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smelly scalp

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

November 8, 2020

3 Min read

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:

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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.

ONLY GOOD HAIR DAYS—

What does your hair need to thrive? Take the consultation to find your formulas.

Overwashing

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.

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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.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

The Prose Staff is here to share the best hair tips and tricks to help you achieve all your hair goals with custom hair care, breakthrough innovation and more

Comments [7]

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  1. I seem to see whiteheads when i scratch my scalp and i am thinking it maybe duebto the product unclogging my scalp pores? Is this Normal and healthy occurrence?

  2. I HAD THE SAME PROBLEM and after two year IT’S FIXED NOW.
    I tried many logical or non logical solutions and none was effective(the worst was washing my hair with 70% alcohol which worsened the situation)
    I consulted a skin specialist who gave me clindamycin shampoo and clynda soap and it dried my hair and caused dandruff but after using those completely, the problem came back after less than a week.

    Summary: AVOID BEING CLOSE TO MICROWAVE & ELECTROMAGNETIC RADIATION (STOP USING YOUR CELLPHONE TOO MUCH and stop using your hair dryer), avoid showering and washing your hair too much or for too long, avoid hot or cold water(use mild water) and use a good anti dandruff shampoo(just until the problem is solved) for washing your hair , avoid touching and irritating your scalp, avoid warmth and humidity, KEEP YOUR HAIR SHORT, AVOID MILK and dairy products for a month or two, avoid fatty and oily food, brush your tooth and wash your foot regularly, clean and disinfect your devices and bedding regularly and AVOID STRESS and be sure that your problem will be resolved soon.

    first of all and the most important thing I did:
    1- Stop using your cell phone and anything with a sim card for calling and internet (2G, 3G, 4G, 5G, …). use a wired solution instead(Land Line, DSL, FTTh)
    It fixed so many issues as well as my smelly scalp & hair.
    The microwave radiation of cell phones are the main cause of so many problems (smelly hair, distractibility, memory problems, nausea, headache, ringing ears, sleep problems, weak immune system)
    2- stop using a hair dryer
    electromagnetic and microwave radiation are not good for your health and immune system.
    high temperature of hair dryer builds a good place for bacteria and fungus to grow.
    also high temperature makes your scalp and hair oily which will make the situation worse.
    3- cut your hair too short so your scalp can breath and it will not be warm and wet and you’ll not need to use a hair dryer.
    I kept my hair shorter than 4 cm for three months
    4- avoid showering too much, too long or with hot water.
    I know your hair may smell so bad but try to stay home or use a deodorant (not on your hair)
    unfortunately I used to take a shower every day or two but I stopped and I started to take a shower every 2.5 – 3.5 days and the smell started to go away.
    now my hair doesn’t smell bad even after four days.( my hair used to smell bad after 1 day)
    washing your hair so much will destroy your scalp’s natural immune system.
    stay in bath not more than 20-30 minutes, use mild water(not cold not hot)
    hot water will cause oily hair and more smell.
    do not massage your scalp too much while shampooing.(avoid irritating your scalp)
    5- do not touch your hair to see if it smells or not.
    this way you are irritating your scalp and causing more sebum and you’re making your hair and scalp dirty
    and causing yourself a lot of stress.
    6- avoid drinking too much milk & avoid eating and drinking too much dairy products and oily and smelly foods.
    I used to drink a glass of milk every day & I believe it was one of the causes of my smelly hair.
    I avoided drinking milk and I avoided drinking and eating dairy products and oily and smelly foods(garlic as an example) for more than a month.
    7- clean & disinfect your devices frequently(cell phone, comb, hairdryer, tablet, laptop, keyboard, mouse, desk and whatever you may touch frequently or whatever that is in contact with your hair) .
    use a tissue and a solution of bleach and water (1 bleach 9 water) or 70% medical alcohol for cleaning objects. bleach is preferred.
    all of a sudden I figured out that under my PC’s keyboard smells the same as my scalp.( could be the source )
    8- use an anti dandruff shampoo ( I used a 400ml Schauma anti dandruff x3 )
    let it stay on your hair for 20-40 seconds(not less not more)
    use it 2-3 times every time you take a shower.(every 2.5 – 3.5 days)
    do no massage you hair too much.
    use neither hot nor cold water ( use mild water)
    rinse it completely.
    dry your hair with a towel completely(avoid massaging your scalp too much while drying)
    9- wash your pillow’s cover every 7 – 14 days.
    10- wash your bedding (blanket) once a month.
    11- do not cover your head with your blanket.
    12- always put on your blanket in the same direction ( head and foot position must always stay the same)
    your foot’s microbes may be the cause of the smell.
    13- brush your tooth before sleep & do not go to bed when you are hungry and keep your moth closed while you are asleep.
    your mouth’s microbes on your blanket may be the cause.
    14- avoid warm and humid places (keep the temperature mild).

    Summary: AVOID BEING CLOSE TO MICROWAVE & ELECTROMAGNETIC RADIATION (STOP USING YOUR CELLPHONE TOO MUCH and stop using your hair dryer), avoid showering and washing your hair too much or for too long, avoid hot or cold water(use mild water) and use a good anti dandruff shampoo(just until the problem is solved) for washing your hair , avoid touching and irritating your scalp, avoid warmth and humidity, KEEP YOUR HAIR SHORT, AVOID MILK and dairy products for a month or two, avoid fatty and oily food, brush your tooth and wash your foot regularly, clean and disinfect your devices and bedding regularly and AVOID STRESS and be sure that your problem will be resolved soon.
    God bless you!

  3. This sounds very interesting. I wash my hair using head & shoulders every morning. My wife says after a day or so my shirt tops smell and the bed pillows. So we are always washing THEM.
    I hope to try your products.
    Trevor.

  4. My friend slapped me cuz I told her she had a smelly scalp so I’m going to purchase the mask for her for Christmas. Xoxo