Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Dry, Itchy Scalp - 5 ways to sooth it.

Good hair days start with a healthy scalp. Its job, after all, is to grow strong shiny strands. But dry indoor air can zap moisture and dissolve protective oils from the skin on your head, leaving it itchy and flaky--and your mane dull and unmanageable. Help keep the skin you rarely think about (but should) in top condition with this advice from Valerie D. Callender, M.D., clinical assistant professor of dermatology at Howard University College of Medicine.

The basic facts

Like the skin on your body, the scalp renews itself every 28 days by shedding dead cells and allowing new, healthy ones to emerge. Cold temperatures and low humidity, a reaction to harsh chemicals (like those used in permanent hair color), or a buildup from styling products can interrupt this natural exfoliating process--causing cells to pile up and turn into fine flakes. This accumulation can clog hair follicles and block secretion of sebum, further exacerbating dryness.

What to look for

* An itchy, red scalp after coloring hair or using hot tools.

* Small powdery flakes These are telltale signs that your scalp is dry, as opposed to having dandruff, which is triggered by a fungus and results in white, oily clumps.

Simple solutions

These easy steps will help ease the itch, fast:

* Avoid scratching. It's irritating and can cause hair breakage.

* Use a moisturizing shampoo. Look for ingredients that help lock in moisture, such as sea-buckthorn oil, found in Aveda Scalp Benefits Balancing Shampoo ($12;

* Gently massage conditioner into your scalp after every shampoo to hydrate it and lift away some of the flakes.

* Lather up with clarifying shampoo weekly. These deep-cleaning formulas rid hair of product buildup and help loosen dead skin cells on the scalp.

* Turn down the heat. Hot water can zap natural oils from your scalp, making it ultra dry and sensitive; also choose the lowest heat setting on your blowdryer.

EXPERT STRATEGY If these tips don't alleviate the problem in four weeks, see a dermatologist. She'll check your scalp for a fungal infection, such as dandruff or ringworm (ringlike marks on your skin), and will most likely prescribe a topical steroid cream or shampoo, which will calm irritation and itch within a few days.

Courtesy - Mary Rose Almasi

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