How to Diagnose Different Scalp Imbalances

Building on the knowledge found in Understanding Hair and Scalp Types – part 1, this article explores common scalp imbalances in further detail and offers advice on how to correctly assess and identify them. After all, beautiful hair starts with a healthy scalp!

 

Before diagnosing any scalp condition, remember that evaluating your clients’ scalp condition is a crucial part of the consultation. Besides a verbal consultation, assess partings every 3cm to examine your clients’ scalp condition. Additionally, slightly rub the scalp with your fingers to identify sebum production. Also make sure to check for dandruff, redness, scaling and any other signs of scalp imbalances.

 

1. Oily Scalp

 

How to diagnose an oily scalp:

Due to excess sebum, the scalp can look oily while hair looks slick, heavy and stringy. Clients suffering from an oily scalp frequently report experiencing itchy scalps which is typically accompanied by visible dandruff.

 

Causes:

Greasy scalps and roots are caused by hypersecretion of the sebaceous glands – this overproduction of sebum is often restricted to the scalp area as there are more sebaceous glands found in this area of the body. The reason for excessive sebum production can be inherited and influenced by various factors such as stress, imbalanced nourishment, hormonal disorder, medication or other external influences like chemical treatments or environmental factors.

 

Expert Insights:

A gentle, but effective cleansing process is crucial to work against stringy hair. Also, avoid heavy caring products to allow for increased absorption of sebum in the hair. 

 

2. Dry and Sensitive Scalps

 

How to diagnose dry and sensitive scalps:

The scalp looks dry, is sensitive and prone to irritation – in general clients suffering from a dry scalp condition typically report having dry skin overall. A dry scalp can show small white dead skin cells and clients may complain about occasional itching, and redness, as well as a feeling of tension. 

 

Causes:

External influences and environmental factors such as pollution, air conditioning and heating can easily disturb the moisture balance found within the scalp. The scalp can also dry-out due to insufficient care after chemical treatments or insufficient protection from UV rays.

 

Expert Insights:

The hair and scalp should be treated with a mild shampoo – products with a high alcohol content should be avoided to prevent the scalp from drying out. Remember to protect the scalp from direct sunlight and high temperatures while blow-drying. 

 

3. Dandruff

 

How to diagnose dry and sensitive scalps:

This condition is harmless and can be easily diagnosed when white flakes of dead skin appear in the hair and scalp – dandruff can develop where there are dry or oily scalp imbalances. 

 

Causes:

Normally epidermal cells are completely renewed every 30 days. During this time, they undergo a migration process from the basal layer to stratum corneum – the most outer layer of skin – where they finally disintegrate and fall off. Imbalanced skin conditions cause this cell turnover to increase up to 10x which leads to defective cell-shedding – dandruff occurs due to an imbalanced keratinization process during this excessive cell migration. 

External environmental factors, mechanical damage or internal factors such as inherited characteristics, can weaken the hydrolipidic layer – a natural defence mechanism found in the scalp. Dandruff is often considered to be closely linked to state of health, nutritional and psychogenic factors.

 

Expert Insights:

Products with anti-microbial ingredients work effectively against the formation of dandruff.

 

4. Hair loss

 

How to diagnose dry and sensitive scalps:

The hair is thinning, lacks strengths and density. Clients note that their hair is becoming weaker and less dense over time, noticeable hair loss can occur.

 

Causes:

During the hair growth cycle a certain amount of hair loss is known as ‘natural hair exchange’, however 100 or more lost hair strands per day can be considered a disorder that results in thinning. There are different kinds of hair loss:

  • Androgenetic Alopezia (AA) – The density decreases over the entire scalp and can lead to obvious clearing of the amount of hair. People suffering from AA have a higher follicular sensitivity to hormones that finally lead to loss of hair. This increased sensitivity is thought to be caused by genetic disposition and typically affects men whereas women can also be affected after menopause. AA does not necessarily lead to complete baldness, but to a typical hair loss pattern which is classified according to the Hamilton Scale (men) or Ludwig Scale (female).
  • Irreversible hair loss – trauma, autoimmune diseases
  • Alopezia Areata (baldness in patches) – Autoimmune diseases not casually related or caused by use of cosmetic products

Expert Insights:

For optimum results, it is recommended to use anti-hair loss products regularly. Certain styling products can also help provide a fuller hair feeling and denser looking hair.