Monday, March 17, 2014

Scalp Issues

Scalp issues like skin issues are far more than skin deep.

I started out my professional life as a hair stylist, and I worked in the cosmetic industry for over fourteen years. Clients would often ask me for my personal recommendations for products to use to treat extreme scalp and skin issues.

I found myself looking at my clients skin, scalp and hair, thinking to myself that the issues were deeper than what could be cured by a bottle of stuff.

In almost all cases, what I was seeing was some sort of imbalance from deeper in the body.  This could be signs of irritation from the products there were using, but for the most part, what I was seeing was signs of allergies, nutritional starvation or signs of systemic (whole blood/body) infections that were building high levels toxin in the blood and the toxins were in turn draining out through the skin.

More than just skin deep
The most common infections are bacteria, yeast/fungus, viral and parasitical.  Micro-organisms don't play nice.  Mixed infections 'dysbiosis' are a mixed bag of infection acting together like a street gang (dysbiosis is like symbiosis but with a bad attitude). Bacteria can either show as large yellow oily flakes, often with an inflamed looking scalp with sores underneath.  Another type of disturbance is small white dry flakes with an overall red irritated scalp underneath, sometimes in localized patchy raised red areas. The dry version is often accompanied by an intense itch.

Psoriasis is a blood toxin issue that has an infection (usually a combination bacterial/fungal) root.  This condition really amps up when there is more personal, dietary or life stress.  Psoriasis will also get worse in the presence of sugar, simple carbohydrates, beer, yeast, wine, mushrooms and junk food.  Antibiotics or hormone imbalances can make it worse to the point where the skin cracks and 'weeps'.  Eczema looks similar, and can worsen with outside factors, but has more of a deeper genetic or inherited root than other skin conditions.  Cradle cap (it doesn't just affect babies) is a sign of a systemic yeast overgrowth.

Cleaning up the diet can really help.  Drinking warm water and lemon first thing in the morning can be a good habit to cultivate.  Cleansing herbs, cleansing teas and green foods can really help to clean up the blood. Just be aware that chronic digestive issues may also be showing all sorts of symptoms and issues, including skin irritation. This may require a deeper and longer look to focus on restoring the health of this primary system.

Single homeopathic remedies may also really help the body to overcome the problem.  Also recognizing that when overgrowths are the root of the problem, a protocol for clearing the infection may be the most sensible first step for lasting change.  Remember that what you see on the skin is the symptom not the cause.

All that being said, I have some advice concerning treatment and balancing of the scalp.  I love LUSH products which are handmade small batches of body care products using only natural ingredients.  I like owner Mark Constantine's philosophy.   His advice is to treat the scalp and hair separately.

Be careful with styling products and conditioners on the scalp
A while back I got into trouble by using a styling product directly onto my scalp.  I was trying to amp up the curl by getting a lot of product at the base of the hair.  Wrong!  It irritated my scalp to the point where I was crazy with the itch.  It took months to get the balance back.  Now prevention is the key so I still follow the system I outline below at least twice a month.

Healing and preventative program
Here are some ideas for a scalp and hair healing program.  Superbalm is a treatment for the scalp.  I use the flat surface of a toothpick to scrape up a little of the product and then warm it between my fingers.  Then I massage it into my scalp being careful to avoid getting it in my hair.  This is a exercise in patience.  If you do this at bedtime, cover your pillow case to protect it and leave the treatment in overnight.  Shampoo it out in the morning as usual.

Exfoliate your scalp
Roots is another great healing product for the scalp, especially if the scalp is dry and itchy. It is minty and soothing. To exfoliate the scalp, you can add sea salt to the Roots product to create a salt scrub to clear away some of the dry skin on your scalp, or use Ocean Salt  as your creamy scalp exfoliant.  If you have open skin, it is going to sting so be wise here.

Using a gentle touch is key.  Going tooth and nail is just going to make things worse. Gently massage for a bit; rinse out and then shampoo as usual. The salt treatment will also make your hair extra shiny.  Ocean Salt scrub gets full bonus points with me.

If you have the oily large flake variety of dandruff, you may need to soften the scales off with oil first (castor oil, or olive oil is good, but if you go slap happy here, you are doing to have a bugger of a time getting all the oil out of your hair after).  You can add antiseptic essential oils to the carrier oil. Lavender, rosemary, oregano are great choices.  Again, you can leave this on overnight and shampoo out the treatment in the morning.  Don't be a 'flash in the pan'.  You will have to keep up using the treatments until the scalp is 'fixed'.

Treat the scalp and hair differently
I have long curly hair that tends to be scary big hair unless I take serious measures. If you have short hair that doesn't need conditioning, ignore this.  For a full treatment I would use the Superbalm on the scalp first and then put a moisturizing conditioning treatment on the hair.  Either leave on for twenty minutes or overnight before shampooing off. After shampooing I use a leave-in anti frizz boost of moisture, called R & B.  If I do all this, I don't need a styling product, or at least very little of it.

I want to point out here that I am not affiliated with, or paid to endorse Lush products.  Lush hair products just happen to have worked better than anything else I have tried so far.  I personally will not use chemical laden treatments.  The Lush product line is also affordable.  You can order on line or visit store locations. The staff are really helpful and they are very generous with giving out samples to try.

Home made 'Snake Oil'
Lush produced a bar scalp treatment that I liked called 'Snake Oil' that is now discontinued.  I now make my own version of it. I start with a jar of cocoa butter (with 5% jojoba oil) by a company called 'Now'.  I melt it using a bain marie method.  When it is evenly melted I add about 20 drops each of essential oils of: lavender, rosemary, cade (juniper), tea tree and balsam of peru.  Pour the mixture into molds (nothing fancy, I just use the plastic form that rice crackers came in).  When the bars are firm wrap the bars individually in waxed paper. I keep one bar handy and store the rest in the fridge.

To use, as with the Superbalm; the heat from your fingers will warm the oils and you can massage it into the scalp.  If you have extra dry or frizzy hair, leave this treatment on overnight.  It will work its way down the hair shaft a bit and work miracles to tame unruly locks.

Experiment until you find what works.  Consistency is the key.  If you stick with the program, I trust this will help.  If the topical approach is not working, you most likely have a very tenacious underlying infection or your core digestion is whacky.  In a way it is a blessing that your body will not hide the problem.  Such is the body's wisdom.

Keep well_ Nelda

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