How many times have you gone to a professional hairdresser and had them tell you your hair is WAY too clean?
I, for one, have run into so many issues of professionals telling me that my hair needed to have leftover product, extra oils and be super dirty so that I can get my best hair possible. Of course, I’ve been adhering to their advice and try not to wash my hair so often. But in the summer months, I can’t help but realize how sweat and oil mixed together makes my scalp really itch. Like, ~really~ itch, to the point where I feel having good hair isn’t worth the annoyance of having to scratch my head every two seconds.
Itching is really normal because there’s so much going on under your hair, says Dr. Terrence Keaney, a dermatologist and men’s skin expert with Dove Men+Care. “The scalp is a unique surface,” he tells Very Good Light. “It protects your head from UV rays and sun from your hair but also, because it has so much hair, it’s the oiliest part of your body.” It does so, he says, to keep it supple and hydrated. But unlike your face, where skin cells turn over quickly, the oil actually traps dead skin cells and worse, provides a food source for bacteria and yeast to grow.
If this sounds like a horror movie of some sludge-like creature taking over your body, it’s because it is. Not washing your hair often enough will allow “certain bacteria and yeast to overgrow,” Dr. Keaney repeats to me over the phone. That can lead to things like flakiness, which we know as dandruff.
Dandruff is the dry, white flakes of skin that come from your head. The common misconception is that we produce dandruff because or actual scalp is dry. This couldn’t be further from the truth. “The quite the opposite,” Dr. Keaney says. “It’s the least dry part of your body. That’s the yeast component I’m talking about.” Skin cells grow and die too quickly from an unhealthy head leads to dandruff, which is why Dr. Keaney says there needs to be more shampoo-ing during the week.
Over 51% of men have dandruff, Dr. Keaney says, and a big contributor is that guys just aren’t shampooing enough. I, for one, have been guilty of that. More than anything else, it’s more of a vanity-type thing for me. Shampooing, I feel, strips my head of its natural oils and overdries it, leaving me with hair that seems dead and difficult to style.
“The problem is your hair doesn’t feel great when it feels dry,” he agree with me (for once!). “That’s what people complain about. We’re talking scalp health and hydration. You’re right when you say your scalp can get super dry with cleansing. But that’s when you learn what works for you, whether it’s cleansing daily or a few times a week.”
I suppose the doctor has a point. Just as we’d wash our faces twice a day, it does make sense that we’d also cleanse our faces. After all, scalp skin and face skin are right next to each other.
“It’s funny you want to talk face and body washes for cleansing but you don’t talk about the oiliest part, where you should clean it more than any other skin surface,” he tells me. “Thing get built up in the scalp.” Especially because hormonally, testosterone accelerates sebum and oil especially in men. Other than yeast eating your head, under-cleansing can lead to scalp acne, aka acne keloidalis nuchae. Fortunately, for most guys, your hair hides the scalp blemishes. Simply cleansing your hair more often can cure this, he says.
For those of you who are into the no ‘pooing, or for those who don’t wash your hair altogether, the news above may be difficult to swallow. Same for those who shampoo every day, leaving your scalp super dry. But scalp health is just as important as your face or any other part of your body, so we should definitely be treating it with as much love. From what Dr. Keaney says, I’ve deduced that you simply have to do what’s best for you. If your scalp has a lot of buildup from your products or natural oils, try shampooing it and scrubbing your scalp. If it’s too dry because of over-washing, give it a rest. Ultimately, it’s all about balance. That’s something that I’m definitely going to keep in mind for the fall seasons ahead.