Historically, scalp health was all too often an afterthought compared to achieving radiant skin and healthy hair. Yet as of late, the importance of scalp health has come to light — and for a good reason. Improving an unhealthy scalp condition can help you grow luscious, shiny, longer locks with ease and without irritation. However, in order to improve scalp health, you must understand the root causes of an unhealthy scalp.
Ahead, you’ll discover the most common scalp problems people face, followed by the best nutrients, foods, and natural remedies that can help improve scalp health.
Address Common Scalp Problems
While your scalp is technically part of your skin, it differs from the skin on your face and the rest of your body in a few ways. For instance, it’s dense with hair follicles and typically has a higher rate of sebum production. This can make it more susceptible to specific imbalances, like:
Dandruff is a common scalp condition characterized by itching and flakes. While it’s not a serious medical condition, it can disrupt your confidence.
Several factors can cause dandruff, including:
- Oily skin
- Dry skin
- Irritated scalp skin
- Fungal growth (specifically of the Malassezia species)
- Contact dermatitis as a reaction to hair care products
- Chronic inflammatory skin conditions
- Scalp microbiome imbalance
Psoriasis is a dermatological condition that can affect anyone at any age. According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, 45 to 56 percent of people with this condition experience it on their scalp, hairline, forehead, back of the neck, and near the ears.
Scalp psoriasis is caused by a dysregulated immune system, in which skin cells grow too quickly without shedding them. This results in a buildup of dry patches, ultimately leading to redness and flaking. Stress can also exacerbate all types of psoriasis, including that on the scalp.
Dermatitis is an umbrella term used to classify different types of skin irritation. Both seborrheic and contact dermatitis can negatively affect your scalp health.
Seborrheic dermatitis is an ongoing inflammatory condition characterized by flaky, white-to-yellow scales. It proliferates in oily areas of the body, such as the scalp but also the face and ears. The National Library of Medicine notes that while the exact causes are unknown, it’s likely caused by a combination of several factors, such as:
- Irregular oil gland activity
- Malassezia growth
- Weakened skin barrier function
- Having oily and/or acne-prone skin
- Extreme weather and/or seasonal changes
- Excess alcohol intake
On the other hand, contact dermatitis is triggered by a foreign irritating substance, leaving a rash that may burn or be itchy. Contact dermatitis on the scalp is caused by active ingredients in hair care products — including shampoos, conditioners, and dyes — that instigate an allergic reaction or sensitivity. One 2017 study found that the most common allergens contributing to contact dermatitis on the scalp include:
- Balsam of Peru
- Carba mix
- Propylene glycol
Folliculitis is characterized by inflamed and/or damaged hair follicles. A damaged hair follicle resembles an acne-like breakout, typically with a red ring around it.
The American Academy of Dermatology notes that folliculitis can be caused by:
- Hair removal (including plucking, shaving, and waxing)
- Weight gain
- Sitting in an unsanitary hot tub
When your hair follicle is damaged, it’s more susceptible to pathogens (such as Staph aureus) to enter and lead to a bacterial or fungal infection.
Look to Vitamins and Nutrients for Scalp Health
Whether you experience scalp irritation or are simply looking to improve overall scalp health, natural remedies and herbs for hair growth can be a great place to start. One of the best among them is getting your fix of nutrients that are known to improve scalp health.
The human scalp contains approximately 100,000 hair follicles, of which 90 percent are in the anagen phase.
These follicles require proteins, vitamins, and trace minerals to support a healthier scalp and efficiently promote healthy hair growth.
Wondering how to keep your scalp healthy? Although it takes a group effort to support a healthy scalp and strands, these are some of the top vitamins and nutrients worth prioritizing — as well as examples of the best foods that contain them.
Your scalp requires Vitamin A to produce sebum at balanced levels, keep your hair moisturized, and maintain healthy hair and skin at large.
Vitamin A foods: spinach, kale, sweet potatoes, carrots, tomatoes
This powerhouse antioxidant boasts a world of benefits for your skin, hair, and body. It supports scalp health by fighting free radicals that can damage your hair. (It also helps to keep hair healthy by producing collagen proteins which, in part, comprise your strands.)
Vitamin C foods: oranges, bell peppers, strawberries
If you experience excess skin cell buildup leading to patches on your scalp, upping your intake of the sunshine vitamin may help. One 2018 observational study found that people with low Vitamin D levels were more likely to experience red and flaky patches.
Vitamin D foods: cod liver oil, salmon, fortified juices, and milks
Antioxidants are crucial to neutralize reactive oxygen species (ROS) and help prevent oxidative damage, which contributes to accelerated aging and a host of adverse health effects. Consuming a healthy balance of antioxidants — which include but aren’t limited to Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, selenium, zinc, and polyphenols — can simultaneously promote scalp health and help combat hair loss.
Antioxidant-rich foods: leafy greens, citrus fruits, berries, avocados, Brazil nuts, legumes
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Try Natural Remedies for Common Scalp Issues
To improve scalp health, you’ll definitely want to load up on the vitamins and foods shared above. However, note that these callouts only scratch the surface of natural remedies to promote a healthy scalp (and healthy hair, to boot).
Taking a healthy hair supplement
- A bioavailable multivitamin — with Vitamin A, five Vitamin B's, Vitamin C, Vitamin D3, Vitamin E, and Vitamin K2 — to address the nutritional deficiencies that inhibit the growth of healthy hair.*
- Organic Ashwagandha, which helps balance stress hormones that can contribute to hair loss.*
- Botanicals Saw Palmetto and Pumpkin Seed, which help inhibit the hair-destructive hormone, DHT, to support healthy hair follicles and promote thickness.* This is a great ingredient for those wondering how to fix thin hair.
- Micronutrients Horsetail, Biotin, and Kelp, which help promote hair strength and smooth texture.*
Choosing products that are gentle on your scalp
Of course, it can also help to rid your hair care arsenal of products that contain common scalp irritants. Opt for gentle, non-abrasive shampoos, conditioners, and treatments that abide by clean standards. Moreover, if dandruff is your primary scalp concern, certified trichologist Bridgette Hill recommends the following remedies:
- Shampooing more often than usual to keep flakes a bay
- Prioritizing hair care products with BHAs (i.e., Salicylic Acid), AHAs, Sulfur, and Zinc
- Using products with Selenium Sulfide, which she says can help mitigate dandruff and fungal infections on the scalp and the scalp skin, as well as reduce itchiness and redness
Last but not least, stress can be a major driver of scalp irritation. With that in mind, find ways to promote calm and relaxation and stick to them on a consistent basis. This may include:
- Self-care rituals like yoga, meditation, or neighborhood walks
- Limiting inflammatory foods and stimulants from your diet
- Taking adaptogenic supplements — including Ashwagandha in SuperHair® — plus additional nutrients to support your mind and mood.
Looking for more ways to support scalp health? Check out our healthy scalp tips!