Guys, let’s get real: scalp issues are the worst. Whether the issue is dandruff, itching, or just catch-all “irritation,” it’s all annoying and embarrassing. It may be unjust, but the guy scratching at a head full of dandruff is never the hero in the action movie, and he definitely never gets the girl.
Thankfully, all is not lost: Take good care of your scalp, and it’ll pay you back by, well, leaving you alone.
Healthy Scalps and Hair Loss
First, something important to keep in mind: maintaining a healthy scalp probably won’t do much to prevent hair loss, which is typically caused by hereditary factors or medication, and sometimes exacerbated by stress. Vitamin deficiency—particularly zinc and iron—can also play a role, but many experts believe you have to be eating really, really, really badly for this to be an issue. Of course, I know some of us are getting by on Doritos and Diet Coke, so take note: Your diet could be doing a number on your hair.
“As men age, their rate of hair growth slows, while hair loss stays the same or increases,” says Lisa Brodar, co-founder of Portland General Store, which makes some of my favorite haircare products free of sulfates and parabens. The math, in other words, isn’t working in our favor (that said, if hair loss is an issue for you, there’s some—truly—exciting new research around it, and help is hopefully on the way).
So why bother with a healthy scalp if having one won’t keep you from going bald? So, so, so many reasons. “The most common problem guys face in terms of scalp health is influenced by poor diet, stress, or an underlining health problem,” says Penny James, a Manhattan trichologist and stylist. “This can lead to clogged pores, flaking, and redness on the scalp.” Who wants that? Not your wife or girlfriend brushing flakes of dandruff off your shoulder before putting her arms around you (just a guess).
So, think holistically—your scalp is. “Scalp health is the result of overall good health, which includes a healthy diet and exercise, and of course, choosing the right hair care products,” Brodar says.
Products to Try
Try both adding and subtracting products from your daily routine. James recommends “a light cream that contains tar and salicylic acid to control the scaling [dandruff buildup].” (SG suggests Tarsum.) James also advises clients to take a break from styling products to see if they’re irritating their scalp, and to use a zinc shampoo four times a week until any itchiness, redness, or flakiness dissipates. (SG recommends: John Masters Organics’ zinc and sage shampoo.)
Diet’s a Factor
A dry, itchy scalp might not be a sign of an incompatible shampoo—it could be a signal that your diet is missing something important, like Omega-3s, Vitamin A, the B vitamins, and zinc. “As men age, taking a good multi-vitamin and supplements or foods that are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, such as cod liver oil or seaweed, will improve hair and skin health overall,” says Brodar.
“Eat a whole foods diet and take a good multi-vitamin, including supplements or foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids,” she adds. Again—an itchy scalp might not be enough to motivate you to reboot with a clean diet, but you should definitely add it to the list.
Develop an exercise routine
I’m not sure that relieving scalp issues is going to be enough to get you to the gym if, you know, general cardiovascular fitness isn’t enough of a draw. But it can make a difference. “Exercise is important, as it helps keep one’s heart healthy, which improves blood circulation and benefits the scalp,” Brodar says. “Choose an aerobic exercise to do at least three times per week, or make lifestyle changes such as walking or biking to work,” Brodar says.
Good Grooming Products
One more thing: “Invest in a good brush and brush the hair daily to massage the scalp and further improve circulation,” Brodar says.
WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO KEEP YOUR SCALP HEALTHY?