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December 29, 2011 10:03 PM   Subscribe

Is it safe to use antiperspirant on your scalp?

YANMD, but my question is: If it's generally perfectly safe to use antiperspirant daily on hairy armpits, then why not your scalp? Reason for asking:

I have chronic folliculitis of the head and scalp. I have had it about 13 years. Tried everything, natural and unnatural, to get rid of it. Seen dermatologists, tried topical powders and lotions, tried at least a dozen natural cures. It's so bad that I regularly pull and pluck my hair out in places to get the under-the-skin itching to stop.

My scalp is naturally oily, and I wash my hair every day. Yes, I've tried going a week or two without washing. Doesn't work.

Basically, the only thing that really helps is avoiding humidity and keeping my scalp cool, clean and dry. Most days, this is impossible, because I live in Western PA and have a job that requires me to frequently be outside. The apparent reason it helps to keep my scalp cool, clean and dry is because that way, I don't sweat. I have a very oily scalp, and I know the sebum (oil) producing glands are not the same as the sweat glands. But all I know is, when it's hot or humid (indoors or outdoors), so that I get a thin film of sweat on my face, that's when I start to itch. Rainy days or very hot days are the worst. I have read that sweating doesn't work very well when there is humidity, and that humidity exacerbates acne-type conditions such as mine.

I have read that antiperspirants work by blocking your sweat glands. If your sweat glands are blocked, don't they still try to produce sweat? If they do, where does the sweat go? Or do the sweat glands somehow just give up on the idea of trying to produce sweat since now they're blocked?

Again, since I have used antiperspirants for years on my armpits and my pit hair still grows in thick, strong and healthy with no skin problems, is it worth trying it on my scalp? My scalp hair is thick, strong and healthy as well...what's left of it after I pluck it out. I could see how it could make the folliculitis worse, however, by clogging the pores. So my question is, would it clog the pores in a good way, by preventing sweating?

I *did* see 2 scalp antiperspirants on the web, but they were for hyperhydrosis. I figure I would just need a regular antiperspirant, one that doesn't leave white stuff behind. I would get a fragrance-free one for sensitive skin.

I may try it on just a section of scalp and see how it goes.
posted by serena15221 to Health & Fitness (6 answers total)
I agree to try and see how your skin reacts, but be wary. One hot summer when I was nursing my first son I got sick of underboob sweat, and tried using my deodorant there. It itched like hell, so I never did that again. The other issue you are going to run into is getting the deodorant onto your scalp, rather than just in your hair. Your scalp is usually much more densely covered in hair than your underarm, so its possible to put deodorant on underarms and still get plenty on your skin. I wonder how easy it will be to get it through your hair and on your scalp, unless you have very short hair.

I was going to suggest Gold's foot powder, but I remember it leaves a white residue, which would look pretty odd. Have you tried asking a dermatologist whether this is a good idea or if it will clog the pores in a bad way?
posted by Joh at 11:58 PM on December 29, 2011

Aluminium salt based antiperspirants don't clog the pores, they cause them to close up via a physiological mechanism. So I don't see why you can't at least try it. I'd definitely go for a fragrance free, sensitive skin version, and possibly look for one without alcohol since I find that's also pretty irritating to my skin.

Also keep in mind that the pores tend to stay closed for a while, usually one or two days. I've seen various instructions that say the 'best' way to use the stuff is supposed to be putting it on at night time giving everything time to close up and stop working by the next day when you mess around with clothes and start to get warm. So, in your case, you can time the application so that you're not putting on a hat or lying on a pillow right afterwards, and you may also only need to use it every few days.
posted by shelleycat at 5:23 AM on December 30, 2011

Another idea, and I'm not sure how well it would work for a scalp: botox. Some people with hyperhydrosis and/or unusually sweaty palms get botox injections in their sweat glands, and it shuts them down for 6 months. Problem (temporarily, at least) solved. Maybe they could do something similar on your head? I'm not sure. It would be something you'd have to discuss with a dermatologist.
posted by phunniemee at 5:31 AM on December 30, 2011

I have fairly mild folliculitis that manifests itself on my legs, back, stomach, shoulders, neck, and, sometimes, scalp. My doctor prescribed medication that made it all go away (this was about 15 years ago) but I stopped taking it because I would be unable to expose my skin to direct sunlight in the summertime. Maybe you should try your doctor again?
posted by KokuRyu at 6:58 AM on December 30, 2011

Adam Carolla had ETS surgery to stop his head sweating problem. Apparently it worked great for him.
posted by coolguymichael at 12:56 PM on December 30, 2011

Response by poster: Update: I tried a fragrance free antiperspirant gel, for sensitive skin.
I washed and washed with clarifying shampoo and dish detergent and I STILL can't get the #$@% stuff out of my hair.

So much for that idea.
posted by serena15221 at 11:10 AM on January 6, 2012

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