Does your scalp build up a grimy layer of dirt and itch often? You may think that’s because of dandruff, but it may not be the reason always. You might be experiencing a very common scalp condition called ‘scalp buildup’.
“Apart from dead cells and fungal accumulation, things like environmental dirt, product residues, etc. buildup on your scalp, while it aggravates your dandruff condition too,’’ says Dr. Zeel Gandhi, Chief Ayurvedic Doctor at Vedix.
In this article, let’s know the different causes and complications of scalp buildup while you understand how to clear it naturally at home.
What Is Scalp Buildup?
Scalp buildup is a condition in which one or more substances such as hair products, chemicals, sweat, dead skin cells, dirt, etc. besides your scalp oils and sebum, form a thin and itchy layer by accumulating over a period of time.
Eventually, your scalp buildup may lead to various scalp infections as pathogens start to feed on it, while the scalp buildup flakes off like dandruff on your hair and shoulders.
Scalp buildup has symptoms similar to those of dandruff, seborrheic dermatitis, eczema, and scalp psoriasis. But it is an easily treatable condition.
What Does Scalp Buildup Look Like?
You can notice your scalp flaking off too much, if you have scalp buildup. Also, your scalp skin may turn red, oily, and crusty accompanied by itchiness.
Scalp buildup is most common among infants, who have yellow thick patches called ‘cradle cap’ on the scalp .
Why Does Scalp Buildup Occur?
You need to identify the causes of your scalp buildup to treat it right. You can categorize the factors causing your scalp buildup into two types - natural scalp buildup and product scalp buildup.
1. Natural Scalp Buildup
Ayurveda believes that every form of life is the combination of Vata, Pitta, and Kapha energies, which govern the psycho-physiological and biological functioning of living beings. Any imbalance occurring in the equilibrium state of these three energies or doshas may lead to several ailments in your body.
Aggravation of Vata, Pitta, and Kapha doshas in your body may lead to different types of scalp buildup naturally as discussed below.
A. Dead Skin Cells
Your scalp skin tissue undergoes the natural cycle of dying and shedding in the form of flakes and regrowing. But, when Vata dosha is in an aggravated state, it causes extreme dryness in your scalp tissues. This in turn leads to excessive accumulation of dead skin cells, which turns into scalp buildup over time.
People with aggravated Pitta dosha sweat more than others due to imbalances occurring in their hormonal production. If not washed away, it results in a greasy buildup with an undesirable odour.
The production of sebum  spikes up to abnormally high levels when Kapha dosha increases in your body, leading to its buildup on your scalp.
“In scenarios like menopause, the vitiation of all the three doshas in women may cause a combined scalp buildup of sweat, sebum and dead skin cells,’’ says Dr. Zeel.
2. Product Buildup
You may invest heavily in your hair oils, shampoos, conditioners, styling creams, serums, and sprays, to promote healthy hair growth and give a voluminous and shiny look to your hair.
But, these products may make the situation worse and result in scalp irritation and buildup . Most of these products contain gummy waxes, silicons, greasy moisturizers along with harmful chemical residues present in them, which sticks to your scalp and hair for a longer time.
Can Scalp Buildup Cause Hair Loss?
Yes. If not treated, scalp build up may result in hair follicle inflammation caused by bacterial or fungal infestation. This condition is called ‘scalp folliculitis’, which eventually leads to scarring or permanent hair loss.
“The buildup also blocks the absorption of nutrients and moisture into the scalp and hair tissues, while resulting in dryness and malnourishment of your scalp and hair,’’ says Dr. Zeel.
How To Clean Your Scalp Buildup?
1. Herbal Or Ayurvedic Hair Care
Whether your scalp buildup is due to natural causes or has resulted from hair products, the first thing you need to do is switch to natural hair care products free from harmful chemicals such as sulfates, parabens , waxes, and silicons, etc. This will help you cut down your susceptibility to developing product scalp buildup.
Secondly, you need to choose your natural or Ayurvedic hair care products with specific ingredients that balance your elevated doshas. This, in turn, will prevent your scalp from developing all the natural forms of buildup.
Here are some of the dosha specific herbs you can look in your hair care products to keep your scalp and hair healthy:
A. Vata controlling herbs:
Yashtimadhu, devdar, bakuchi, brahmi, palandu, krishna tila, sariyaka, ashwagandha, etc.
B. Pitta controlling herbs:
Japa, musta, usheera, vetiver, nimba, karpoora, etc.
C. Kapha controlling herbs:
Gunja, saireyaka, ashwagandha, kushta, methika, sage, jyotishmati, karanja, etc.
D. Tridosha controlling herbs:
Aloevera, bhringraj, amalaki, etc.
If you are not willing to shift to herbal products completely, you can opt for hair care products that are mild and have ingredients well-suited to your hair type. A mild clarifying chemical-free shampoo  can help you get rid of scalp build ups within a few times of usage.
2. Home Remedies
A. Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar has acidic content that helps in breaking down the residue buildup on your scalp. Mix half cup of apple cider vinegar with half cup of cold water. After shampooing, apply this solution to your scalp and leave it for a few minutes before washing it off with water.
B. Baking Soda
Baking soda acts as a natural clarifier and helps in eliminating scalp buildup efficiently. Add 2 tsp of baking soda into 1 cup of water and stir it thoroughly until it forms a clear solution.
Pour this solution onto your scalp after hair wash and massage it for a few minutes before rinsing.
3. Regular Scalp Exfoliation
Just like the rest of your body, your scalp needs exfoliation too, to remove accumulated dead skin cells from your pores. In general, scalp exfoliation can be done just after shampooing. You follow the below steps for gently exfoliating your scalp:
- Comb your hair slowly and divide it into small sections.
- Apply the scrub over the scalp in the sectional region using your fingertips.
- Now rub the scrub gently in a circular motion for a few minutes.
- Repeat this across the sections of your scalp and rinse it off thoroughly with normal water.
You can also try a few DIY natural scalp scrubs to get a healthy scalp and refreshed hair. Here are some of the DIY scrubs:
A. Sea Salt And Lemon Scrub
Prepare a scrub by mixing half cup of sea salt, 2 tsp of lemon juice, and 2 tsp of olive or jojoba oil.
B. Brown Sugar And Oatmeal Scrub
Mix 2 tsp of finely ground oatmeal and 2 tsp of brown sugar. You can also add some light oil of your choice to prepare your scrub.
4. Keep Hair Tangle-free
Hair tangles and knots trap the product residues, dirt, and grime in your hair, and ultimately settles on your scalp. Hence, you need to brush your hair regularly and keep it tangle-free to prevent scalp buildup.
How To Prevent Scalp Buildup?
You should take the following measures to prevent scalp buildup:
1. Avoid using chemical-based hair products. Even if you want to use them, apply them sparingly.
2. Maintain a healthy hair care routine while scheduling your hair wash at least twice a week.
3. Have a hair wash after your workout. This prevents the accumulation of sweat.
4. Use a cap or scarf to guard your scalp from environmental aggressors. You can also wear a swimming cap before hopping into the pool.
Vedix Tip: Ayurveda recommends conditioning your hair with hot oil massage before shampooing. Besides imparting deep nourishment and conditioning to your hair, this practice prevents oil and conditioner buildup over your scalp.
When To Seek A Doctor?
You need to seek a doctor’s guidance immediately in the following conditions:
A. When the flaking does not stop despite trying home treatments for a significant time period.
B. When your condition starts to worsen more with increased inflammation and scalp pain.
The doctors evaluate the root causes while examining if you are experiencing any other condition such as scalp psoriasis and devise a treatment plan accordingly.
Ensure to consult your doctor or Ayurvedic practitioner before implementing any of the treatments mentioned in this article to deal with scalp buildup.
The Last Word
Along with good hair hygiene, maintaining a proper hair care regime with suitable products can help you prevent scalp buildup effectively. The right formulation and use of Ayurvedic herbs based on your hair type and condition not only make your scalp free from buildups, but also keep your elevated doshas in a balanced state. This is something you can achieve through Vedix, where we customize Ayurvedic hair care solutions solely for your hair needs.Know Your Dosha Now