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." Following that statement she would eyeball my hair and (not so) subtley hint that I should invest in some Dax to do something about the flakes on my shirt. Little did they know I have a 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 where 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.

Seborrheic dermatitis is a chronic skin condition where your sebaceous glands overcompensate in oil production.

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 on 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 mins while 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 be adhered to the scalp. This can also function as a great pre-poo.
  2. Cleanse: Co-washing will not be sufficient to remove the flakes, sebum, and the hot oil treatment. It is best to use a shampoo to lift and remove the dirt and oil. If you need a potent shampoo I suggest trying some formulated with 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. The hot oil treatment helps to loosen the flakes before cleansing but oil should not be applied with the intentions of not cleansing off.
  5. Create a cleansing regimen: Straight-hair ladies are usually encouraged to shampoo more frequently than curlies, but that is not ideal for curlies. It will only be through trial and error that you customize your regimen according to how quickly oil and flakes appear on your scalp.

What's next?

Haven't seen a specialist yet? Here are 15 situations where you need to see a trichologist. 

This is what my wash day with seborrheic dermatitis looks like. 

Here are 3 things you should never put on your scalp, according to a trichologist.

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This article was originally published in 2012 and has been updated for grammar and clarity.