Winter Scalp Care

Have you ever experienced itchiness, flaking during winter time?

The answer is probably yes, at least for me it is specially now that I wear my hair naturally curly and pay attention to it!

The reason why this happens is a generally a dry scalp, it could also be due to dandruff but then it would not be a seasonal thing…but we will get to that later.

The scalp is part of our skin complex so the same way the rest of our body is exposed to lower external temperatures, dry heating indoors and overall winter abuse (so much drama XD) our scalp also suffers, but there is hope. I will share with you a few tips that help me keep my scalp happy, my hair growing and my winters carefree.

  1. Keep your scalp clean: It is true that shampoo has a drying effect in our scalp but don’t rule it out completely in this season because we don’t want to end up in a situation where we create so much build up that end up getting dandruff making matters worse.
  • 2. Cleanse your scalp correctly: This point varies from person to person but a few general guidelines can be followed:

    Avoid harsh shampoos for example 2-1 shampoos tend to contain more than one deep cleanser, the same is true for shampoos for oily hair.

      Do not let go too long in between (shampoo) washes, this is the season to cowash midweek or once a week depending on your previous schedule to replenish moisture and remove debris from your scalp at the same time.

        Use warm water to cleanse, avoid hot water as it will only help dry out the scalp even more.

        • 3. Scalp Massages: Consider including oils in your routine even if you normally avoid them, nightly oil scalp massages can go a long way in keeping your scalp healthy and itch free during winter. A few good options are castor oil, black castor oil and jojoba oil.
        • 4. Use scarfs and hats to protect not only your scalp but your hair from the harsh weather.
        • 5. Exfoliate your scalp: You can make a basic sugar scrub with olive oil, jojoba oil, or coconut oil or get commercial scrubs as well.
        • 6. Stay hydrated: Even if we don’t sweat as much in winter as we do in summer the insensible losses from our skin, breathing, etc. puts us at risk of being dehydrated; so make sure to drink plenty of fluids!
        • In case of dandruff all of the above also applies, but make sure to not skip on your regular antidandruff shampoo and if the dandruff worsens or scabs and skin lesions appear on your scalp make sure to visit your physician to figure out the issue.
        • Cheers and Happy Holiday Season
        • Dr. L.

        Should I fear Parabens?

        The quick answer: no

        For the long answer: I quote the American Cancer Society and the summary is no too.

        “Parabens are chemicals used as preservatives and as food additives. They can be found in many types of make-up (like lipstick, mascara, concealer, and foundation) and skin care products (like lotion, shaving products, and sunscreen). Parabens can be absorbed through the skin.

        Intake of parabens is a possible concern because studies have shown that parabens have weak estrogen-like properties. Estrogen is a female hormone known to cause breast cells (both normal and cancerous) to grow and divide…

        In 2004, a small study found traces of parabens in some samples of breast cancer tumors…there are some points about the study findings:

        They looked only for the presence of parabens in breast cancer samples, it did not show that parabens caused or contributed to breast cancer development in these cases – it only showed that they were there. What this meant is not yet clear.

        …parabens have weak estrogen-like properties, the estrogens that are made in the body are many times stronger…natural estrogens (or hormone replacement) are much more likely to play a role in breast cancer development.

        This study did not contain any information to help find the source of the parabens found in the breast tissue – it’s not clear if they might have come from antiperspirants or from some other source.

        Most people are exposed to parabens…studies have found some form of parabens in the urine in up to 99% of people in the US…so far, studies have not shown any direct link between parabens and any health problems, including breast cancer…many other compounds in the environment that mimic naturally produced estrogen”

        A few Myths & Facts about Parabens

        Myth: Parabens cause cancer.

        Fact: Parabens have been extensively studied to address this claim and have been deemed safe.

        Myth: Parabens are harmful to skin & hair.

        Fact: Some people are allergic to parabens & fragances in cosmetics therefore those who are sensitive will have a negative reaction and should avoid them. It is important to visit your doctor if you have any skin concerns, a physician is the most qualified person to help you with your skin concerns.

        Myth: Parabens are bad for the environment or “nasty” beauty.

        Fact: In a study published in 2015 parabens were found in Marine life, but there seemed to be no negative effects on the study subjects. The significance of this finding is yet to be determined, and probably more studies will be conducted in the future. As of today no environmental damage can be attributed to parabens, partly because what is known about this compound is that it degrades quite fast so it does not seem to accumulate.

        What is the use of parabens, anyways?

        Parabens are preservatives and preservatives are important to keep our personal care products free of contamination by bacterias or other harmful agents and extend their shelf life, they are not active ingredients but more of an agent necessary to maintain the integrity of a product from it’s manufacturing process until the moment it reaches the consumer and while it is being used by said consumer, basically all of us.

        Preservatives are not a bad thing, fear mongering is.

        Let me know if you have any questions and if you would like to see more posts like this one in the comments section or find me on IG: The Hair Lab

        Is “No Poo” healthy? A medical opinion

        One thing that is extremely popular on the internet are mentions to the “No poo”method and products.

        The methods:

        1. Only water cleansing: Only water

        The purest variant is to wet your hair with spring water. Advocates say that, although your hair gets greasy in the first few weeks, its appearance subsequently improves greatly because sebum production eventually regulates itself.

        I have nothing to say about this except that water is not a cleansing agent and even if you never use hair products, you are exposed to pollutants, your natural oils or sebum and sweat which water does not have the ability  to cleanse.

        2. Baking soda/ apple cider vinegar (ACV)

        Natural is not always better. Just because it is in your pantry it does not mean it should go on your hair and skin.

        Baking soda has a pH=8, ACV has a pH=2-3 one is too alcaline and the other one too acid.

        The alkaline pH causes hair shaft swelling. This swelling loosens the protective cuticle predisposing the hair shaft to damage. It can also cause irritation of the scalp, hair loss and bleaching.

        Don’t do it.

        Even if it “looks good” a few times, it will eventually have a rebound effect and even increase the production of sebum, defeating the purpose of being a cleasing agent.

        ACV is not as harmful as baking soda but still is not a good idea if you want tight curls.

        3. Cleansing conditioners or cowash products and regular conditioners:

        They contain cationic (positively charged) surfactants such as stearalkonium, cetrimonium, behentimonium chloride, behentrimonium methosulfate, and stearamidopropyl dimethylamine which soften the hair and stick to it (because hair has a slight negative charge), which in theory could lead to more buildup. But at the same time, they do possess some capacity to gently lift dirt and oil.

        *Also another worthy molecule included in cowashes is cocamidopropyl betaine (amphoteric), but this one deserves it’s blog post.

        My opinion as a medical doctor:

        The no poo trend is probably not what it is hyped out to be and can be harmful, but using conditioner or cowash products to cleanse the scalp can be an aid to refresh hair in between shampoos, that can be as separated as 4 weeks depending on lifestyle and baseline dryness of hair.

        In fact there is an old “guideline” from the american asociation of dermatology for afro hair care recommends washing it every 1-2 weeks, with the option to cowash you can still enjoy the benefits of cleansing your scalp and hair without drying it out more.

        Natural is NOT always better.

        Please don’t put baking soda and apple cider vinegar (undiluted) on your scalp and hair, it may look good at first but you will in general have problems down the road and it will take a while to solve it.

        They may be in the pantry but they are not good for the hair or scalp.

        Water never hurt anyone but all it can do is hydrate, it really does not clean properly.

        In principle it is not harmful to only use conditioner (regular or the more expensive cowash products) and they can mildly cleanse the scalp and hair if left on and massaged in the scalp and then rinsed out as any other shampoo would be, yet eventually you should shampoo (succinates are a great alternative to sulfates, if you dont like sulfates look for this) for clarifying.

        If you want to “no poo” prefer cowashing with products (I cowash sometimes because I work out regularly), either with high end cowash products, if you have big pockets or an ecofriendly condish (like the one From bodyshop) or a good ole cheap condish like Aussie and shampoo at some point.

        A mix of dedicated cowash & conditioners

        Is it necessary to buy a special cowash product?

        Probably not, I compared a few cowash ingredients on various products and the cleansing agents are the same the difference are the specialty ingredients and the formulation (cream, foam etc) same as in any cosmetic product a part of the effective marketing, and better performance.

        You dont need to buy a conditioning cleanser, but if you can afford it and want to do so you totally can.

        Conditioners that work well as cowashes ingredient wise and that I have tried:

        Aussie Moist, Tresseme Naturals, rainforest coconut oil by the bodyshop. The absolute on a budget condish with great smell the white rain Coconut or even better the lavender one, I cant get it in Germany but its so good.

        Cleansing conditioners I have tried:

        Macadamia cleansing cream.  I liked the fact that it is a foam and smells so fresh but the price of about 20 euro for a 100ml flask it’s not worth it in comparison to less than 10 euro for 400ml of aussie or 200ml of coconut rainforest for the same results.

        Trying this product will be my guilty pleasure

        What do the experts say about shampoo?

        The Spanish Academy of Dermatology and Venereology (AEDV)

        “… shampoo removes the oil produced by the sebaceous glands that traps dead scalp cells, dirt and other substances we apply, such as sprays, gels, etc. This oil or sebum must be removed periodically for reasons other than the merely aesthetic, as it is an important source of microorganisms that could induce infections.”
        The Dermatolology times Dr. Zoe Diana Draelos (she has written really good scientific review papers about hair care products)

        “The frequency of hair washing depends on the sebum and sweat production of the individual and the geometry of the hair. Hair that is straight will rapidly wick the sebum and sweat from the scalp while tightly kinked hair wicks very poorly. For this reason, individuals with very straight hair usually prefer to shampoo daily while individuals with kinky hair shampoo once every one to two weeks. It is likely that most Americans shampoo their hair too much, accounting for the huge sale of hair conditioners designed to replace sebum with a more cosmetically acceptable synthetic ingredient.”

        Dr. Robert Dorin, a board-certified hair transplantation surgeon in New York City.

        “the scalp beneath the hair needs to be regularly cleaned of oil, dried sweat, dirt and dead skin cells, Those using “no-poo” products “aren’t really cleaning their scalp,”.  “They’re not taking off the environmental impurities.”People who don’t use detergent shampoo to clean the scalp run the risk of developing fungal and bacterial infections”

        Stop using too much shampoo😂😂😂

        The bottomline:

        Eliminating shampoo from the hair care routine is probably a bad idea, but reducing its frequency of usage (instead of eliminating it) might be beneficial and all you need to do.

        Choose the right shampoo for you (even if it has sulfates a pH balanced for dry hair shampoo can be good, the mix of ingredients is more important, don’t like sulfates then use a different surfactant)

        Shampoo correctly with small amonts of product also, only your scalp needs a cleansing massage, the hair just gets cleansed with the foam.

        No poo in its purest form( all natural no product)is unhealthy, since it can lead to sebum, dirt, oil and environmental pollutants build up which then can lead to scalp diseases such as fungal and bacterial infections or can cause damage to the hair shaft by exposure to caustic agents such as baking soda ultimately causing breakage.