eczema

I don’t know anyone who hasn’t dealt with dry scalp, or dandruff at one time or another, but for some this issue is worse than with others. First of all, dry scalp and dandruff are not necessarily synonymous. Dandruff is actually an excess of dead skin cells that form flakes. Skin cells are always dying, as the epidermal layer of the scalp is constantly replacing itself,  but the problem of dandruff can be attributed to overly oily, or dry skin.

The body is a finely tuned instrument, and is built to take care of itself.  Sebum is produced by sebaceous glands, as an oily substance that keeps the skin from becoming too dry.  There is a theory that dandruff is caused by a naturally  produced  fungus called Malassezia If it gets out of control it is believed that it can cause dandruff. A little factoid, Malassezia feeds on fat, so excessive sebum can lead to an excess of the fungus, hence oily skin causing dandruff.

Now on the other hand there’s dry skin. Excessively dry  scalp can cause the skin to flake. Sometimes this due to a lack of being moisturized, sometimes it’s a little more complicated.

I’ve said it before, Barbers are not doctors (see shaving tips), so if I recognize someone’s issue as fungal or parasitic, I recommend the dermatologist. There are some common skin problems such as seborrheic dermatitis (scalp eczema), or psoriasis. There are also some more serious scalp diseases, so I leave the final diagnosis to the men or women who graduated med school!

Dry scalp can manifest from various reasons such as sudden weather changes, water conditions(when bathing), and even allergic reactions. I believe many of us have the wrong approach to dry scalp and their scalp in general. Underneath your hair is skin, and believe it or not, it’s more important than your hair!  Think about it, a lot of people lose their hair and get along fine, however if you get scalped…you might not make it!

Take care of your hair, and neglect your scalp, eventually your hair (which comes from your scalp) will suffer. Treat your scalp with love, and healthier hair can be the result. The skin on your head should be treated with the same care as the skin on the rest of your body. Putting grease on a dry scalp just leads to flaky oily skin. Petroleum, which is an ingredient in many Black hair care products, is not good for the scalp. Products that contain petroleum, mineral oils and paraffin wax will just lay on the skin, clog the pores, and not allow the natural expulsion of dead skin cells. This will most likely lead to dead skin build up, which is what the those embarrassing flakes are.

To properly moisturize the skin, and subsequently the scalp, moisturizer should be applied to skin that’s somewhat damp. Oil is meant to lock in moisture that’s already there, so not washing and properly moisturizing your scalp will lead to dry skin! The same can be said for over washing and not moisturizing. Be sure to control the water temperature in the shower. Over exposure to hot water can lead to irritated dry skin, especially in the case of eczema or psoriasis. As an eczema sufferer I’ve stood in the shower many a day and let that hot water hit a sensitive area. At the time it feels almost as good as sex (alright I’m exaggerating), but at the end of the day, it has the same affect as scratching. Oh yeah, thats another thing, excessive scratching, not good! So people, what I’m saying may not be what you want to hear, but getting your hair parted, dandruff scratched, and scalp greased, is not a good thing.

As with most thing in life it comes down to balance, and each individual balances at a different point, so there can be some trial an error involved.  I recommend all natural, petroleum free oils such as coconut, olive or shea that will be absorbed by the skin rather than just lay on top of it. This will cause build up that’s detrimental to the skin, pores, and hair. Now you can get your hair parted, scalp moisturized with a damp washcloth, and coconutty oiled!  Here’s more good news, a good head massage will help bring blood to the scalp, and can help as well!   Now doesn’t that feels good!

Dandruff can be controlled with some over-the-counter shampoos. There are basic ingredients  in  many of them that combat the causes of the condition.

  • Zinc pyrithione — reduces fungus
  • Selenium sulfide — limits cell turnover
  • Salicylic acid — removes dead skin
  • Ketoconazole — combats many different fungi

Once again this process can involve some trial an error. If your not suffering from actual dandruff, proper cleansing and moisturizing may be the solution. Be sure to give your hair two to three good washes, followed by thorough rinses. Once again, chill out on the hot water.  Condition your hair separately, because the combined affects of shampoo and conditioner will probably cancel each other out.

 What you put in your body is just as, and probably more importantant. Stay hydrated, and eat foods rich in vitamins A,C, B-complex, omega 3 fatty acids and Zinc. Consume a balanced diet, of natural healthy foods, without a lot of unnecessary additives (nitrates, sodium phosphates etc.) Basically, drink plenty of water, eat your fruit, vegetables, lean meats and other good sources of protein. Diet is also important because many of us have allergic reactions to some of the foods we eat. I personally have dealt with eczema my entire life. For me a week of beer drinking, and bad food eating will lead to some itching and scratching!
I can also attest to stress as a possible cause to adverse skin and scalp conditions. In my experience, working out has not only been beneficial in relieving stress, but in helping to alleviate skin issues.
Read labels! Whether it’s your shampoo, or you lunch meat, know what goes in your body. So many of us worry about the outside, neglect the inside, and wonder why they look and feel like…..well, you know what I’m saying. It’s like washing and waxing your car twice a week, but never changing the oil!
In conclusion, there are a myriad of factors that go into dry scalp, or dandruff. Fortunately, some of the same solutions for a healthy scalp, are many of the same things that can help you lead a healthier life. After all nothing operates in a vacuum, everything is somehow related.
Blog written by Dan Brown “The Barber”