Not everyone has hair. But everyone has a scalp, hair or no hair. And the fact of the matter is that with or without hair a person can have scalp health issues.
The list of maladies with scalps is long. There’s dandruff, of course, but there are several other problems in addition to dandruff (a shedding of skin, which happens to average/healthy and extensive/unhealthy degrees). They include eczema – a group of chronic skin disorders, either genetic in origin or caused by an allergic reaction to foods, clothing, lotions, soaps, plants and medications – and fungal infections, which are usually caused by yeasts and molds. School-age children frequently get head lice, a parasite, or ringworm, which is actually not a parasite but a fungal infection that leaves round bald patches with black dots (it is acquired by sharing hats, combs, brushes, towels or clothing with another person who has ringworm, or touching an animal that has it).
Other scalp conditions that should be identified and addressed medically: folliculitis (infection of hair shafts), impetigo (skin infection), contact dermatitis (skin reaction to allergens), viral infections (chickenpox and shingles), acne, and epidermal cysts.
A dermatologist more appropriately treats these conditions than a hair loss solutions specialist who provides hair loss treatments for men and women, even though so many of these conditions can cause hair loss.
Outdoors risks to the scalp
And that doesn’t include damage from sunshine, over processing, and other traumas in the control of the individual.
For example, the person with fair skin and thinning hair is strongly advised to wear a hat when in the sun due to the risks of skin cancer. This counts double when out on the water in a boat, on a beach, or while skiing. The reflectivity of UVA and UVB rays from water, sand, and snow increases the risk of basal cell cancer, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma.
Some of these conditions are due to genetics or a genetic predisposition. Some are due to bad luck, such as borrowing a hat from a person who has had ringworm fungus. As already mentioned, sun exposure can cause one of three types of skin cancer on the scalp.
Actions to take for scalp health
But some are controllable with behaviors. Sun protection with hats and sunscreens are the best protection – short of living a vampire’s sun avoiding lifestyle – against sun damage. Good hygiene can prevent or make less likely conditions such as folliculitis and impetigo, and quick medical attention can reduce the effects thereof when they are present.
Some argue, convincingly, that good scalp health is a function of good diet. Dandruff in particular can be managed with an improvement in what one eats. While health-hair foods roughly correspond with “healthy everything else” foods – fish, sufficient protein overall, less sugar, less alcohol (which reduces zinc, an essential hair mineral) – there are some surprises in what we consume that might hurt hair.
That starts with fish. Most fish with high Omega 3 fatty acids are good. But those that are highest in mercury (swordfish, orange roughy, shark, Bluefin tuna) can lead to actual hair loss. Better for your scalp and hair are salmon, canned light tuna, shrimp, sardines, mackerel, and herring.
Excess sugar consumption – endemic to most populations in the developed world – can cause seborrheic dermatitis and psoriasis, flaky skin, itching and over production of androgen (which shrinks hair follicles). For people who take vitamin A supplements in excess, hair loss might result, and it can contribute to atopic dermatitis, oiliness in the scalp, and itchy skin overall.
So, hair or no hair, pay attention to your scalp as much as everything else on your head.