment, the cause is likely an irritant or allergic contact dermatitis and you should discontinue the treatment.
- Avoid overly-tight braiding of hair
The tension of overly-tight braids can cause traction alopecia, which is a permanent form of hair loss over time.
- Consider products with UV protectant
If you suffer from thin hair, especially at the top of the scalp, using a product with UV protectant provides sun protection to the exposed skin on the scalp.
- Eat a balance diet
A diet compatible with enhanced skin health includes vitamin A, E, monounsaturated fatty acids, antioxidants, omega-3s and 6s as well as good hydration will enhance skin health in general, including the health of your scalp.
- If you notice a change, see your doctor
If you notice a change in your skin, consulting an expert is always a good idea. Mild flaking can be treated with an over the counter anti-dandruff shampoo, but more concerning symptoms may require a dermatologist’s guidance for treatment and improvement.
A healthy scalp leads to healthy hair and following these tips and guidelines are a good way to get there. As always, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to call and schedule an appointment to be sure you’re scalp is at its healthiest! For more information on how your diet can influence the overall health of your skin, check out this video: