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What Causes Dry Scalp? You May Be Surprised

Man looking at own scalp.

Scalp types affect the look and feel of the hairs which protrude from them. Scalps are basically broken down into three categories:

Greasy Scalp, Normal Scalp, And Dry Scalp

Close up on scalp.

Got greasy hair? It all starts with the scalp.

The natural substance which makes the most difference, and which effectively causes one scalp type to drastically vary from the other, is the sebum production.

Sebum is the name given to the oily substance which exists all over our body. The sebum is produced by special glands called sebaceous glands. These glands are found everywhere on our bodies, except for the palms of our hands and the soles of our feet.

Some body areas have more sebum than others. In your face, for instance, you can find 2,600 to 5,800 glands of sebum per inch. In other places, such as the outer organs (legs, arms) you may find a lot less. The sebum is created under the surface of the skin and is secreted through the hair follicles and skin pores.

The sebum’s make up is primarily lipids, commonly known as fats. Sebum levels differ from person to person, and amounts of sebum change throughout our entire lives.

At birth, for instance, the sebum acts in a certain way, to facilitate the newborn. Several months later, its composition changes completely. During puberty, it changes again due to dramatic hormonal fluctuations.

We produce sebum our entire lives, and the quality and quantity vary in accordance with our lifestyle, age, diet, sex, and general physical state. Pregnancy, puberty, menstruation, sexual activity – the sebum glands change right along with them. It is a very dynamic substance which very much reflects the changes which the body is going through. The sebum responds to the body’s changes, and acts accordingly. This is a great advantage, when you think about it.

Because it is a substance which appears right on the surface of our skin, we can feel and see when our skin is dry, cracked, red, itchy, oily, and so on. The sebum is anything but mysterious. It wears its oily heart right there on its sleeve, and it can help us determine the state of our skin and hair. It serves as an indicator of our skin’s health.

Suffering From Sebum Secretion?

Woman looking at pores in mirror.

Too much sebum can cause acne, but too little can dry the skin.

The three general scalp types mentioned earlier represent the hyperactivity, hypoactivity, or neutrality (for lack of a better term) of the sebaceous glands in the affected individual.

  1. Greasy – overactive sebaceous glands, producing a large amount of oil.
  2. Healthy – the sebaceous glands’ production is adequately proportioned.
  3. Dry – underactive sebaceous glands, not producing enough sebum.

Why is this important?

Well, because sebum is a major contributor in keeping the skin looking young and healthy. Too much sebum is not recommended. It can lead to outbreaks of acne and other unpleasant skin conditions. On the other hand, if you happen to have too little of it, it can easily lead to dryness, itchiness, and cracks on your skin.

The reason sebum exists in the first place is that it acts as a barrier. Being made up of lipids, it is waterproof. It helps to regulate how much water we take in and secrete out through our skin. Sebum also protects against the infiltration of bacteria, fungi, and other unwanted elements which exist around us. There is a direct correlation between amounts of sebum and the body’s physical state.

Even though it affects the skin itself more than any other organ, it is still not to be taken lightly. After all, our skin is our biggest organ! This is why there are many cosmetics and hair care products out there which seek to degrease by mimicking or limiting the sebum’s effects.

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