5 Warning Signs Your Scalp is in Trouble

Published on Apr 10, 2016

Unlike hair which makes up a big part of your appearance, the scalp may not actually affect how you look, until the problem becomes so serious, it causes hair fall and other major hair issues.

Dandruff, itching on the scalps and scalp skin peeling also causes embarrassment.

Before your scalp degenerates to that extent, nip the scalp problem in the bud by spotting these 5 warning signs!

1.  Excess Oil and Oily Scalp

Oil is not necessarily a bad thing. Your natural sebum protects your scalp from losing moisture and drying out too quickly. Too much oil however can cause greasiness, allowing fungi and bacteria to grow and resulting in dandruff and other scalp conditions.

Ken from 99 Percent Hair Studio shared with us that many people in Singapore suffer from oily scalp, probably because of our weather. Exposure to sun and heat trigger excessive sebum production on the crown of our heads. Many Singapore men and ladies also do not have the practice of blowdrying their hair / scalp after bathing. The moisture also promotes the buildup of excess oil.

We also found it interesting to note that oily scalp tends to affect men more than women since male scalps generate up to 50% more oil than female scalps!

The best way to diagnose oily scalps is to go for a scalp analysis as you may literally see oil oozing from your scalp and build up of greasy oily scales on these microscopic images!

oily scalp

Scalp Scan of an Oily Scalp by 99 Percent Hair Studio

As a reference, this is how healthy scalp should look like:

healthy scalp

Scalp Scan of healthy Scalp by 99 Percent Hair Studio

Once again oily scalps are common, especially in Singapore. However, it is best to get it treated as excessive buildup of grease can impair hair growth and lead to hair loss.

Oily greasy hair also weighs down on your hair, making your crown look unnaturally flat.

What you can do about it

1) Change your shampoo:

The focus is to find shampoos that help you clarify your scalp without stripping too much of your natural oils. If the shampoo is too harsh, the scalp may become even more oily as it tries to compensate for the dryness. Typical over-the-counter oily shampoos tend to be a little too harsh so we would recommend that you ask your stylist for advice!

2) Exfoliate your scalp

Massage your scalp thoroughly when shampooing! Consider going for a scalp treatment on a regular basis to clear up all the gunk that is built up!

dead skin cell

Amount of Dead Skin Cells after Exfoliating Scalp Treatment at 99 Percent Hair Studio

We're especially impressed with the 30 minute exfoliation process at 99 Percent Hair Studio as we can literally see the amount of dead skin that are being exfoliated!

3) Don't apply hair products too close to your scalp

Whether it is conditioner or hair definer, apply your products after the ear to prevent the products from coming into contact with your scalp! The products can clog your scalp pores, causing oil to build up more easily!

4) Massage Your Scalp

head massage

Scalp Treatment at Picasso Hair Studio

Massaging your scalp regularly, especially after an exfoliant is applied, can help to improve blood circulation and dislodge dead skin that may be blocking the follicles!

If you've tried all that and your scalp is still as oily as ever, please do consult a dermatologist for advice!

2. Dry, Ageing and Itching Scalp

The scalp contains hair roots, sebaceous glands, nerves and blood vessels. These provide fluid exchange, sensual perception and temperature regulation. If there is insufficient secretion of sebum to create the protective hydrolipid film due to impairment of the above processes,  dry and itching scalp may result.

There are many possible factors causing dry itching scalp - harsh shampoosage, sunburn and physical and emotional stress.

Although this condition is common, it is important to deal with the itch as the itching may develop into sensitive scalp and even dandruff and thinning hair later on!

Your scalp will also age faster, causing more wrinkles to form on your scalp!

Therefore, the first few things to try are:

1) Change to a gentler shampoo

Many over-the-counter shampoos are so harsh, they strip off your natural oils that protect the scalp, allowing harmful substances to irritate the scalp easily.

Try to find one that is sulfate free and alcohol free from your salon. If possible, the shampoo should contain soothing plant ingredients such as rosemary, aloe and other similar plant ingredients to soothe the scalp!

2) Use a Scalp Serum

Just like how your face requires a moisturizer to replenish any lost moisture and nutrients, a scalp serum after your shampoo is also useful to help you moisturize your scalp and get rid of the scalp dryness!

If these tips don't work, go for a dermatologist who may be able to help you come up with a treatment plan to combat the dryness and the itch!

3. Flaking and Dandruff

Did you know that up to 50 percent of the population experiences dandruff?


Dandruff occurs when your scalp’s cell renewal process shortens, leading to the rapid shedding of your scalp’s horny skin cells, which stick together to form visible flakes.

There are however two types of dandruff:

  1. Dry Dandruff: White flakes that form on your scalp and fall from your head! This is often a cause of dry and itching scalp.
  2. Greasy Dandruff (seborrhoeic dermatitis): Oily and yellow scales or flakes that stick onto your hair and head. Greasy dandruff is most associated with oily scalp and is often triggered by Malassezia, a microorganism that thrives on oils produced by your scalp and irritates it!

As this is often a bacterial infection, you may need to get a shampoo with ketaconazole or selenium sulfide to kill the bacteria and relieve the itch and flaking!

Lilian from Follicle Salon recommends using a specialised Dandruff shampoo. The usual over-the-counter dandruff shampoos tend to be too harsh so she imported one directly from Korea!

Note that excessive dandruff can also be a sign of more serious conditions such as Pityraisis Amiantacea, Seborroeic Dermatitis or Psoriasis that require special care by your dermatologist.


4. Reddish Painful Scalp

The three common causes for reddish scalp are sun damage, allergy and irritation. Excessive exposure to the sunharsh hair products such as bleach, hair colour, minoxidil, hair products containing propylene glycol can cause your scalp to turn red or produce allergic reactions.

The 3 things you should do to alleviate the issue is to:

1) Cut out harsh hair products from your daily routine

Check the ingredients of your hair products to make sure that they do not contain much irritants and consider using organic brands such as O'Right or O'way as they tend to minimize use of irritants in their hair products!

When going for a hair colour, choose less toxic chemicals such as Redken Chromatics Hair Colour, L'Oreal INOA Hair Colour or Original & Minerals Hair Colour to minimize any possible sensitivity of the scalp.

2) Use scalp sunscreens and serums

Your scalp is actually also part of your skin and requires protection from the sun and other harmful substances.

After you've properly shampooed and massaged your hair to exfoliate your dead skin cells on a daily basis, it is always wise to follow up with a sunscreen to create a protective layer against the sun.

Redken Solar screen

There are many brands out there but one recommended one is the Redken Solar Sunscreen that is great for the scalp!

If the above three actions do not help, seek treatment from a dermatologist as reddish scalp can be a sign of something serious:

1) Seborrheic dermatitis

This is an inflammatory scalp condition where red, itchy and flaky skin as well as yellow, white or grey scales are observed. This tends to be more greasy.

2)  Psoriasis

Psoriasis is complex immune-based disease which can affect the skin, nails and joints.  Patients have scalp redness, scaling, and flaking. You are more likely to get Scalp Psoriasis if you have psoriasis somewhere else on your body.

3) Infection

Bacterial, viral and fungal infections may cause redness in the scalp.  Bacteria, such as staphylococci, may cause scalp infections. Bacteria may also contribute to infection of the hair follicle, which is a condition called "bacterial folliculitis." A variety of viral infections cause scalp redness. Chicken pox and shingles are two such examples. Scalp ringworm or “tinea capitis” refers to infection of the scalp by certain types of fungi. Scalp redness and scaling may be seen in these cases.

4) Cancers

A variety of skin pre cancers and cancers, including non melanoma skin cancers, can also cause redness in localized areas of the scalp. Therefore, it is best to get it looked at if you find that the redness is persistent!

5. Hair Loss

It is not easy dealing with scalp conditions once they have deteriorated to this stage. Oily scalp built up over many years can block hair follicles from growing. Even if you deal with the issue immediately, it will take time before hair will grow naturally.

This is what Simon found when he first approached Follicle Salon for help.

Hair Loss Scalp Scan

Simon was starting to experience genetic baldness at various parts of his hair.

His scalp scans showed that his scalp was dry and his hair is thinning. 

He went through the Follicle Scalp Care Treatment, a comprehensive scalp program that included galvanic massage, LED and use of the dermapen. 

Follicle Scalp Care

Follicle Scalp Care at Follicle Salon

Maybe because the dermapen is able to reach deep within the scalp, Simon could feel his scalp being clarified in just one session. He also felt as if there were more baby hairs after a month!

It is not easy to know what to do after identifying scalp issues but hopefully you will be in a better place to start after this article!

Have you been afflicted with scalp issues before?

Share with us on how you manage to overcome them!

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