AN itchy scalp can be irritating and while it’s usually down to a bit of dandruff or the shampoo you are using, your scalp health could also be a sign of underlying issues.
While most hair conditions aren’t serious, some do require attention and experts have revealed that your head could be the key to other issues such as hormonal changes and weight gain.
Most people were keen to get back to the hairdressers after they opened following the lifting of Covid restrictions, with many people complaining of scalp issues during the pandemic.
Many of these conditions were caused by stress, but it was also revealed that hair loss is a lesser known symptom of Covid-19. The condition, know as telogen effluvium (TE), is when a person temporarily experiences hair loss.
Doctors have said that this usually occurs if a patient has recently experienced a stressful situation. TE occurs when the number of the follicles in the scalp changes.
People who suffer from long Covid also suffer with this.But there are also health issues which can be detected from your scalp.
1. Vitamin deficiencies
Speaking The Sun, Stephanie Sey, expert trichologist for Nizoral said issues with your scalp could mean that you are lacking in certain vitamins.
She explained that while a well-balanced diet will usually mean you are getting the correct vitamins and minerals, people who eat certain diets might not be getting what they need.
“Supplements are only required when you do not get the necessary nutrients from your diet, or you have a specific deficiency such as an iron or vitamin D.
“It is important to have a healthy diet in order to support your skin and hair. However, a lack of B6 and B12 cause dry skin (flaky scalp) and B7 and B2 help with the maintenance of healthy skin.”
If you are suffering from thyroid issues then you might need to take a supplement – as this can also lead to hair loss and thinning.
Experts at WatermansHair said: “Hair loss can affect us all, but thyroid-related hair loss isn’t like other hair loss conditions (think alopecia areata or trichotillomania).
“This hair loss condition affects the whole scalp and can impede the production of healthy hair cells. Rather than patches of hair loss, you’ll likely notice a reduction in hair volume.
“Hair loss often occurs after treatment for the thyroid condition has already begun, making it seem like it’s triggered by the thyroid medication. In reality, it’s actually caused by the original thyroid condition.”
Thyroid-related hair loss is reversible and when treated with the right medication, the thyroid can start working properly again, hair loss can resolve itself, and the hair’s healthy growth cycles can resume.
If you’re suffering from an oily scalp or have dandruff then you actually have a type of fungus
Many people get dandruff and in most cases it can go away with a special shampoo.
One expert said dandruff is most commonly caused by a microorganism called Malassezia Furfur – a fungus which is always present on the scalp.
Sara Alkazraji, manager of Education at the Institute of Trichologists and owner of Ilkley Moor Trichology Clinic said changes on the scalp such as extra sebum production produces an optimum environment for fungal growth often resulting in irritation, itching and inflammation.
She told MailOnline that dandruff is not caused by a dry scalp and is usually accompanied by oil.
Eva Proudman, expert trichologist at Absolute Collagen who has over 18 years’ experience said the stress of the pandemic has caused many surprising side-effects to our bodies, including muscle aches, weight fluctuation and most recently, hair loss.
Hair shedding she said, is an easy way to tell if you’re experiencing too much stress.
She explained: “The average hair cycle lasts around 10 months, which is why stress related to the beginning of the pandemic is predominantly starting to affect people now, several months down the line.
“Hair shedding is one of the most common conditions which occurs after a prolonged period of stress, where people suffer from excessive hair fall and a loss in their hair density.
“This is because a trigger, such as significant emotional distress, causes a sudden abnormal shift of hairs into the ‘shredding phase’ of the hair growth cycle.”
Why scalp health is important
Dr Sara Kayat, Viviscal Medical Ambassador explains why having a healthy scalp is important and how to understand when there is a problem.
She said that a healthy scalp is so important as follicles that are affected by infection, dandruff, oil and debris may affect the growth of hair.
“Signs that your scalp may not be healthy include itchiness, flakiness or dandruff, redness, oiliness and spots or bumps.
“Often simple changes to your usual hair care regime can be enough to remedy this but, if not, you should be reviewed by a doctor”, she explained.
Dr Sara, who works with Viviscal said that there are some telltale signs when it comes to spotting hair loss.
“Often the signs appear gradually and may be difficult to pick up on, but women tend notice that their ponytail feels thinner, or their parting appears wider.
“One may also notice more hair being shed in the shower or when brushing. The thinning may be more noticeable at the crown, or it may manifest as a receding hairline.”
She said if you want to improve your scalp health you should:
- Avoid products that contain alcohol as they dry the scalp
- Was your hair regularly to avoid a build up of debris
- Treat your scalp if you have dandruff
4. Weight changes
If you’re suffering from a flaky or itchy scalp then it could be down to your diet.
Stephanie said: “If your scalp feels itchier or more sensitive than usual, you may have not made the connection, but diet can have an impact on your scalp condition.
“A balanced diet, comprising of carbohydrates, healthy fats, proteins, fibre, vitamins and minerals is the best thing for the hair. Eating a diet that is rich in fresh vegetables, meat, and fruit supports healthy growth for thick, full hair.
“Processed foods like fast food and ready meals are typically high in sugar, salt and unhealthy fats as well as chemical additives.
“These foods typically have very little in the way of the nutrients that our body needs to stay healthy, such as vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
“The hair is the very last system in your body to receive nutrients (as it is one of the least essential), so if your body is not receiving adequate nutrients, your hair will likely be affected.”
If you’re experiencing an itchy scalp then this could be down to hormonal changes.
Dr Johanna Ward, Founder of ZENii.co.uk said your scalp is an extension of your skin. We just don’t pay as much attention to it as we can’t see it. But it reacts in the same way to stress and illness.
She added: “Stress has a huge impact on our bodies through the actions of the body’s main stress hormones adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol.
“These hormones all have complex interaction with the millions of cells in our bodies and carry signals that fundamentally change the way our cells behave.
“If you are acutely unwell this will cause a short burst of stress hormone release that will send chemical signals to your skin, hair and scalp.”
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