“The scalp is simply skin: it sweats, secretes sebum (oil) and sheds dead skin cells,” says Anabel Kingsley, a trichologist at Philip Kingsley. Eleanore Richardson, a Trichologist at the Fulham Scalp and Hair Clinic in London, says shampoo is the first step to keeping the scalp healthy. She suggests shampooing more often if you use lots of hair products or have been sweating. Kingsley says: “Don’t leave more than three days between shampoos. Doing so is likely to cause itching and flaking, and a flaky scalp can cause hair loss.”
Flakes and an itchy, scaly scalp are the main symptoms of dandruff. White, oily flakes typically accumulate in your hair and on your shoulders and often get worse during the fall and winter months, when the air is dry. Pinpointing the exact cause of your itchy, flaky scalp can be difficult, but here are a few common culprits :
- irritated and oily skin, a condition also known as seborrheic dermatitis (a more severe form of dandruff)
- not shampooing enough, which causes skin cells to accumulate and create flakes and itching
- yeast called malassezia, which aggravate your scalp and cause excess skin cell growth
- different personal care products may cause contact dermatitis, which makes your scalp red and itchy
“If you notice your scalp is flaky, your first solution is to use a dandruff shampoo,” says David Felstead of the Hair and Scalp Clinic at Daniel Galvin Marylebone in London. He recommends looking for one that contains salicylic acid or zinc pyrithione and says you should use it for at least a month. He advises shampooing twice, leaving the product in for two to three minutes the first time before rinsing. If using a specific shampoo doesn’t work, he recommends seeking expert advice.
Historically, tea tree oil has been used to treat ailments ranging from acne to psoriasis.It is also proven to have powerful anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties, which may help alleviate symptoms of dandruff. In fact, according to one review, tea tree oil is effective at fighting the specific strain of fungus that can cause both seborrheic dermatitis and dandruff.
Another 4-week study examined the effects of tea tree oil on dandruff by treating 126 people daily with a shampoo containing either 5% tea tree oil or a placebo. At the end of the study, tea tree oil reduced the severity of symptoms by 41% and improved greasiness and. Note that tea tree oil can cause irritation in those with sensitive skin. It’s best to dilute it by adding a few drops to a carrier oil like coconut oil before applying it directly to the skin.