Scalp build-up: Causes and ways to deal with sebum

We often focus on our hair strands when we think of hair health. If the hair feels too dry or dull, we look for products to bring back life in it. Some even make the mistake of applying oils and other hair care products just on the strands. But if you want voluminous and healthy hair, you need to pay attention to your scalp too. Scalp build-up or sebum build-up on the scalp is one of the signs that your dandruff problem can get worse. Make sure to avoid scalp build-up on scalp.

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

Sebum build-up 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 physician, specialising in hair restoration and non-surgical treatments. It is an oily substance that helps to lubricate and protect your hair and scalp. When too much sebum is produced, it can build up on the scalp and clog the pores.

Woman's scalp
Avoid sebum build-up on 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 are:

1. Hormonal changes

We experience hormonal fluctuations during puberty or different stages of life. These changes or hormonal disorders 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.

Irrespective of the cause, sebum build-up on the scalp needs to be stopped. If you don’t control it, it can lead to a variety of issues.

• The excess sebum can clog the hair follicles, leading to the development of scalp acne, dandruff and itchiness.
• It can also create an environment suitable for the overgrowth of yeast, resulting in conditions like seborrheic dermatitis or fungal infections.
• The build-up of sebum can cause the hair to appear dull and flat.

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How to get rid of scalp build-up?

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

1. Wash your hair regularly

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

2. Use a clarifying shampoo

A clarifying shampoo can help to remove stubborn sebum build-up from the scalp. It’s important to use a clarifying shampoo sparingly as it can cause your hair to feel more dry than usual.

Woman's scalp
Use a clarifying shampoo to get rid of excess sebum. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

3. Exfoliate your scalp

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

4. Use a light conditioner

Avoid using heavy conditioners, as these can clog the pores and contribute to sebum buildup. Instead, use a light conditioner that is specifically designed for oily hair, suggests Dr Rehman.

5. Avoid heat styling

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

6. Have a healthy diet

A healthy diet can help to 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 may lead to sebum production. Find healthy ways to manage stress, so you can do exercise, yoga or meditation.

If you have severe sebum build-up or if you are experiencing hair loss, check with a hair specialist.

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