It can be embarrassing to have a scalp with a foul odor. Do you want to fix your smelly hair syndrome naturally? If yes, we are here to help you.
‘’Often, a smelly scalp can be the result of insufficient washing or bad hair hygiene. However, there could also be much deeper issues that may cause a smelly scalp despite regular washing’’, says Dr. Zeel Gandhi, Chief Ayurvedic Doctor at Vedix.
In this article, let’s understand the many factors that cause smelly scalp syndrome while exploring effective herbal and home remedies to resolve it.
What Is Smelly Hair Syndrome?
Smelly hair syndrome involves a malodor that your scalp and hair produce due to a variety of bacterial and fungal growth. ‘’The microbes break down your scalp sebum, sweat or dead cells, into certain acids that cause an unpleasant foul smell’’, says Dr. Zeel.
What Does Smelly Hair Smell Like?
People often compare the odor of smelly hair and scalp to sour milk, dirty socks, and sometimes stinky diapers. People can easily notice the pungent stench.
Why Do You Have Smelly Hair?
According to Ayurveda, your scalp and hair condition depends upon the equilibrium of your vital bodily energies: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. Vitiation of your doshas results in a variety of diseases, including scalp problems.
Based on this ancient concept of tri doshas, if Kapha and Pitta doshas are aggravated in your body, your scalp produces excess sebum and sweat. This, in turn, results in various microbial scalp infections like oily dandruff, scalp psoriasis, seborrheic dermatitis, yeast infestations, etc. causing smelly scalp and hair.
This is usually more common in people with Kapha dominating innate Prakriti, who have oily scalp with highly active sebum glands.
In adults, the average rate of sebum production is 1mg/10 sq cm for every 3 hours. It is considered oily skin when the sebum production exceeds 1.5 mg/10 sq cm for every 3 hours .
To reverse your smelly hair syndrome, you need to bring tridoshas in your body to a balanced state that can be achieved naturally through Ayurveda.
Before that, let us understand different factors that cause an imbalance in your Kapha and Pitta doshas, resulting in smelly hair and scalp.
What Causes Smelly Hair And Scalp?
1. Hormonal Imbalances And Stress
During conditions like puberty in men and pregnancy, menopause, etc. in women, the extreme fluctuations in the production of different hormones cause derangement in your Pitta dosha. This may further cause your Kapha dosha to aggravate, leading to the overproduction of sebum on your scalp.
A stressful lifestyle could often be a potential cause for hormonal imbalance, triggering excessive sebum production on your scalp.
2. Improper Diet
Ayurveda suggests specific guidelines and foods to maintain the balance of each dosha. Especially if you have Kapha-Pitta dominating innate Prakriti, eating oily or fried foods, dairy products, excessively spicy foods, and salty foods may cause vitiation in your doshas. This results in the secretion of excessive scalp oils.
3. Seasonal Conditions
Kapha aggravates in the spring season while you can experience Pitta elevation during autumn. Also, the aggravated Vata in the monsoon season may cause a spike in Pitta and Kapha doshas, resulting in various scalp related problems in these seasons, causing smelly scalp and hair. In other words, the extreme humidity in the environment during monsoons promotes microbial growth.
Various pollutants in the air can get trapped in your scalp oils and sebum, emitting pungent smells. This further clogs your hair follicles, causing hair loss.
5. Chemical Hair Products
The chemical build up from different hair care products disturbs your scalp pH, causing overproduction of sebum and scalp smell.
6. Bad And Unhygienic Hair Habits
Some of the bad hair habits that can aggravate your scalp smell syndrome if not taken care include:
- Not washing your hair enough
- Prolonged usage of scarfs or caps made of a material that trap sweat on your scalp
- Washing your hair using hot water
Effective Ways To Get Rid Of Smelly Scalp And Hair
1. Essential Oils For Smelly Hair
Besides their strong aromatic capabilities, the essential oils mentioned below possess more vital chemical properties that can benefit your scalp health.
A. Cedar Wood Oil
It works well to balance the activity of oil glands on your scalp. With its antibacterial and antifungal properties , cedarwood oil helps you treat various ailments that cause a smelly scalp.
B. Lavender Oil
It is rich in linalool and linalyl acetate, known to be potent antimicrobial agents  against various pathogenic bacteria. Also, lavender oil is very helpful in maintaining your scalp's pH balance.
C. Tea Tree Oil
It is the most commonly used essential oil in treating dandruff and other pathogenic scalp infections due to its stronger antibacterial and antifungal properties . It reduces your scalp stink effectively.
D. Peppermint Oil
It contains menthone, L-menthol, methyl acetate, and limonene, which exhibit powerful antibacterial activity . Besides imparting a freshened and cooling sensation, peppermint oil gives a unique fragrance to your scalp and hair.
E. Ginger Oil
It is an effective scalp cleanser and reduces your scalp itchiness and smell very well by eliminating bacterial build-up. Also, ginger oil  treats your scalp redness by repairing your damaged and inflamed follicles.
F. Clove Oil
Clove oil contains eugenol, which has antimicrobial, antiseptic, and antifungal properties . It is very effective in treating conditions such as seborrheic dermatitis, scalp pruritus, etc. Along with providing a refreshing aroma to your hair, clove oil eliminates dirt and grease from your scalp.
G. Turmeric Oil
In India, a popular antifungal and antibacterial agent, turmeric, in the form of essential oil , is beneficial in keeping your scalp away from various microbial infestations and stinky scalp smell.
You can incorporate any of these essential oils in your hair care regimen by adding a few drops into your shampoo. You can also mix 5-10 drops of any of these essential oils into 2-3 tsp of carrier oil like coconut, almond, or jojoba oil and massage your scalp and hair thoroughly with it. Then, leave it for about half an hour before proceeding for a gentle hair wash with an Ayurvedic shampoo.
2. Shampoo For Smelly Hair
When you have smelly scalp syndrome, choose Ayurvedic shampoos with any of the following herbal ingredients based on your current dosha levels. These herbs not only fight the microbial growth and add an aromatic essence to your scalp but also contribute to bringing your elevated doshas to balance.
A. Kumari (Aloe Vera)
Aloe vera balances all the three doshas and has natural antiviral and antibacterial properties . It is beneficial in treating dandruff, scalp psoriasis, and other problems that cause stinky scalp while providing gentle conditioning to your hair.
B. Karpoora (Camphor)
Karpoora balances Kapha and Pitta doshas. Owing to its rich antioxidants and antibacterial properties , it resolves your scalp smell while detoxifying your follicles effectively.
C. Nimba (Neem)
Neem balances Kapha and Pitta doshas. Besides fighting against microbial growth on your scalp with strong antibacterial and antifungal properties , neem repairs your broken hair and boosts healthy hair growth.
D. Amalaki (Indian gooseberry)
E. Japa (Hibiscus)
You can also treat your scalp with the above ingredients in the form of homemade herbal shampoos or dry shampoos to fix your smelly scalp syndrome.
Vedix Tip: Keep your hair wash limited to not more than twice or thrice a week, even if you have an oily scalp. A common misconception is that the more you wash your hair, the lesser your scalp becomes greasy. In reality, your hair becomes more greasy if you wash it too frequently.
3. Hair Spray For Smelly Hair
You can start using Ayurvedic hair sprays or hair mists, which not only revitalize your dull hair but also save you from your scalp smell by adding a natural herbal fragrance to your hair.
4. Home Remedies
A. Lemon Juice
Mix 2 tsp of lemon juice in a cup of any carrier oil like coconut oil or almond oil. You can also add the juice into a cup of water. Massage your scalp thoroughly with the solution and let it sink in for 15 minutes. Now, wash it off properly using normal water. Repeat the process twice a week.
B. Baking Soda
Mix 1 tsp of baking soda in a cup of water. You can also add a few drops of rosemary oil into it for fragrance. Now, wash your scalp properly with this solution and leave it for about 20 minutes. Later, rinse it off with normal water. Repeat the process once a week.
C. Apple Cider Vinegar
Prepare a solution by mixing ¼ cup of apple cider vinegar and ¾ cup of water. You can add ⅛ cup of lemon juice and a few drops of essential oil of your choice into it. Massage your scalp with this solution thoroughly. Leave it for half an hour before washing it off.
D. Tomato Juice
Remove the peel and grind the pulp of tomato into juice. Apply it across your scalp and give a gentle massage. Leave it for about 20-30 minutes before washing your scalp and hair.
Put four chopped garlic cloves  into ½ cup of coconut oil. Now, heat the oil in low flame for a few minutes. Keep the oil aside for cooling. When the oil is slightly warm, apply it across your scalp while giving a gentle massage. Let the oil sink into your follicles for 20-30 minutes before you go for hair wash with an Ayurvedic shampoo.
F. Onion Juice
Blend onions and extract the juice using a strainer. Apply this juice across your scalp using a cotton ball and massage it for a few minutes. Leave it for about 30 minutes before rinsing it off using an Ayurvedic shampoo. Repeat this once or twice a week.
How To Prevent Smelly Scalp And Hair?
1. Stay away from alcohol as it greatly aggravates your doshas.
2. Use chemical-free hair products. Ensure that your hair products are free of sulfates and parabens.
3. Wash your scalp and hair thoroughly post-workout. This helps you prevent sweat build up on your scalp.
4. Step-out only after your scalp and hair are thoroughly air-dried.
5. Use a clean cotton scarf or hat to protect your scalp from pollution and sun damage. It also absorbs the sweat produced from your scalp and keeps it dry.
6. Avoid frequently scratching your scalp as it leads to excessive shedding of dead cells, which, in turn, increases the risk of microbial infections.
7. Regular physical workouts, yoga, and meditation help you greatly in detoxification and managing your stress levels.
8. Always use clean hairbrushes, combs, and towels.
Why Does Your Hair Smell Even After Washing?
Your hair may still smell after washing because your shampoo might be ineffective in curbing the fungal and bacterial activity on your scalp.
Most shampoos only work to remove excessive sebum and sweat from your scalp. Washing hair with such shampoos may not fight against microbial infection. The moisture of wet scalp after hair wash will further aggravate the microbial activity, causing a terrible scalp smell after a few hours or immediately.
Hence, it would be best to use shampoos with strong antibacterial and antifungal properties to treat your scalp smell.
Please consult a dermatologist or Ayurvedic doctor before administering any of the remedies mentioned in this article to treat your scalp smell.
The Last Word
Ancient Ayurvedic scripts offer various highly balanced herbal formulations to cure scalp infections that cause scalp smell. The holistic herbs eliminate microbial infections while keeping your doshas in balance. Also, these natural remedies are extremely safe with zero side effects.
At Vedix, we formulate a customized Ayurvedic hair care regimen for you by understanding your doshas and unique hair needs.Know Your Dosha Now