Could stress be affecting your scalp?

We’re talking stressed tresses, skin conditions & more

Scalp feeling a bit meh? We hear you. Whilst there could be some medical reasons as to why your scalp could be flaky, dry or inflamed, stress may also be influencing a change to your tresses. Confused? Don’t be! We're here to clear up some of the scalp conditions you may experience along with the what, whys and how you can manage them.


Dandruff

Its tell-tale flaky sign is hard to miss, but dandruff is completely harmless and can be treated easily – panic over! So, what causes it?

Malassezia globosa (the fancy name for a microbe living on the scalp) is believed to cause dandruff. As it breaks down the sebum on your scalp (oils that keep hair moisturised) it produces a type of acid that can irritate certain people’s scalps because they are more sensitive to it than others. As a result, the skin cells on your head shed quicker causing those pesky white flakes we know as dandruff to appear.

Although not directly caused by it, stress can make the matter of dandruff worse. Hormones control sebum production, so as stress causes changes to your hormonal balance, it may have knock-on effects elsewhere – like your scalp. Your scalp could produce more sebum, giving the Malassezia globosa more oil to break down.

Phew, now the scientific bit is out of the way, let’s talk staying flake-free. Using an anti-dandruff shampoo regularly is a great place to start managing your dandruff, as it contains ingredients to keep a build-up of Malassezia globosa at bay – fab.


Greasy hair

Ah, the daily hair wash. For those of you with greasy hair, you’ll know the struggle all too well. Although some greasy hairstyles have made it onto the catwalk, if you’re not comfortable strutting your stuff with greasy hair, we may be able to help you out.

We know that our scalps always produce sebum and some people naturally produce more than others. But things like using too many hair products can cause greasy strands. You can easily keep greasy hair at bay by speed dating with your scalp and getting to know what it likes and dislikes, and by washing it often with shampoo.


Folliculitis

No, it’s not the name of a Greek god, it’s a common skin condition that can affect your hair follicles – the openings in your skin where the roots of your hair live. Because we humans have hair follicles all over our bodies, folliculitis can affect anywhere from your feet to your fingers.

Folliculitis of the scalp is caused by damage to your hair follicles on your head which leaves them open to infection. Things like wearing tight hairstyles, shaving your head, scratching that itchy spot or using lots of hair products can contribute to the tell-tale signs of folliculitis – small, red bumps on your scalp. These can become itchy and inflamed and can also spread all over your scalp, even though they often start at your hairline.

Good news is you can usually take care of it at home. First things first, stop doing whatever it is that could be the root cause of your problem (see what we did there?). If you’ve been shaving your head, take a break. If you’ve been braiding your hair too tight, try a looser style for a while. Washing your hair with lukewarm water or using an anti-dandruff shampoo can also help fight folliculitis. If you feel that it’s not budging and you’d like some more advice, chat to your pharmacist or GP.


Scalp psoriasis

Psoriasis is a common condition that can affect the skin all over your body, including the scalp – hence the name. Causing flaking and scaling on your scalp, scalp psoriasis is different from dandruff because the skin shed is much thicker and has a glossy, scaly look to it. Although scientists aren’t too sure what causes psoriasis or scalp psoriasis, it’s thought to be influenced by people’s immune system growing new skin at a faster than normal rate.

Scalp psoriasis can be down to genetics, and those of us who are prone to psoriasis can experience flare-ups because of things like stress, and lifestyle factors like smoking and drinking alcohol. Although visiting your GP is the first step to help treat scalp psoriasis, there are things you can do at home. Making changes to your hair care routine, like using medicated shampoos from your pharmacy, using kinder-to-skin products and taking care whilst brushing long hair can all help manage the condition.


Seborrheic dermatitis

Another common scalp condition to add to our collection, seborrheic dermatitis can cause scaly patches of red skin and stubborn dandruff on your scalp. It isn't contagious and it often comes and goes with triggers such as stress and seasonal changes — it's worse in winter and early spring when the weather is dry and cold.

The cause of it is difficult to pin down, but it’s thought that a yeast (fungus) called Malassezia, found in the oil production on the skin is the most likely culprit.

It’s not all bad news! The condition may go away on its own without any treatment, and there are things you can do at home to help it on its way out – like using a gentle shampoo that’s formulated to help reduce oil and dead skin build-up. However, if the problem carries on and you feel the home remedies aren’t quite working, talk to your GP – they’ll be able to help you out.

And now you know what could be causing a change on your scalp.