Scalp Myths Busted: The Truth About Dryness and Oiliness
With so much conversation around scalp care it is important to get to the root of fact vs fiction. So we sat down with Trichologist, Curly haired educator and content creator, Marta Teixeira, to bust some of the common misconceptions when it comes to our scalps health and condition.
Myth 1: Dandruff = Dry scalp
Think a dry scalp is the most common cause of the scalp condition dandruff? Think again! A truly dry scalp is actually rare, your scalp's got more oil-producing glands than anywhere else on your skin and often when people think they have a dry scalp, it is not in fact the case… it is something else.
Dandruff can be caused by a variety of factors, therefore, it's important to address the specific cause of dandruff rather than assuming it's solely due to a dry scalp.
The scalp has a high density of sebaceous glands, which produce an oily substance called sebum. Sebum moisturises both the skin and hair, while also creating an acidic mantle that protects against bacteria and fungi. The excess oil and sebum can promote the growth of a yeast called Malassezia. This yeast feeds on sebum and releases oleic acid, which penetrates and irritates the top layer of the scalp. This causes faster turnover and shedding of skin cells, resulting in the characteristic flakes.
People often mistakenly think that flakes and itchiness associated with dandruff mean the scalp must be too dry. But research shows the opposite is true - dandruff suffers have more active sebaceous glands and higher sebum secretion compared to healthy controls (Ro & Dawson, 2005). This is supported by research that highlights the chronic scalp manifestations of dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis, which are attributed to increased sebaceous gland activity and disrupted epidermal barrier function (Wikramanayake et al., 2019).
In contrast, truly dry skin conditions like atopic dermatitis are unlikely to cause dandruff on their own. A dry scalp environment would not promote excess growth of Malassezia. However, any skin condition that causes scalp irritation can worsen flaking, though it is important to note that these would not be the root cause.
Scientific evidence refutes the myth that dandruff is solely caused by a dry scalp. Instead, dandruff is associated with various scalp conditions and is influenced by factors such as activity of Malassezia, sebum production and individual susceptibility. This highlights the multifactorial nature of dandruff and underscores the importance of considering diverse etiological factors when addressing this common scalp condition.
Regularly treating a scalp to Hydration Drops will help replenish and renew the scalp barrier to provide the optimum environment for hair growth, while soothing and providing relief to sensitive scalps.
Myth 2: Oily scalp is bad news
No - it is all about the delicate balance of your skin and levels of natural oils so it is crucial to dispel the myth that oily scalp is solely due to excessive sebum production. Research has shown that sensitive scalp conditions can often be associated with excessive sebum and imbalances in the microbiome, environmental elements and other scalp conditioners such as seborrheic dermatitis, indicating that the mechanisms behind a sensitive scalp are more complex than just excessive oil.
Some people may have naturally oilier scalps due to factors such as genetics, hormonal changes, or overactive sebaceous glands. This can lead to an overproduction of sebum, the skin's natural oil, resulting in an oily scalp. Environmental factors, certain hair care products, and over-washing can also lead to a dry scalp.
Exfoliating the scalp with a Scalp Scrub Exfoliating Anti-Dandruff Treatment is an important practice for maintaining scalp health. The benefits for both oily and dry scalps include the potential to enrich healthy scalp commensals, improve scalp conditions, and disrupt microbial growth associated with dandruff formation, thus contributing to overall scalp health.
We always would recommend consulting with a trichologist or dermatologist if you have any medical scalp concerns.
Marta is a Certified Trichologist (specialist in the diagnosis and treatment of hair and scalp conditions) and Dermatology Specialist Nurse in the NHS who is currently studying for an MSc in Clinical Dermatology.
Marta is a Certified Trichologist (specialist in the diagnosis and treatment of hair and scalp conditions) and Dermatology Specialist Nurse in the NHS who is currently studying for an MSc in Clinical Dermatology. She has successfully completed the Fundamentals of Hair Science and Hair Claims course by TRI Princeton, a leading global centre for hair and cosmetic science research, as well as the Independent Prescribing Postgraduate course, making her the first Nurse Prescribing Trichologist in the UK, enabling her to prescribe medication in her specialised field. Marta was appointed as a Hair Expert for the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfATE) for the Department for Education in London as a member of the Route Panel for Hair and Beauty, where she is responsible for providing expert recommendations on the technical and scientific content of hair education courses and standards. She has written clinical review articles on hair science, published in the Dermatology Nursing Journal, and is a member of different organisations such as the European Hair Research Society, British Association of Hair Restoration Surgery, British Dermatological Nursing Group and many others. Marta also serves as a medical reviewer, specialising in hair science and trichology-related dermatology articles. She also works as an online curly hair educator in Portugal, explaining hair science mainly via Instagram posts, with frequent one-to-one online hair consultations, haircare education courses, media quotes and public speaking. Marta provides Trichology Consultations for consultations for individuals dealing with hair loss at CliniHair in Hampshire.