A heads up for sunny days

Remember, the skin on your scalp is different from the skin on the rest of your body, so, if you have these symptoms, you should seek treatment from a dermatologist.
Representational image
Representational image

Summer spells sweat, grime and dust, and of course, a hot, blazing sun over our heads. Overnight, we decide to start paying attention to skin care science, and dig out long-forgotten sunscreen tubes. It’s also the time of the year to scout for new accoutrements for the face.

But, in this rush to equip ourselves for the dog days, we often ignore the skin of the head - the scalp. We down buttermilk and juices, for the hotbed that our bodies become during these climes, but do we ensure our scalps (and those distressed tresses) receive some cooling-down and tending to, too?

When compared to the skin on the rest of the body, the skin on the head is more delicate, say hair care experts. Having a routine for scalp care goes right up there with our facial skincare regimen, notes Dr Sushindri Sridharan, director, S10 Safecare.

"The scalp possesses a higher number of sebaceous glands (they release oily secretions), more sweat glands, and hair follicles, in addition to having a weaker barrier function (when compared to facial skin, for instance), which makes it all-the-more vulnerable," she shares.

The scalp, which we now understand is quite sensitive, can become super dry with the heat that it is regularly exposed to, and let’s not forget all that sweating. This can suffocate the scalp, making it a haven for dust particles.

Explaining this, Dr Sushindri informs, "Humidity does not allow the sweat to evaporate effectively. Sweat traps bacteria, excess oil, and dirt. All of these can quickly accumulate on your scalp and impair the scalp barrier," she describes.

Dirty scalp brings with it a bundle of problems - fungal infections, inflammatory skin conditions like dermatitis, and, the most dreaded dandruff. And if you're fretting about the rising number of hair strands you keep finding on your brush, you don’t have to go too far to get to its root (pun intended). Scalp health determines the health of the hair, too.

Spotting symptoms of skin conditions

Dr Sushindri assures that alleviation and removal is possible even for those with chronic scalp conditions, "It feels impossible to focus on anything when you have an itchy scalp. Finding out why your scalp itches is the first and most important step in getting the condition treated."

Fungal or bacterial infections: If fungus or bacteria penetrate the scalp through the hair follicles or damaged skin on the head, the scalp can become infected. Some common illnesses, including folliculitis (white-headed pimple-like eruptions around the hair follicle), and impetigo (red sores that form around the nose and mouth, but can also appear on the scalp or hairline), are caused by bacteria. Ringworm, for instance, is a fungal infection.

Dandruff: You may have dandruff if your scalp feels dry and itchy, and if you spot flakes on your hair or clothing. Using anti-dandruff shampoo and scalp treatments can offer relief.

Atopic dermatitis (AD): It is a kind of eczema (group of conditions that inflame your skin) that, if it manifests on your scalp, may leave it red, itchy, and scaly. Some people complain of a burning sensation, too.

Symptoms vary depending on the type of scalp infection. The most common signs are: redness, itching, and pus secretion.

Treatment: Recognising the distinctions between common scalp conditions can assist a person in receiving the appropriate treatment. They can normally be treated with specific creams and ointments, or by using a medicated shampoo. Remember, the skin on your scalp is different from the skin on the rest of your body, so, if you have these symptoms, you should seek treatment from a dermatologist.

For a healthy scalp

  • Wash your hair more than once a week with a conditioning shampoo to avoid bacteria and dust that can cause conditions like folliculitis.  

  • Proper shampoo application and distribution on the scalp, in addition to using circular movements to cleanse the scalp is a golden rule. Ending the shampoo routine with a massage improves blood circulation.

  • When your hair feels dry, try using a conditioning hair serum instead of hair oil (hair oil may further clog scalp pores).

  • The scalp must be cleansed at least thrice a week and hydrated with a scalp-compatible moisturising mask.

  • Use oil removal shampoo after oiling the hair to reduce the amount of shampoo used.

  • Wear a scarf or a wide hat. If you’re someone who spends a lot of time outdoors, use a hair mist containing SPF for protection from harmful UV rays.

  • Avoid tight hairdos as it can cause breakage. A messy braid or hair that is held up with clips is ideal.

  • Avoid colouring, smoothening or keratin treatments during summer.

  • Use a curd mask on the hair every 15 days. You can use apple cider vinegar to rinse your hair - massage it into your scalp to maintain your scalp pH, but ensure you rinse it with plain water afterwards.

  • Parents of school students are advised to make sure they regularly trim their child’s hair to reduce scalp sweat and infections.

- As shared by Dr Sushindri, Dr Katheeja Nasika, dermatologist, Rela Hospital, Dr Katheeja.

Hair care at home

  • Soak a spoonful of fenugreek (methi) seeds in water overnight

  • Add 1 tbs of grated raw coconut

  • Grind to a mixture. Add 3 tbsp of water. Apply on wet hair all over the scalp

  • Leave on for ten minutes

  • Rinse off with water

  • This aids in cooling the scalp and in reducing dandruff formation

  • As the fragrance is mild, there is no risk of a cold developing

- Viji Chandran, Sanskrit lecturer

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