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3 reasons travel makes dandruff worse - and how you can fix it

Written by Robbie Salter

Vacations and even work trips are a break from the 9-5 grind. But if you’re dealing with dandruff, travel can throw a serious wrench in your scalp health. 

The good news is that it just takes a little foresight to keep those flakes from showing up in your travel pics. Let’s explore why travel can exacerbate dandruff, what to put in your dandruff travel kit, and how to stay flake-free for good.

The lowdown on dandruff

Dandruff is the flaking and itchiness caused by irritation of the scalp. It has a number of root causes including dry scalp, seborrheic dermatitis, and eczema. While there is no cure for dandruff, routine dandruff treatment can keep you flake-free. And the foundation of your routine is dandruff shampoo.

The must-have active ingredient used in dandruff treatments is Zinc Pyrithione. Dandruff shampoos should also lift out dirt, grime, and other impurities to cleanse your scalp and restore your hair’s natural shine, without stripping away the sebum oil you need for healthy hair. 

The ideal shampoo is sulfate-free, paraben-free, and safe for all hair types. It should also have the right support cast of beautiful, soothing ingredients. Things like lavender essential oil, salicylic acid, coconut oil, and tea tree oil can help soothe and moisturize your scalp and hair.

Routine is key for managing your dandruff effectively. Anything that breaks your routine (like travel) can bring your flakes back with a vengeance. Here are the three biggest reasons travel causes scalp problems - and how you can keep your hair and scalp healthy on the road.

1. You change your shower routine 

Even if you’re still showering every day, a change in your hair care products can make a huge difference. The convenience of those free little hotel shampoo bottles might be enticing - but they tend to be cheap, low-quality products. They certainly aren meant to fight dandruff, and they might even make your flaking worse. 

Most conventional shampoos use harsh surfactants like sodium lauryl sulfate that strip your hair and scalp of their natural oils. They also contain a slew of other harsh chemicals, such as parabens and phthalates, that are linked to hormonal imbalances and cancer.

The solution? Stock your dandruff travel kit with your go-to shampoo and conditioner. If you’re flying, skip the travel-size hair products and get your own reusable containers. You can easily pour your favorite dandruff shampoo and hair conditioner into the bottles to save money and avoid plastic waste. You should also bring a scalp brush, especially if you’re camping, to clean out your pores and exfoliate. This will help prevent itchiness, so you don’t end up scratching and exacerbating your dandruff.

Don’t be surprised if you see changing levels of oil and sweat - especially if you’re camping or staying in a rustic locale. Travel (for reasons we’ll get into shortly) can still cause big changes in scalp chemistry. Just be mindful of these changes, and stay true to your scalp care routine. This is a simple way to dodge one of the biggest disruptions to your daily scalp and hair health.

Just going to a new location with different humidity and airflow conditions can absolutely lead to dandruff flare-ups.

2. You’re stressed

It’s ironic and slightly maddening, but travel can be seriously stressful. Getting packed, hustling to the airport, and fighting through security while the clock is ticking can all put you on edge. Even when things settle down and you’re having a blast, there are a ton of little changes that can stress your body. You may sleep on different fabrics that irritate your skin or scalp, make big changes to your diet, stay up late, drink more alcohol, etc. 

When you’re stressed, your body releases cortisol, aka the stress hormone. Your heart rate may be elevated and you might have a lot of muscle tension. Of course, this inflammatory response isn’t great for your health. And for people with dandruff, it can be a major factor causing flakes and itching. 

There’s no silver bullet for lowering stress during vacation, any more than there is in your daily life. But the little things do add up and make a difference. So take it easy on your body (i.e. opt for nourishing, healthy foods), get enough shut-eye, use your meditation app, do a little vacation yoga, and try to leave some decompression time after vacation before you jump back into work.

3. You’re out of your element

For most of us, getting out in the sun is a vacation requirement. But what many people forget is that your scalp is just as susceptible to sunburn as your skin is - even if you have a full head of hair. Sunburns can cause dry scalp, peeling, and otherwise irritated skin. Unless you protect your scalp from the elements, sun exposure can make your dandruff significantly worse.

That’s why a shade is your best friend! Whether under an umbrella or a breezy sunhat, shade keeps your sensitive scalp safe from harsh UV rays. You can also still use sunscreen on your scalp - just get a high-SPF spray and be sure to rub it into your scalp. Afterwards, wash your hair thoroughly and rinse all the sunscreen out to keep your scalp clean. 

Even if you’re traveling for work and stuck inside at a conference, you're still in a whole new environment - and your scalp knows it. Just going to a new location with different humidity and airflow conditions can absolutely lead to dandruff flare-ups. Preventing these disruptions to your scalp microbiome is often simply a matter of being mindful. Try to keep the air and light conditions in your hotel room similar to your home.

The bottom line

Kicking flakes to the curb is all about consistency in your scalp care routine - and it’s no different while you travel. The fewer disruptions to your routine, the happy and healthier your scalp will be. That means sticking with your regular dandruff shampoo and conditioner, keeping your stress levels low, and maintaining a stable climate for your scalp. Give your hair this kind of careful attention and - we promise - it’ll reward you by staying lustrous and flake-free.

Balancing Shampoo

Meet our medicated head honcho. This soothing cleanser gets to the root of dandruff (flaking, irritation, dry scalp), thanks to our star active ingredient, Zinc Pyrithione. Proven to also reduce hair breakage by 30% - with a lush aroma of mint, vanilla, sage, and lavender - it’s bound to elevate your mood and your shower.

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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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