Sarah Quincy, a spokesperson for plant-based Aveda® hair and skin products, recommends not shampooing more than once a day, and only half as often if you’re a swimmer. Athletes who take more than an occasional dip in chlorinated pools should use a weekly detoxifying shampoo, and, if you’re showering both at home and at the gym, Quincy says, it’s best to just rinse your hair when you hit the shower a second time. Unless you’re drenched with sweat following your workout, not washing your hair immediately afterward isn’t a bad thing; the scalp contains many oil-producing sebaceous glands, and perspiring helps distribute this oil, which prevents a dry, flaky scalp.
Including the use of a clarifying shampoo on a weekly basis will help keep pores clear of gunk. Harsh detergents can irritate the scalp, Abadir says, but natural shampoos made from plant and flower extracts, like Aveda’s Shampure® line, are gentler to skin. Herb-based cleansers can help bring your scalp into better balance, and can also strip away any build-up from waxy hair products. Shampoos containing Aloe vera will help stabilize a dry scalp, and balsam will help normalize an oily head. Echinacea, everyone’s favorite cold remedy, is an herb that moisturizes and soothes a sick scalp, and a good dose of chamomile tea, dumped right on your head every couple of weeks, can cleanse the scalp of built-up toxins.
If chamomile cures aren’t your cup of tea, you can nurture your scalp with a couple of additions to your daily vitamins and supplements. Any multi-vitamin that contains antioxidants and unsaturated fatty acids will clean up clogged pores and promote scalp oil production. Vitamins A, C and E facilitate the normal shedding of dead cells, and most B vitamins feed follicles and hair roots.
Kligman insists that the scalp is a hardy stretch of skin, and that few of us will ever experience much trouble with what’s under our hat. “The top of your head is like every other part of your body,” he says. “If you keep it clean and well cared for, it will be fine. The first sign of trouble will show up on your shoulders, and your partner or spouse will let you know right after the first flake has fallen.”
Itchy, oily, scratchy: three types of scalp ailments and what to do about them
Condition: Dry scalp
Symptoms: Itching, swelling, redness
Cause: Abrasive shampoo and other hair-care products; shampooing more than once a day.
Cure: Switch to a plant-based, pH-balanced product. In extreme cases, massaging a few drops of an essential oil, like jojoba, into your scalp once a week before shampooing will help.
Condition: Oily scalp
Symptom: Flaky dandruff
Cause: Heredity, mostly. Stress, as well as hot and humid weather, can activate an oily scalp.
Cure: Shampoos that contain jojoba help eliminate oily deposits, as do products that contain tea tree oil, an organic salve that can prevent the excessive shedding that usually accompanies an oily scalp.
Condition: Flaky scalp
Symptoms: Clumpy build-up on scalp; soreness
Cause: An overuse of styling products.
Cure: Topical oils or hair products containing eucalyptus and essential oil of sage will help heal a head that has been damaged by over-processing.
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