Sunday, October 10, 2010

Scalp Care = Healthy Hair

Very much inspired by the pretty awesome natural hair meetup hosted by BHLH today I decided to write about the issue of the itchy, flaky, dry scalp. A couple of natural-hair ladies asked for tips on how to combat this problem and although there is no one solution I hope that I can offer some sort of help here.

Firstly, if you're getting a crazy, persistent itch that you can't control or if your scalp is red and inflamed then its always suggested that you go see your doctor.  It is best to get a diagnosis with a persistent itch so that you know how to treat the problem. It could be seborrhea dermatitis (eczema), psoriasis, or just something easily treated like product buildup.

When I've had this problem in the past, the dermatologist often prescribed a  pine tar shampoo which didn't really work that great for me. The shampoo only provided relief for a short time and since the ingredients are consisted of about 20% alcohol, the dryness often came back (just with a little less itch).
Shampoos with salicylic acid worked a little bit better for me. I'm not exactly sure why but I do know that this ingredient causes a more readily cell turn over on the epidermis. In other words, salicylic acid work to loosen  flakes on the scalp and inhibit fungus growth that causes dandruff. While in the shower with your shampooed hair, massage your scalp with the pads of your fingertips to increase circulation and loosen flakes.

Having an itchy scalp and wanting to use only natural products can sometimes be a catch 22 in a way.  Also, I know many of us 'naturals' often don't use shampoo, some only co-wash (washing with conditioner only) to avoid using sulfates. In my experience I've only gotten some relief after I've shampooed with a product like Head and Shoulders and then applied moisture with a light, natural oil. My scalp just felt like it needed soap to stop the itch.

One lady at the meeting mentioned using Sea Breeze to cleanse the scalp. Hearing that name took me back to when I had dreads many years ago. Back then, Sea Breeze was my go-to staple. It did a good job at soothing my scalp and controlling any itchy feeling. The only problem for me at the time was the high alcohol content. Today they make a sensitive skin formula which include camphor, eucalyptus and clove oil which are all ingredients that provide a cooling effect on the skin.
Another alternative is witch hazel. Witch hazel will also clean away any dirt, oil and shedding skin. I love me some witch hazel because I find it to not be so drying, it doesn't sting if I've been scratching and it cleans well in a pinch. Thayer makes an alcohol free formula with aloe vera.

Moisturize with natural oils

After you've cleaned your scalp (however best for you) its best to put back the moisture you've washed away. You can give your self hot oil treatments or use a little of your mixtures as a leave in moisturizer on your scalp. Use of oil treatments will be beneficial once the weather starts to get cold and we're left with no moisture in the air.

I treat my scalp with some of my favorite anti-inflammatory oils.

Carrier Oils
  • Castor Oil
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Shea Butter
  • Coconut Oil (also an anti-fungal treatment)
  • Almond Oil
Essential Oils 
  • Thyme
  • Rose
  • Eucalyptus
  • Bergamot
  • Fennel
You may also consider trying tea tree oil which is an anti-fungal essential oil.

You can make your own anti-itch scalp oil by mixing and matching for what best suits you. Just remember to never use any essential oil directly on your skin, always mix them with a carrier oil.

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