Why does my scalp go crazy if I stop shampooing for a few days?
December 30, 2012 10:22 PM   Subscribe

Why does my scalp go crazy if I stop shampooing for a few days?

Normally I'm on the dry-scalp side, with some mild (bearable) flakiness. I usually shampoo every day, but I've noticed for a long time that if I stop for more than a day - like on a camping trip, say - my scalp just goes crazy: itchy, super-flaky, blotchy red that I can see along my hairline. It seems to be the lack of shampoo, not hot water. What's going on? Is that normal?
posted by El Curioso to Health & Fitness (8 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I have the same problem. I've self-diagnosed with dermatitis. For me, I think it's the oil building up and somehow irritating my dry scalp, or (what I've seen in other people's acne issues) the dry scalp is overcompensating for oil. If you moisturize the crap out of it, it'll balance out.

I was on a three-or-more day interval between shampoos for a while, but for the past couple years I simply could not stand to go more than every other day. However, an interesting thing has happened in the last few weeks. I started using a dime-sized amount of this oil I got from my stylist after washing/conditioning and before blowdrying. (I have a lot of chin-length straight hair, and I only started blowdrying like a month before this stylist visit.) So I put the oil in and floof it around. I actually am careful to keep it away from my scalp. The oil is Davines Absolute Beautifying Potion, which sounds ridiculous. There are oils all over these days; it's the big thing.

This week I went something like five days without washing. Not ideal, but in a pinch it worked. I noticed way less flaking, and my scalp has been much less itchy.

The odd thing is that I have used scalp treatments more directly on the scalp (that Aveda stuff in the dropper bottle) and it's never done a thing.

Anyway, I got a sample of this stuff and it was supposed to only be enough for like four treatments but I'm up to at least 10.
posted by Madamina at 11:19 PM on December 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Do you use a medicated or anti-dandruff shampoo?

I've been diagnosed with scalp psoriasis. I use a steroid shampoo twice a week, and if I miss a dose, I'll get symptoms very similar to yours.

I'd say that if an OTC shampoo works for you, just continue to use it regularly. But if it gets worse, you may want to see a dermatologist.
posted by Afroblanco at 2:07 AM on December 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

You could have psoriasis. That would account for the itching and flaking. Try using a deep conditioner like hair cholesterol if you won't be shampooing that day- it will help with the flaking.
posted by shesaysgo at 4:44 AM on December 31, 2012

This can be due to overly harsh or irritating shampoos, I get this same thing, for me it also causes this yucky build up of dead skin within a day of using. It took experimentation until I found something that didn't create this reaction.
posted by nanook at 7:27 AM on December 31, 2012

All of my itchy and flakey scalp problems disappeared when I stopped using shampoo. Try washing your hair and scalp with conditioner. Shampoo may be drying out your scalp and hair too much. Use a brush to gently scrub your scalp.
posted by conrad53 at 7:47 AM on December 31, 2012

Using shampoo too often can actually cause your scalp to go nuts when you stop using it. The flakes you see are often caused by too much oil/sebum not dry skin, if you've been washing all the oil off your glands have been going nuts trying to keep up. I have found I have much less dandruff and other scalp problems if I only wash my hair with just conditioner every few days and shampoo about once a week.

If you do a google search for "no poo" you'll find a lot of information you might find useful. Yes I agree no poo is a terrible name for something to do with your hair, but actually washing your hair less might help to reduce the flakiness, you just have to suffer through the rebound first.
posted by wwax at 9:00 AM on December 31, 2012

As others have mentioned, check out scalp psoriasis and seborrheic dermatitis. I have the latter, I believe, and my understanding is that scientists think it may be caused by a yeast that most people have on their scalp, which metabolizes human sebum (skin oil): they think that most people have this yeast, but only certain people's skin is irritated by the products of the yeast (i.e. those with SD). Shampooing frequently, especially with an exfoliating shampoo (T-Sal, which is 3% salicylic acid) and then an anti-fungal shampoo (Nizoral, which is 1% or 2% ketoconazole) largely takes care of it for me. I've heard good things about the "no poo" method from others, and about how it normalizes sebum production, but no poo absolutely doesn't work for me with this condition - I need to shampoo at least every other day, or I get an itchy, flaky scalp that gets worst over time. If you think you may have seborrheic dermatitis, proceed with caution on the no poo front. If you think you have SD, you may just want to continue shampooing every day or every other day, and maybe substitute in an anti-dandruff shampoo like the ones I mentioned above, to see if it helps you.
posted by UniversityNomad at 9:17 AM on December 31, 2012

Mine does this too, but I have found that is doesn't happen as badly or as much when I have been using an shampoo w.o SLS, for some reason. Give that a try, too.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 11:53 AM on December 31, 2012

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