Your scalp's hygiene and health affect your hair's health and appearance. The scalp is prone to a variety of problems, including dry skin, fungal infections, skin cancer and chronic skin conditions, such as psoriasis and eczema. An unhealthy scalp can lead to thin and broken hair, dandruff or oily hair. Clean your scalp properly to reduce itching and flaking and improve the appearance of your hair.
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Shampoo your scalp regularly to loosen dead skin cells and to remove oil and dirt. Avoid using harsh soaps and look for products with minimal chemical ingredients. Shampoos with a pH of 4.5 to 5.5 are best suited for the natural pH of your scalp, which generally falls between 4.0 and 5.5. You can determine the pH of your current shampoo by using the nitrazine paper test strips available at most pharmacies.
Test for sensitivities and allergies before using any new shampoo or soap on your scalp. This is especially important with products that contain acid, coal tar or lye, or when using medicated shampoos. Sensitivities to these products can cause burning, itching, stinging, blistering, hair loss or other problems.
Use your fingertips to massage your scalp while showering. Move your fingers in a circular motion for at least five minutes, and rinse well with cool water. This helps improve circulation to your scalp while loosening flakes and dead skin cells.
Treat scalp conditions, such as psoriasis, per your doctor's instructions. Psoriasis causes inflammation and the formation of thick scales on the scalp. These thick scales may prevent shampoo from reaching the scalp, but using a product designed to loosen the scales before showering can help. Over-the-counter rinses are available for application before shampoo. Use a saline solution on your scalp about 15 minutes before shampooing to loosen scales.
Feel for bumps, lumps and other abnormalities. The scalp is exposed to the sun any time you are outdoors and not wearing a hat or other protection. This makes the scalp especially prone to skin cancer, including melanoma. Report any suspicious bumps or wounds to your doctor.
Try using baking soda instead of shampoo if your scalp is sensitive to shampoos or tends to be itchy and dry. You can make a baking soda hair wash by mixing about 1 tbsp. baking soda with 1 cup warm water. Rinse with diluted apple cider vinegar to remove buildup caused by shampoo, conditioners and styling products.