Try these simple hair care tips to keep your scalp and curls free of flakes and itches.

Lady with her arm resting over her head of curls

Whenever there was a hair conversation in grade school, I never failed to hear a girl say "my scalp is like a sponge, so I have to grease it everyday." At the same time she would eyeball my hair and (not so) suddenly hint that I should invest in some Dax to do something about the flakes on my shirt. Little did they know I have a life-long condition called seborrheic dermatitis. Did it ever make me self-conscious? Only when people would beg to pull flakes out of my hair. Awkward much?

What is Seborrheic Dermatitis?

Seborrheic dermatitis is a chronic skin condition in which your sebaceous glands overcompensate in oil production. It has been attributed to environment, general health factors, genetics and irritation from a yeast called malassezia. In case you are wondering, yes malassezia is a categorized under the genus of fungi. Is it due to lack of hygiene? Not at all. The condition has been passed on genetically in my family and in the same way, it affects many men and women with various hair textures and lengths.

The biggest setback in attempting to stabilize my condition was going on an oil frenzy. Although a flaky scalp is commonly associated with dandruff, if you are faithfully oiling your scalp and still experience intense flaking and itching, you may have seborrheic dermatitis. Applying scalp oils with the intentions of leaving them on will only agitate the inflammation.

An increase in how often you cleanse is essential to reducing the accumulation of flakes and dissolving the excess sebum from your scalp. Below are steps to maintaining a clean scalp and moisturized tresses.

MORE: Does an Itchy Scalp Equal Hair Growth?

5 Scalp Care Tips

  1. Hot oil treatments: Apply oil to your scalp, cover your hair with a processing cap and allow it to sit for 10-15 minutes, either under a hooded dryer or with a warm towel. This will loosen the flakes from your scalp. Gently use the pads of your fingers to agitate scales that may stick. This can also function as a great pre-poo.
  2. Cleanse: Co-washing will not be sufficient to remove the flakes, sebum and topical oil. Shampoos containing coal tar, pyrithione zinc or salicylic acid help to effectively clean the scalp. Make sure you focus on the scalp and do not overly smooth the cleanser down the length of the hair. Rubbing it along the length can cause excessive dryness and rough up the hair shaft.
  3. Deep condition: The shampoo will refresh your scalp but leave your hair feeling like it was put through a shredder....forward and reverse. It is inevitable that the cleanser will rinse along the length of the hair, so it's best to follow up with a deep conditioner in order to reinforce and seal in moisture.
  4. Do not oil (or grease) your scalp: If seborrheic dermatitis is a result of your scalp overproducing sebum then last thing it needs are additional oils irritating the inflammation.
  5. Create a cleansing regimen: Straight-hair ladies are usually encouraged to shampoo almost daily, but that is not ideal for curlies. It will only be through trial and error that you will learn how fast your flakes appear and how you can incorporate the proper steps that need to be taken in your hair care regimen.

MORE: How to Cure Your Dry, Flaky Scalp