By Christina of The Mane Objective
Earlier this Summer, I wrote a well-received article for Black Girl with Long Hair about scalp psoriasis and remedies. The information I wrote still very much holds true, but Winter weather adds a whooooole new dimension to skin and hair care. We all know that Winter cold can be drying to hair and skin, which is why we cozy up with thick butters and protective styles around November. But for those of us with skin/scalp issues like Psoriasis, Eczema and Dandruff (or just general dry scalp), cold air combined with decreased sunlight has the potential to stir up a recipe for disaster.
When it comes to dealing with skin issues like Psoriasis, there are two modes of attack — internal and external. In this article, we will explore the external counter-offensive that will help ward off and ease the presence of patchy and flaky scalp as the temperature drops and the sun strays away. In Part II, we will get internal (which I’m sure some of ya’ll won’t like). I won’t re-hash all the information about what Psoriasis is, what it does, and such. If you’re interested in the background story, click here.
Flake Fighter #1: Clean Scalp
I know, when you’re dealing with constant flaking and tightness on the scalp, keeping it clear sounds like one of those statements you roll your eyes at. Well duh Christina, if I had a clear scalp I wouldn’t have scalp issues in the first place! What I mean by clean scalp is clarifying. Since the air is dryer in Winter months, we tend to get heavy-handed with oils and butters, and justifiably so. Even though the moisture and sealing is necessary, it accumulates more rapidly, and combined with your body’s own sebum, gym sweat, flakes, beanie lint and everything else, you’re bound to suffocate your scalp. To counter this, you may need to kick up your clarifying routine a notch between November and February. I highly recommend staying away from abrasive chemicals to clarify (I’m looking at you, sulfates), and lean more toward Apple Cider Vinegar and Aztec Healing Clay. Not only are they effective and natural, but they both have healing and impurity-removing qualities that can help combat and reduce flaking. Added bonus: Apple Cider Vinegar also helps balance your hair and scalp pH, which can lend itself to Psoriasis relief. I will discuss this further in Part II!
Flake Fighter #2: Maintain Moisture
I know this seems to directly contradict #1. But equally as important as keeping the scalp clean and clear is providing a moisture barrier from the cold air (just don’t let it build up for weeks at a time). Some of the best oils to use are those that pack a one-two (or three) punch: not only do they moisturize/hold in moisture, but they possess anti-bacterial/anti-fungal, or even skin healing properties. For moisture retention and fungus/bacteria fighting, I recommend Virgin Unrefined Coconut Oil and Cold-Pressed Castor Oil. For moisture retention and healing, the above oils can also be used, in addition to Jojoba, Sweet Almond, and Vitamin E. As an added bonus, you can always add a few drops of Tea Tree Oil to kick the fungus fighting up a notch.
Flake Fighter #3: A Double Helping of Henna
I know there are some bloggers out there that henna on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. I salute you. Not only is that too much mess to make every 7 days, but it’s a lot for my transitioning strands to endure. Remember, henna strengthens and thickens hair by binding to the keratin on the strands. But just like most treatments we love, you can have too much of a good thing. Since henna builds up on the strands, I have a fear of overtaxing my hair at the line of demarcation and causing premature and avoidable breakage. However, after weighing out the benefits of my monthly henna on my hair and scalp, I decided that twice a month isn’t too much to help combat flakes. Like I said in the last article, I still don’t fully understand why or how henna has cleared my scalp — I just know that it does. During the winter months, I double my doses of henna — doing a full treatment on all my hair at the beginning of the month, then following up mid-month with a scalp and new-growth only treatment.
Flake Fighter #4: Avoid Irritants
When it comes to Psoriasis and other skin/scalp conditions, going the extra mile to avoid irritants in drier months is necessary. Since we’re talking natural hair here, I’m going to assume you know relaxers are out of the question. Hair color is sketchy, at best. If you’re really serious about color in the winter, I suggest ombre, frosting, or another style of coloring that avoids coming close to the scalp. Also on the list of things to avoid is heat — namely the blow dryer. I know this may hurt a little, but find another way to stretch your strands. Blow dryers work by sucking out moisture, and that is the exact opposite of what you need for your scalp.
Lastly, do a run-through on your favorite products — conditioners included. Make sure there are no ingredients that are known irritants to skin, such as various surfectants, added color, and fragrance. You may find yourself having to switch to more natural products, at least temporarily. And who knows, you might end up liking those natural products more.
What are some of your favorite flake-fighting methods for the Winter?