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Volcanic ash: the weirdest & best new shampoo ingredient?

Written by Ross Goodhart

When a volcano erupts, the plume of ash it emits can darken the sky and shut down air travel for days. But is the same ash also a miracle treatment for your skin and hair? Don’t look so skeptical.

Volcanic ash might sound pretty wild as a cosmetic ingredient, but that hasn’t kept it from gaining a reputation as a cutting-edge addition to natural skin and hair care products. The mixture of microscopic particles including sulfur and bentonite clay is showing up in face lotions, masks, shampoos, and conditioners. It’s touted for its ability to soak up excess oil, exfoliate the skin, and detoxify pores. 

These qualities are said to make volcanic ash especially helpful in addressing conditions like oily hair and skin, acne, as well as symptoms associated with eczema, psoriasis, and even dandruff. And fortunately, you don’t have to get anywhere near an active volcano to reap its benefits. 

In this article, we’ll take a close look at this hot skin care ingredient and how it might work to create healthier skin, hair, and scalp. But first, let’s get clear on what dandruff is and why it happens.

What’s causing my itchy, flaking scalp? 

Dandruff is the itching and flaking of dead skin cells that happen when your scalp gets irritated. 

There can be many causes of scalp irritation - ranging from specific skin conditions like seborrheic dermatitis and psoriasis to genetically-based skin sensitivities and allergies. Diet, stress, climate, and hormonal changes throughout life can all play a role, too. 

But no matter what factor (or combination of factors) might be contributing to your dandruff, they all lead to the same problem on your scalp.

Dandruff means unhealthy scalp buildup

People experiencing dandruff tend to have excess sebum production. Sebum is a fatty, oily substance your body produces naturally to help moisturize your skin and hair. Sebum is secreted by your sebaceous glands, which are found at the base of your hair follicles (and some places where hair doesn’t grow, like your eyelids and your nasolabial folds). 

As part of your skin’s microbiome, sebum is a food source for a fungus called Malassezia. This microbe - along with many others - live on all human skin and help keep it healthy. But in people with dandruff, an overabundance of sebum goes hand in hand with an overgrowth of Malassezia.

In other words, the microbiome of your scalp gets out of balance. This can lead to irritation, itchiness, and ultimately to an unhealthy buildup of dead skin cells in the form of dandruff flakes. 

Rebalancing the microbiome

In order to restore balance to the scalp’s microbiome and eliminate dandruff, it’s crucial to break the cycle that results in all this unhealthy buildup. 

Scientific research has shown that the best way to beat dandruff is through regular use of a professionally-formulated anti-dandruff shampoo with the active ingredient Zinc Pyrithione (more on that later). However, volcanic ash - aka bentonite clay - might also have an important role in scalp care. Let’s look at how this exotic new ingredient can help.

Volcanic ash is made up of fine particles that can gently and effectively exfoliate the scalp. Exfoliation can help remove the layers of old skin cells that build up and become dandruff flakes. 

How volcanic ash helps a flaky scalp

Volcanic ash has a number of properties that make it incredibly useful in removing scalp buildup and calming irritated skin. Here are some of this natural ingredient’s purported health benefits:

It’s an exfoliant

Volcanic ash is made up of fine particles that can gently and effectively exfoliate the scalp. Exfoliation can help remove the layers of old skin cells that build up and become dandruff flakes. 

In healthy scalps, dead skin cells are sloughed off invisibly and comfortably as part of the normal process of skin regeneration. But in scalps with dandruff, some intervention is needed to remove dead skin before it builds up along with layers of sebum and Malassezia wastes, turning your scalp into an irritated, flaky, itchy version of itself.

Volcanic ash’s exfoliating power can help break up that unhealthy scalp buildup and let you wash it away, promoting healthier skin growth. (An exfoliating scalp brush is also perfect for this purpose.)

It’s an anti-inflammatory 

Volcanic ash is known to help soothe inflammation from a variety of skin conditions, including acne, psoriasis, and eczema. Those conditions can be linked to scalp flaking in some people.

An anti-inflammatory helps relieve pain, itching, and discomfort, and can help to calm the destructive process occurring on your skin.

It promotes healthy skin and hair growth

The anti-inflammatory power of volcanic ash comes from its antioxidant content. Antioxidants boost skin health by neutralizing harmful free radicals and repairing the damage they cause via sun exposure, pollution, and the natural aging process. 

Antioxidants also increase blood circulation, promoting healthy skin growth. They can even boost hair growth, by guarding hair follicles against free radical damage. 

The bentonite clay in volcanic ash has been shown in clinical studies to reduce inflammation and irritation caused by contact dermatitis (allergic reaction) from poison ivy and poison oak, and to help heal minor skin injuries. Research also shows bentonite clay can help protect the skin from the effects of certain toxins. All of this research shows that volcanic ash promotes healing of the skin.

It can help unclog pores

Volcanic ash can have a similar effect on your scalp as a mud mask has on your face - it helps to draw out impurities in your pores for a deep cleansing effect. Volcanic ash is exceptionally good at this because its particles are very tiny and absorbent, meaning they can penetrate deep into the skin’s surface to soak up anything that might be causing irritation or damage. That includes excess sebum, hairstyling product buildup, dead skin, pollution, sweat, dirt, and other impurities.

It’s rich in minerals with antiseptic properties 

Volcanic ash is rich in beneficial minerals like potassium and calcium that can help nourish your skin and promote its overall health. The minerals in the bentonite clay of volcanic ash have also been shown in clinical studies to have antimicrobial properties. This can help bring balance to the microbiome of your scalp. 

The best way to use volcanic ash for your scalp

Volcanic ash offers some real potential benefits for people dealing with dandruff. So should you try a DIY hair mask or whip up a homemade shampoo treatment in your kitchen? Not so fast.

Volcanic ash is acidic and can be too abrasive and over-drying when used alone or as part of a home remedy. This can lead to serious irritation, damaged hair, and parched skin that craves moisture. Itchiness and flaking on your scalp can actually increase as a result.

You need a comprehensive hair care regimen that removes unhealthy buildup, gets your microbiome back in balance, and promotes a healthy scalp. Jupiter's Purifying Mask uses the power of volcanic ash and a host of feel-good ingredients like biotin and argan oil to gently exfoliate your scalp, leaving it calmed and nourished. While volcanic ash can play an important role in scalp care, be sure to treat dandruff with a professionally formulated Zinc Pyrithione shampoo to end flaking and cleanse your scalp.

Purifying Mask

Our clarifying foaming scalp mask eliminates excess build-up, gently clears away dead skin, and feels like an at-home exfoliating spa treatment. Designed for use once a week before you wash. the mineral-rich volcanic ash pulls out impurities, while other high-end ingredients nourish the scalp, leaving you cool, calm, collected, and smelling sublime.

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The information contained in this article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice, nor is it a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician with any questions you may have about the information contained herein, as well as the risks or benefits of any treatment.

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