Scalp buildup: causes and ways to deal with sebum

We often focus on our hair strands when we think about hair health. When hair feels too dry or dull, we look for products to bring life back to it. Some even make the mistake of applying oils and other hair care products only to the strands. But if you want voluminous and healthy hair, you should also pay attention to your scalp. Scalp buildup or sebum buildup on the scalp is one of the signs that your dandruff problem may be getting worse. Make sure there is no build up on the scalp.

What is scalp build-up or sebum build-up?

Sebum buildup on the scalp is a condition in which the sebaceous glands in the scalp produce too much sebum, explains Dr. Aleena Rehman, a surgeon and aesthetic doctor who specializes in hair restoration and non-surgical treatments. It is an oily substance that helps lubricate and protect your hair and scalp. When too much sebum is produced, it can build up on the scalp and clog the pores.

Avoid sebum accumulation on the scalp. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

What are the causes of scalp build-up?

Sometimes genetic factors can contribute to the body’s tendency to produce more sebum. Other causes of sebum build-up include:

1. Hormonal changes

We experience hormonal fluctuations during puberty or different stages of life. These changes or hormonal disturbances can increase sebum production.

2. Improper skin care routine

Using harsh or drying skin care products can strip the skin of its natural oils, leading to an overproduction of sebum as a protective mechanism.

Regardless of the cause, sebum buildup on the scalp needs to be stopped. If you don’t have control over it, it can lead to several problems.

• The excess sebum can clog the hair follicles, leading to the development of scalp acne, dandruff and itching.
• It can also create an environment conducive to yeast overgrowth, which can lead to conditions such as seborrheic dermatitis or fungal infections.
• The build-up of sebum can make the hair look dull and flat.

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How do you get rid of scalp build-up?

If you don’t want to have hair problems, do the following:

1. Wash your hair regularly

Washing your hair regularly helps remove excess sebum and other dirt from the scalp. However, it’s important to avoid washing your hair too often as this can dry out your scalp and stimulate sebum production.

2. Use a clarifying shampoo

A clarifying shampoo can help remove stubborn sebum build-up from the scalp. It’s important to use a clarifying shampoo sparingly, as it can leave your hair feeling drier than normal.

A woman's scalp
Use a clarifying shampoo to remove excess sebum. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

3. Exfoliate your scalp

When you exfoliate your scalp with a scalp brush or gentle scrub, it helps remove dead skin cells, says Dr. Rehman.

4. Use a light conditioner

Avoid using heavy conditioners as they can clog pores and contribute to sebum build-up. Instead, use a light conditioner designed specifically for oily hair, suggests Dr. Rehman.

5. Avoid heat styling

Heat styling can damage the hair and scalp and can also stimulate sebum production. There are times when you feel the need to heat style your hair, but make sure you use a heat protectant spray first.

6. Maintain a healthy diet

A healthy diet can help regulate hormone levels and reduce sebum production. Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and limit processed foods, sugar and unhealthy fats.

7. Manage stress

Stress is something that can trigger the release of hormones that can lead to sebum production. Find healthy ways to manage stress so you can exercise, yoga, or meditate.

If you suffer from severe sebum accumulation or if you suffer from hair loss, contact a hair specialist.

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