Scaling of the scalp

First of all, remember that the skin (and therefore the scalp) renews itself every 4 weeks or so. In practical terms, the skin cells are produced in the basal layer of the epidermis, then migrate to the surface and are eliminated naturally. And this cycle repeats itself constantly without our being aware of it.

When everything is going well, you don't notice this elimination at all, as the cells destined for elimination are broken down into tiny particles (like dust) before being dispersed. Obviously, all these cells are dead as soon as they have migrated from the basal layer of the epidermis, i.e. at least 4 weeks before they reach the surface of the skin or scalp.

On the other hand, we sometimes see flakes. These are actually agglomerates of these dead cells which detach from the scalp before our body has had time to break them down into small, invisible particles.

As we shall see, there are many possible causes of this malfunction.

We'll start this article with the most frequently asked questions we receive from people who come to us with this very real problem (scales and dandruff on clothing, for example).

1. Can the flaky skin I'm seeing disappear without me doing anything?

According to our experience, these flakes are most often the result of aggression to the scalp by cosmetic products (shampoos, colours, etc.). This aggression simply causes an acceleration in the renewal of the scalp's skin cells, which don't have time to be broken down into tiny, invisible particles, but break off into clusters of cells. Most of the time, all you need to do is change your hair routine and adopt better products, starting with shampoos. Use products that are much more gentle on the scalp to help the flakes disappear.

If this change in hair routine has no effect on the flakes, it's time to look for another cause of the accelerated flaking.

2. Why are the scales on my scalp black? Should I be worried?

Nothing to worry about! It's just that the cells in your scalp were irrigated by the blood microcirculation, which coagulated before the cells died and began their 4-week migration towards the surface of the scalp. So there's absolutely nothing abnormal.

3. How long does it take for a squama to fall off by itself?

Here, the answer depends entirely on the size of the scale. A small scale falls off very quickly, in around 3 or 4 days. A larger scale, containing a greater number of cells, may take longer to detach from the scalp. Scaling often takes a week, sometimes two weeks.

4. Is it a good idea to scratch the scales from the scalp to speed up shedding?

The answer is no! It's a reflex we all have. However, it is absolutely essential to avoid this natural gesture. In fact, a flake that doesn't naturally detach from the scalp means that the cells that follow it (those that are migrating towards the surface of the skin) are not ready to detach themselves either. These cells are younger than the flakes you want to remove, and less ready to play their protective role. As a result, scratching your flakes is tantamount to damaging the skin and exposing cells that are not yet ready to external aggression. It's a bit like scratching the scab off a wound that hasn't completely healed, leaving it bloody and potentially vulnerable.

It's important to remember that the primary biological function of our epidermis (and therefore our scalp) is and remains to act as a protective barrier between our internal body and our external environment. Respecting the scalp's natural reproductive rhythm is therefore essential.

5. What symptoms should I look out for?

As we have seen, scalp flakes are generally completely benign and can disappear as soon as you adopt a good hair routine, starting with the choice of a shampoo that is much more respectful of the skin's balance.

However, the complementary appearance of certain symptoms is something to watch out for. Here are the main ones:

Appearance of yellow scales

These flakes are the symptom of the onset of a scalp infection. They are most often the result of massive use of "occlusive" hair products (shampoos, creams containing agents such as silicones). The silicones contained in many hair products are veritable poisons. They block the natural evacuation of scales, trap moisture in the scalp and can therefore cause long-term infections. These infections can often degenerate into sores. Other harmful substances can also be found in the ingredients of your hair care products: a careful reading of the labels will help you choose your products with discernment to prevent many unpleasant effects, including the proliferation of scales on your scalp. Here's some information on ingredients to avoid by clicking on this link.

Hair loss associated with red (frankly red) scales or worse, purple scales.

In this case, we advise you to consult a doctor as soon as possible. These scales combined with hair loss may indicate the onset of a serious infection. This infectious phenomenon can rapidly lead to the appearance of scarring baldness, a type of irreversible baldness. There can be many causes of these scales. The most common is Lupus. Very rarely, it can also be caused by scalp cancer. In short, this is a symptom to be taken very seriously!

In this case, as on the rest of the body, there is a green discharge of pus. Here too, the most urgent thing is to consult a doctor, who will know what treatment to prescribe to stop this phenomenon.

Sometimes the scalp becomes infected under the scales.

Causes of scalp flakes

There are many factors that can cause the appearance of flakes (whether in the form of small dry patches or more oily clumps), and they can be chronic (scalp with an oily tendency) or occasional (stress). All these factors need to be taken seriously in order to prevent the consequences as effectively as possible and respond to the problem with appropriate care. It should be noted that the causes of flaky scalp can be multifactorial.

Oily scalp

It is by far the leading cause of flakiness. People with oily scalps are the most prone to the appearance of flakes. The reason is simple. Each hair follicle has an associated sebaceous gland, which produces sebum as part of its function. If this sebaceous gland produces excess serum, this will tend to alter the natural process of evacuating dead scalp cells by assembling them into aggregated rather than differentiated groups of cells. So they're visible rather than invisible. Hence the appearance of flakes. To limit a permanent flaky scalp, which can be a source of stress and discomfort, we recommend that you follow a simple but effective hair routine that includes purifying care for the scalp and hair.

Seborrheic dermatitis

Seborrheic dermatitis Seborrhoeic dermatitis is a fairly common skin condition caused by the abnormal development of fungi (in other words, a mycosis), resulting in the appearance of scaly patches and dandruff that are often very difficult to get rid of. Seborrhoeic dermatitis is generally accompanied by severe itching. It is absolutely not contagious and can be treated quickly by a professional. The Centre Clauderer knows how to treat this condition and offers treatments suited to all types of scalp.

Any mycosis of the scalp leads to the proliferation of scales on the skin of the skull. While most mycoses (diseases caused by the proliferation of fungi) are benign and can be treated quickly with a local treatment, some forms are more resistant and therefore require longer treatments.

Scalp psoriasis

Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition that can settle on any part of the body, but often (50% of cases) on the scalp. Of course, scabs and scales appear.

Scalp eczema

While it's sometimes difficult to distinguish between psoriasis, eczema and dermatitis, because they all cause similar discomforts - scabs, itching and flaking, among other annoyances - these 3 skin infections have specific characteristics. In the case of eczema. In many cases, it is generally agreed that environmental factors are at the root of this disease: it is a reaction of the body to its environment in the broadest sense.

Other causes of flaky scalp include scabies, lice, contact dermatitis, folliculitis and others such as impetigo, shingles (chickenpox virus) and acne.

The most important thing is that these scales, which are usually harmless in appearance but certainly aesthetically quite unpleasant, do not degenerate into a more serious infection of the scalp (scarring alopecia, for example) or are not a symptom of a potentially serious pathology. In all cases, if these scalp scales persist, or if they spread to other areas of the body, it is essential to consult a professional. Only he or she will be able to make the right diagnosis and recommend the right treatment for the area in question.

Jean-François Cabos

Jean-François Cabos is the creator of a unique hair care method based on the research he coordinated, which led to the publication of the book "Cheveux, Racines de Vie" with Hélène Clauderer by Robert Laffont (Collection "Réponses/ Santé").

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