The condition of a person’s scalp is an essential but often overlooked aspect of maintaining a healthy beauty regimen. Especially for women with delicate or coarse hair, which can break easily when over-stressed, it is helpful to be aware of scalp sensitivity. Here are some tips on how to tell how sensitive your scalp is so that you can protect and nourish your mane starting from the roots.

The most common signs of a sensitive scalp are itching, tightness, or tenderness. Itching can often lead to dandruff, as dead skin cells flake to a degree that they are visible in the hair and on clothes. Different symptoms may have different causes. For example, wearing your hair in a style that is too tight can lead to tenderness, and even hair loss, if continued for an extended period of time. Harsh chemicals can also cause these unpleasant sensations, and so it is imperative to choose shampoos, conditioners and styling products that are specifically formulated for your hair type. Look for product lines that distinguish themselves as being suitable for “ethnic hair,” “dry and damaged hair,” or even “color treated hair,” as they will be the most gentle. If you consistently notice dandruff, you should try lines designed to address dandruff specifically. Many active indoor swimmers experience exacerbated scalp irritation if they do not wear swimcaps, a problem that can also be resolved by special shampoos that deal with chlorine buildup.

If you switch to gentle products and still find yourself experiencing scalp irritation after several weeks, there may be an underlying medical cause. Ringworm is a fungal infection that can afflict the scalp and must be diagnosed by a medical professional. Your primary care physician or dermatologist can assess your scalp and if necessary, direct you to the proper anti-fungal medications.

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