In the midst of a neverending quest for healthy hair, we tend to forget about the scalp.
How our hair grows, retains moisture and looks overall is contingent on the state of its roots, so now's the time to look beyond your strands. Regardless of where you're at in your personal journey, staying in the know about most common scalp conditions could save you from future bad days that may require professional help.
Keep reading for a quick refresher on five of them, with expert tips from Dermatologist Dr. Michelle Henry.
According to Dr. Henry, Seborrheic dermatitis is one of the most common causes of dandruff.
"It presents as thick greasy scale on the scalp," she adds. "It is caused by a yeast like fungus called Malassezia. This yeast causes scalp inflammation and scaling."
Although there is no cure for this condition, regular treatment will keep symptoms at bay. Henry recommends using the Dove DermaCare Scalp Dryness & Itch Relief Shampoo ($5, target.com) since it contains pyrithione zinc.
This ingredient specifically inhibits yeast growth, while soothing and protecting the scalp.
Although the cause of psoriasis isn't well known, it's believed to be an abnormality of the immune system.
"This overactive immune system causes the scaling characteristic of psoriasis," adds Dr. Henry. "Red plaques with silvery scales are often seen on the scalps of psoriasis patients."
Like dandruff, there is no clear-cut cure, but topical steroids or injectable immune modulating biologic medications from a dermatologist are the best forms of treatment.
For starters, scalp pain or itch should never be overlooked. A number of fungal or bacterial infections can make it sore to the touch, so make a proper diagnosis the priority.
Henry emphasizes making an appointment with the dermatologist if symptoms persist. Simple enough, right?
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Although this condition, caused by a fungus called Tinea, is seen more often in children and those with pets, you're still not immune from experiencing it.
If you're not sure what it looks like, keep an eye out for scaly, patchy hair loss.
Dr. Henry adds, "When left untreated, it can become tender. When it is widespread, the inflammation can be so great that some patients have inflamed lymph nodes on the head and neck."
Topical treatments such as Lamisil or grisiofulvin will eliminate the nasty symptoms.
The most common type of hair loss for Black women is traction alopecia, caused by poor styling practices, including tight hair styles.
"In the early stages it is completely reversible," says Henry. "However, with time, it becomes permanent and incurable (without hair transplantation)."
Another common cause of hair loss is the more permanent CCCA (central, centrifugal, cicatricial alopecia), which can also be halted when caught early.
Besides taking breaks from tension-filled styles (braids, cornrows, ponytails), be sure to incorporate scalp-specific products into your daily routine.