Hair and scalp

The scalp - more than just an outer shell

Bald people display it quite openly, for others it is hidden under a head of hair with more or less extravagant hairstyles: The scalp - more than an outer shell.

There are important situations in life when it is important to keep a "cool head". Although the function of the skin is of only limited interest for this wisdom, the scalp does play an important role in regulating body temperature. Of course, it can do much more than that. Its functions are varied. 

When we think of our largest organ, the skin, we don't usually think of the scalp straight away. We look at the face and consider it. We can see what condition it is in. Identify if someone is young or old. Sometimes we can also tell whether or not someone is healthy.

What does our largest organ do?

More information

The scalp, on the other hand, is not as easy to see. As a protective coat for our body, it is also covered and protected by our hair. A healthy scalp, on the other hand, is important for both the appearance and condition of our hair. 

We can see the outer layer of the skin, the surface skin, called the epidermis, which also forms the important barrier layer, the horny layer (stratum corneum). Underneath this is the dermis. The lowest layer is the subcutaneous tissue or subcutis. In our article "The skin, our largest organ" we went into a little more detail on the structure of the skin and its functions. 

However, human skin is much more than just the outer protection of the body. Not only is it completely renewed every four weeks, it is also the interface between the organism and the outside world. Our way of life in modern societies, which is heavily influenced by industrial production and consumption, involves a great deal of stress and risks. Pollution is a serious problem. The "natural" environment is also changing, and we are dealing with increasing UV exposure, etc. 

The scalp is sensitive and delicate, even if it is protected by hair. Too much sun and UV rays, for example, can lead to harmful sunburn on the head as well as on the face, arms or legs. 

Other factors that may adversely affect a healthy scalp include:

  • Inappropriate choice of shampoos
  • Cold
  • Heat from a hair dryer or curling tongs
  • Dry air (e.g. from heating)
  • General pollution
  • Malnutrition
  • Stress
  • Hormonal changes
  • Too frequent washing
  • Illnesses
  • Medication

Redness, itching, dehydration and flaking can develop and be very uncomfortable.

In general, we can say that scalps can be divided into different types or classes. In addition to the factors mentioned above, genetic reasons can also play a role, which is why there are different types of scalp.

We can distinguish between:

  • A normal/healthy scalp
  • An itchy scalp
  • An oily scalp
  • A dry + sensitive scalp
  • A flaky scalp

While in a healthy scalp the skin barrier works perfectly and the sebum glands produce the exact amount of sebum and fat required, the other types are not functioning as required. For example, unbalanced moisture levels can lead to an itchy and dry scalp. 

You might think that a flaky scalp is the result of a scalp that is far too dry. In fact, unpleasant, itchy dandruff can develop and cause problems on both dry and oily scalps. This is due to a breakdown in the regular skin replacement, which usually takes around 28 days.

Dandruff on a dry scalp is caused, for example, by a significant reduction in this period of time (7-21 days). When dandruff builds up on an oily scalp, the sebum production is unbalanced. Together with the reduced time for skin replacement, the result is rather moist, sticky flakes. 

An oily scalp is due to excess sebum production. So much "lubrication" is produced that the hair is no longer able to absorb it all. This is what makes it look "shiny" and then quickly look greasy. 

In all these cases, careful skin and hair care is important. If problems such as dandruff, redness or itching cannot be resolved with regular care routines, you are recommended to consult a dermatologist.