Everyone's hair is different. Some people have excessive sebum production which can lead to an oily scalp. Others have less sebum production and need hydrating and moisturizing products to keep the scalp from becoming dry.
Having excess sebum production alone, and having an oily scalp, are not what causes you to lose your hair; it's the effect that sebum has on the hair growth cycle.
These are three important things you should know about the connection between an oily scalp and hair loss.
1. What exactly is sebum and how does it affect our hair growth?
Sebum is produced through sebaceous glands which are located next to hair roots in the layer of our skin called the dermis. These small oil-producing glands have the task of providing moisture and lubrication to our skin and hair.
Channels from these glands lead to individual hair follicles; which is how sebum gets out of the skin and onto our scalp.
Sebum is so unique because it can change with age, sex, hormonal issues, diet, and other factors. The amount of sebum also varies from person to person.
Men and women alike can have higher than average sebum levels and too much oil in the scalp can cause it to itch, bring about discomfort, contribute to outbreaks of dandruff, and escalate into more serious conditions.
These conditions often start with dandruff and will develop into different skin irritations, bacteria, and fungi growth. When the hair follicles become blocked with this oil buildup, it affects the normal growth cycle, which in turn, results in thinning and eventual hair loss.
2. What are some factors that can affect our sebum production levels?
Sebum is naturally produced from the scalp, but for some of us, this oil production seems to be more excessive. Why?
Texture can affect how sebum works:
- If you have fine or straight hair texture, you tend to have very oily hair. With fine hair, there's much less surface area and more sebum than there is hair to cover it. With super straight hair, sebum has no waves or curls to keep it near the roots. In both of these cases, sebum is distributed more easily down the lengths of the hair which makes the hair more oily.
- If you have curls, coils, or waves, your hair is more oily at the roots. The natural curl pattern slows the sebum from moving down the hair shaft and this can result in an oily scalp and roots, but more dry, easily-damaged ends. If your hair is wavy or curly, the oil just doesn't distribute throughout the rest of your strands as quickly.
- If you have a thick head of hair, this means that you have lots of follicles. More follicles equal more sebaceous glands, which usually results in higher than average sebum levels. The more hair that you have, the more oily your hair tends to be.
The hair growth cycle is regulated by the hormones produced in our body, and their imbalance is one of the main causes where we see hair loss.
Many people may not be aware of this, but both men and women produce testosterone. Men just have much higher levels of it. DHT is converted from this testosterone and it triggers the glands in our hair follicles to overproduce sebum.
DHT levels fluctuate because of stress; pregnancy; menopause; medications; a diet too high in fat, dairy, or processed foods; age; and certain medical conditions.
Excessive DHT shrinks our hair follicles and makes it impossible for healthy hair to survive. This then leads to male pattern baldness and thinning hair in women.
If you have oily skin, you're more than likely to have higher levels of sebum production and hair that tends to be more oily.
When your mother or father have oily hair, the chances are that their high rate of sebum production has been passed on to you.
3. Will Treatment Help?
Continued neglect of an oily scalp can slowly lead to it becoming a big concern because of infections which cause rough patches to form. These patches are often red, itchy, and painful. More severe cases can cause a certain degree of peeling and hair loss.
Some people will try techniques like oil massage, castor oil, XYZ oil, and E cap which only makes the situation worse and delays healing and treatment.
Hair regrows when this infection and inflammation are treated properly.
A specialist can evaluate the cause of any flaking and prescribe medicated lotions and shampoos which will stop the inflammation. The longer it is left untreated, however, the more severe it gets.
For hair loss, certain prescribed medicated shampoos, anti-inflammatory scalp hair lotions, and laser devices can be used to encourage hair regrowth.
Understanding sebum production is a very important part of learning about the connection between an oily scalp and hair loss. Regulating it is what will help your scalp feel better and your hair look healthier.
At LH Hair, we are hair loss experts who can help when you are dealing with an itchy scalp, very oily hair, or notice any excessive shedding.
Our goal is the same for all our clients: to treat scalp conditions that are restricting the hair growth and to customize a treatment plan that fits each individual's needs.
If you notice deficiencies in your hair, please contact us at LH Hair today. By scheduling a free, private consultation, you'll be taking the first step towards reclaiming a full head of hair and maintaining a healthy scalp!