Myths about scalp health
January 30, 2021
If you haven’t already brushed up on the basics of hair I highly recommend checking it out, or referencing it if you’ve got questions as you read along. Don’t miss out on the rest of the hair myths series. I’ve addressed a lot of hair myths in my years behind the chair and starting my own website has given me a great opportunity to really address those in detail for you!
You can watch this video for a brief rundown of the text, skipping ahead to 0:40 to skip the intro.
Washing your hair every day keeps it from being oily:
The short version is that the oil your scalp produces is designed to protect your hair and skin, and the more you strip that oil the more your body replaces it. If your body is used to you shampooing your hair every single day, it knows how much oil it needs to produce to replace what was removed and provide protection to your scalp. If you skip a day shampooing, your body doesn’t know you didn’t keep to your schedule and produces the same amount of oil it’s used to to keep itself happy and healthy.
Typically it’ll take a few weeks for your body to re-regulate itself when trying to extend time between washes. In my professional opinion, I’m a big fan of sticking with what works. There are very few hard and fast rules when it comes to hair. If your hair and scalp are healthy and washing every day works for you, then don’t feel pressured to change your routine unless it’s something you want to do. Finer and less dense hair tends to need washing more frequently whereas thick curly hair benefits more from your body’s natural oils as a protective coating and going longer between full washes.
Sudsy washes aren’t necessarily the cleanest washes and may dry you out:
We’ve been generally trained to think that a big sudsy wash is what leaves our hair the cleanest, but that isn’t necessarily true. Sulfates are commonly added to shampoos for an increase in lather and as an easy filler in many drugstore shampoos. It’s important to note what type of sulfate is being used as well, as those aren’t all created equally either. The most common ones you see are Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, and Ammonium Laureth Sulfate. These three in particular are common causes for dried out skin and hair, and for your color fading more quickly, because they’re too effective at cleaning. Great for your dishes and your laundry, not as great for your scalp or hair.
Professional products from a reputable salon are designed differently than most of what you see at a regular store. For starters the ingredients are usually a higher quality and are less aimed to just take up space in a bottle. Because they’re more concentrated, a little goes a long way and you’ll often get more uses out of a bottle of the same size. Many of the “smoothing” shampoos and conditioners are really heavy on wax based fillers, giving you the results you’re looking for at first by coating your hair rather than depositing what your hair is lacking.
Dandrufff vs dry scalp vs buildup:
This is a really common issue I’ve come across in my years behind the chair. It can be tricky to figure out if your scalp flakes are from dandruff or too much product or just your scalp being dry, since the “symptoms” are so similar. Healthline has a great write-up on scalp buildup and dandruff vs dry scalp how to help determine what the cause of your issue might be.
The easiest way to break it down is to try and figure out what the source of your flaking is. In almost all cases an itchy scalp is common, but with dandruff being a skin condition you can usually tell if that’s the case based on the size and color of the flaking. Typically with dandruff you’ll usually see larger flakes that are a yellowish color and more oily in texture. A good indicator if you’re dealing with dry skin instead of dandruff is to check over the skin on the rest of your body. Are you itchy and dry and flaky almost everywhere? It’s likely that your scalp is dry and it isn’t dandruff.
In my personal and professional experience, most of the “dandruff” I see is actually dry scalp or buildup of the skin’s natural oils or products you’ve been using. The way I usually try to tackle everything is to do a thorough shampoo with some sort of silicone bristled brush to remove the flakes that are currently there. This also helps to remove product buildup and lets us start with a clean slate, making it a lot easier to treat the root cause of your issues. If we’re thinking it’s dry skin I’d recommend applying a light coat of something moisturizing the night before you plan to wash your hair in the morning, or when you have a few hours to let it soak in to your skin. In general I recommend a lightweight conditioner over something like a lotion because most lotions and oils are going to end up being too heavy and cause more buildup and you’ll get caught in a vicious cycle that won’t do your hair or your scalp any favors. Shampoo it out with a gentle and/or moisturizing shampoo and pay attention to how your scalp looks and feels for the next few days.
If we’re leaning more towards dandruff my first choice is to switch shampoos to something with Pyrithione zinc, which is gentle enough to use every day. Matrix Biolage Scalp Sync is also color safe, and is almost always my first recommendation. Home hair care for dandruff is unfortunately like most other home hair care products; there’s more than one right option and it sometimes takes time to figure out which one is the best choice for you.
While those are the main causes of flaking on the scalp it’s important to keep in mind that they aren’t the only causes. Issues like psoriasis or eczema aren’t always able to be treated with at home remedies, and in some cases the wrong attempted treatment can make the symptoms even worse. If you experience unbearable itching, inflamed or oozing patches, or suddenly painful areas, make an appointment with a dermatologist immediately for a professional medical opinion.
Do you have questions or concerns that you want to see me address? Leave a comment or reach out on social media! You can always book a consultation to ask me questions in person!