If you’re finding dead-skin flakes in your hair or on your shoulders, you might think you have dandruff, a condition also known as seborrheic dermatitis. It’s a common condition that can cause the skin on your scalp to flake. But it’s also possible you could be dealing with something else. Other conditions, such as psoriasis, eczema, and scalp buildup have similar symptoms but different causes that require different treatments to resolve.
What is Scalp Buildup?
Scalp buildup can often cause a flaky scalp. Flaking and scalp build up is caused by a buildup of;
Dead skin cells - The skin cells covering your body are constantly dying and regrowing. When they die, they’re supposed to shed. New ones should grow to replace the old ones. But for some people, the dead skin cells do not shed fast enough, and this can lead to a buildup on your scalp. A buildup of dead skin cells will usually cause a lot of flakes to fall from your scalp.
Sebum - The scalp produces a natural, waxy oil called sebum from glands beneath the skin. Some people produce more of this oil than others. Sebum plays an important role in protecting your skin from infection and helping keep it moist. However, when the body produces too much sebum, it can build up on your scalp.
Product Buildup - Residue from hair products is the other likely cause of scalp buildup. Many hair products contain waxy substances that can stick to your hair and scalp if not thoroughly rinsed out when you wash it. Examples include:
- styling creams, oils, gels, and foams
Can scalp buildup cause hair loss?
In short: yes. Scalp buildup can cause hair loss if left untreated and the dead skin, oil, and sweat clog your hair follicles. When bacteria and sebum get trapped in the follicles of your skin, it can lead to thinning. If the hair follicles are clogged, it can actually stop the hair follicle from coming to the surface. This prevents the follicle from growing and cycling like it should. Follicles can get clogged from your body’s natural sebum production. When sebum combines with dirt, dead skin cells and chemical residue, it can lead to clogged follicles. Everyone has some dirt and dead skin cells on their scalp, and some of us use additional products that may leave residue behind.
How To Unclog Your Follicles
If you’re dealing with scalp buildup, there’s a number of things you can do at home to reduce the flakiness, discomfort, and odour that it can cause.
Use Natural Hair Care Products
Using natural hair products is one of the easiest things you can do for follicle health. Look for a shampoo and conditioner that contain hair growth vitamins like biotin, as well as other ingredients that cleanse the scalp and won’t leave any film or residue behind. If you use hair-care products, it’s also important to wash your hair regularly and thoroughly to get rid of buildup. You may want to wash it every day or every few days, depending on your hair type. Some anecdotally suggest that average-to-oily hair can be washed every 1 to 2 days, while dry-to-damaged hair can be washed every 3 to 4 days.
Avoid excessive use of products. Hair products can be a great tool for keeping hair healthy and styled. But it’s possible to have too much of a good thing. When using products, apply them sparingly and add as little to your scalp as possible.
Take Care of Your Scalp
If you want your hair to grow, you need to provide the right environment for growth. Look for ingredients like coconut oil which nourish and moisturise the scalp, while helping to remove follicle-clogging fungal buildup. Ingredients like caffeine will help stimulate blood flow to your scalp, delivering vital nourishment for healthy follicles. Try a shampoo with ingredients proven to keep your scalp and follicles clean and stimulated.
Improve Your Diet
If you’re eating a lot of greasy or fried food, or unhealthy fats, your skin can become oiler. Oiler skin is more likely to attract pore-clogging bacteria, causing your follicles to clog. Replace greasy and unhealthy fats with better options like nuts, fish and avocado. In addition to being better for you, they are foods that help your body naturally manage sebum production.
Scalp buildup is caused by the accumulation of too many substances on the scalp. It can easily be confused with dandruff because both conditions share some of the same symptoms. Maintaining healthy hair through good hygiene and a proper hair-care regimen can help prevent and treat scalp buildup. Focus on using natural products and reducing product buildup.
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