This post is a collaboration in sponsorship with Head & Shoulders and SheKnows Media.
If you’ve ever vigorously patted your head with the palm of your hands—and it was practically an involuntary act done in a public space, this post’s for you. If you’ve ever worn a protective style and contemplated taking a random narrow object to “get at” your braids underneath, this post’s for you. If you’ve ever had dandruff, this—well, at this point I’m sure you get the point that this post is for you and your scalp’s overall healthiness. We all want beautiful, healthy hair no matter the texture or how we choose to style it, but we don’t often talk about how a healthy scalp is the alpha and omega of obtaining healthy hair. So I had a chat with Dr. Rolanda Wilkerson, a P&G Principal Scientist on Head & Shoulders, and asked her to break it all down for us.
Dr. Rolanda Wilkerson is a P&G Principal Scientist on Head & Shoulders. Over the last fourteen years, she’s worked on some of the world’s most popular and well-known skin and hair care brands. She has extensive experience in hair color, shampoos and scalp care, as well as a deep understanding of women’s hair and skin care concerns and needs.
What is dandruff?
(I know this is a pretty basic question but I think having the “real” definition helps dispel misconceptions)
50% of the population experiences dandruff and associated symptoms. Those symptoms could be itch, dryness, and also flaking. Only 10% suffer from just dry scalp, so in many cases if you say you have a dry scalp, you’re likely suffering from dandruff.
We’re all born with a fungus on our scalp called malassezia globosa. This fungus is prevalent on everyone’s scalp, but for those who are going to have an issue with it or respond to it, that starts to happen at or near puberty. When we begin to produce excess sebum, or oil, on our scalp.
Many times, for black women, because of habits and practices, they may experience scalp issues a little bit earlier and more frequently. That’s because of prolonged wash frequency and on top of that, many grew up going to hair salon to relax their hair. Relaxers are meant to go at the root of the hair, or scalp, and so relaxers can further dry out the scalp especially when your hair is over processed. This is actually separate from dandruff, but can manifest itself in the form of dryness. For someone who has dandruff, dryness is a factor that essentially exacerbates the scalp condition making it worse.
What do you think about oiling or greasing your scalp? Does it really condition/moisturize the scalp? Is there a better way?
Oils can help to mask the flakes for a little bit. Certain oils can make the condition worse. There are some oils that can provide moisturization similar to lotion on the skin and can address dry scalp, but that’s not getting to the source of the problem. The source of these issues is the fungus on the scalp and the skin reacting to it, so you need a product that addresses the source of the problem. You want a product with an ingredient like zinc prythione (ZPT), a scalp care active that is going to reduce the presence of the fungus, and ingredients that will also address moisturization.
Why does the scalp seem to itch more after you wash your hair?
The scalp might itch more after washing your hair because you’re not using a scalp care product to address symptoms like itch. As mentioned, you need a product with an ingredient like ZPT because it can reduce the presence of the fungus, which is causing your scalp issues.
The fungus, a source of the scalp issues, is still prevalent even after a wash and reoccurs unless a scalp product with the right active is used to address the fungus.
Why do protective styles make the scalp itch more? What happens to the scalp when you get a protective style?
Black women are starting to wear more unique styles, like braids or tight ponytails, which can impart traction on the hair follicle and impact the health of the hair or the scalp by causing irritation. Additionally, prolonged wash frequency and any other styling that may cause tension on the scalp can cause scalp issues, too.
Is it bad to pat your head to soothe the scalp? What’s the best way to relieve itch?
Patting your head to temporarily soothe the scalp is a better alternative than scratching. It is a compensating behavior. Some people with scalp concerns who scratch their scalp can cause damage to their scalp. The mechanical damage of scratching hair can actually remove the cuticle from the surface of the hair, which causes hair damage and ultimately hair breakage. That said, patting your head isn’t a long-term solution to soothe the scalp and relieve itchiness. Instead, try Head & Shoulders Clinical Solutions Leave-On Treatment to relief symptoms, especially in between wash days.
How do you know if you really have dandruff or if it’s product buildup?
When there is flaking on the scalp, itch, and dryness, it is most likely due to dandruff. Product build up will make the scalp condition worse. If your wash frequency is prolonged, there will be product build up on the scalp and hair so it’s important to wash with a product that will address the scalp needs and give you an effective cleansing.
Additionally, sebum, our natural oils produced on our scalp, can sit on the scalp and oxidize when there is prolonged wash frequency. This oxidation of the scalp oils causes damage to the scalp and the hair. Whether it is flaking or you believe it is product buildup, a scalp care product with ZPT can address the scalp needs.
How do you get your edges back? What makes them such a sensitive area?
The edges of our hair are the closest to our facial skin which can be sensitive for some. Additionally, the edges contain very fine, thin, short hairs that are susceptible to breakage and dryness. Adding to this a style that imparts tension and a reduced wash frequency, the hair can break and thin easily.
It is best to stop practices which cause tension and treat the scalp with a leave-on treatment that can help to moisturize the skin and the hair. The Clinical Solutions Leave-on Treatment contains Niacinamide which is known to restore the skin barrier function and moisturize, the humectant glycerin, which helps to lock in moisture, and caffeine, known to reduce inflammation.
Wasn’t that some amazing information? I certainly learned a few things I didn’t know before. Thank you so much to Dr. Wilkerson for taking the time out to address scalp health with us.
If you want to try or learn more about the products Dr. Wilkerson mentioned and more about maintaining a healthy scalp, make sure you check them out at headandshoulders.com