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Why You May Have a Smelly Scalp and How to Change That

smelly scalp
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August 8, 2019
Home Lab Notes Scalp Care Why You May Have a Smelly Scalp and How to Change That

You may think you’re doing everything right—lathering up daily and wearing a cap to protect your head from UV rays—yet such seemingly benign actions may be causing your scalp to emit an undesirable scent. Your first thought may be to blame it on your strands, and while it’s true that hair is incredibly porous and quick to absorb odors around it, if the smell persists even after shampooing, you’ll need to treat the source: your scalp.

Bacteria, oil and dead skin cells are often the main culprits behind that smell. That’s because the skin on your scalp is similar to the skin on your body in that it produces sweat and has oil glands, so any buildup of sebum and sweat creates a breeding ground for bacteria. Here’s what may be causing that overproduction of oil and how to combat it:

Too many shampoo-free days

The Problem: 

Sure, this runs counter to the advice to not suds-up daily, but when hair is super fine or your scalp’s skin is overly-oily, shampooing every one to two days will help keep your sebum levels in check. And even with thick, coarse stands that can handle the hiatus, remember that greasy hair holds onto dirt, sweat and debris.

The Fix: 

To further keep your scalp and sebum levels in check, incorporate a scalp mask into your hair care routine. Prose’s scalp mask is detoxifying and biome balancing thanks to bamboo charcoal powder, kombucha and prebiotics. Plus, the charcoal our scalp mask is also great at absorbing any unwanted odors.


The Problem:

Just like not shampooing enough can be problematic, so can washing too much with the wrong products. Regular use of shampoos with heavy detergent loads will lead to over-stripping of strands. And while squeaky-clean hair may be the goal, ironically, the scalp compensates by amping up oil production.

The Fix: 

Be sure to use a sulfate-free shampoo. All Prose formulas are sulfate-free which means they avoid harsh chemical cleansing agents called surfactants. Surfactants are listed on labels as sodium lauryl sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate, and while they give cleansers their dense lather, they can be particularly sensitizing to scalps and drying to strands.

Hormonal imbalances and stress

The Problem:

Anxiety and stress both interfere with hormonal function and can result in additional oil production and irritation on the scalp.

The Fix: 

Incorporate scalp-soothing ingredients into your hair care routine. Prose’s shampoo and scalp mask contains CBD (short for cannabidiol) to help combat redness and instantly calm angry skin. Another star ingredient featured in our scalp mask is bamboo charcoal, which will help to draw out any impurities and remove excess sebum.

Wearing a hat

The Problem: 

Consider this simple fact: hair keeps your scalp warm. Add a hat to the mix and the temperature climbs, allowing bacteria to benefit from the sweaty situation.

The Fix: 

Be sure to wash your hats and scarves often in order to avoid any unwanted bacteria from making a home on your head.

Your diet

The Problem:

It’s no surprise that particular foods don’t mix well with skin and their scent almost seems to seep out of pores. Foods with strong odors like onion, garlic, curry and cumin contain oils that can be excreted through skin, including the skin on your scalp.

The Fix:

Consider wearing your scalp mask while you cook! The light, natural scent that your mask gives off, either eucalyptus or grapefruit, may help block any cooking smells from penetrating your scalp.

Try our scalp mask

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