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Quarantine hair: how lockdown can sabotage your scalp health

Written by Ross Goodhart

The era of COVID-19 is unprecedented in our culture and economy. We’re all doing our part to stay home and help keep ourselves and others safe. It’s also a grand experiment in hygiene.

After all, most of us are spending far less time with each other, and far more time in our homes. That means we don’t always have to look presentable (i.e. pajamas all day) and our normal rhythms - breakfast, shower, work - are completely disrupted.

If you’re noticing some new hair and scalp problems, you are certainly not alone. (We know, it’s not the kind of company you were looking for.) Let’s explore five ways lockdown can wreak havoc on your scalp and hair health, and review some tips for getting it back on track.

1. The stress pandemic

We’re living in a horribly stressful time. Whether you’re worried about your income, caring for a sick loved one, trapped inside with the kids, or simply going stir crazy, we’re all feeling the stress effects.

Stress, of course, is linked to an almost endless range of health problems - including hair and scalp issues. While it may not cause dandruff outright, stress can be a major contributor to flakes and itching. It can also mess with your immune system, which may aggravate conditions that cause dandruff, such as eczema or seborrheic dermatitis.

It’s true that many of our favorite de-stressing activities are off-limits right now (going to the gym, eating out, hanging with friends). But there are still many ways you can help yourself decompress.  Write in a journal, find an indoor workout routine you enjoy, dance to your favorite music, or try hosting a virtual happy hour. At the very least, you’ll have an excuse to avoid looking at the news for a little while. 

2. Skipping self-care

With no one else around, the temptation can be enormous to skip your shower today. And tomorrow. And the day after. (Hey, you can always just throw on a hat for your Zoom meeting, right?)

We get it. But remember, your scalp is a delicate ecosystem. Letting oil and grime build up can cascade into deeper problems that don’t go away when you finally get around to showering. This is a special concern if you’re dealing with dandruff. Dandruff shampoos only works if you use them regularly. Plus, letting your hair collect grease, dust, and other grime can cause irritation that exacerbates dandruff further. 

That’s why it’s crucial to stay in a healthy daily hygiene habit. Shower every day, use a Zinc Pyrithione based dandruff shampoo, and brush your scalp to help remove excess dead skin cells. This daily self-care routine isn’t just good for your hair - it can actually lower your stress, too. These little things that help you feel good in your body and relax your mind are more important than ever right now.

3. Eating poorly

While a perfect diet won’t cure your dandruff, eating a lot of junk food can make things worse for your scalp and skin.

We know keeping a healthy diet can be tough these days. Even simple things like shopping for groceries have gotten a lot more difficult. When junk food is what’s easily available, the temptation can be much greater to rely on it for more of your daily calories. Of course, we aren’t saying you shouldn’t treat yourself. Just understand that there is a connection between your diet and your hair health.

Don’t forget that many restaurants are offering take out and delivery, which can help you get a nutritious meal (and a break from the kitchen). You can order freshly cooked meals with plenty of vegetables and healthy fats, or find a restaurant that’s selling produce and other groceries. Many of them even have toilet paper available and are happy to deliver right to your door.

...it’s crucial to stay in a healthy daily hygiene habit. Shower every day, use a Zinc Pyrithione based dandruff shampoo, and brush your scalp to help remove excess dead skin cells.

4. A change of atmosphere

Your home, workplace, gym, car, etc. all have their own microclimate, with different levels of humidity, airflow, and sunlight. That means a sudden change in your daily routine is exposing your hair and scalp to very different conditions. This can absolutely throw off your scalp health.

For instance, the air in your home might be more humid than the air in your office. Your scalp can feel the difference, and may respond by itching and flaking. Or perhaps your workplace has air conditioning, but you use fans in the home. That increase in airflow could be pulling more moisture out of your scalp, further drying it and altering the microbiome. Even something as simple as getting less sunlight could mean that your vitamin D levels are falling - and vitamin D has been linked to hair growth.

It’s impossible to know exactly how the different microclimates of daily life during quarantine are affecting your hair and scalp - but rest assured, they are. The only solution here is to be patient, keep a consistent daily hair and scalp care routine, and give your scalp time to adjust.

5. DIY hair care experiments

The sudden abundance of free time at home has led to many interesting trends - like the massive upsurge in jigsaw puzzles and stress-baking. And while it may seem like the perfect time to let your inner homesteader shine and whip up a batch of DIY shampoo (or perhaps even go “no poo” if you’re feeling dangerous), here’s a word of advice: don’t. 

Haircare is a science best left to chemists. Yes, things like coconut oil, vitamin C, and essential oils can work wonders for an itchy, flaky scalp - but only if they’re used properly. These safe-seeming natural recipes can actually make things worse if you don’t have the balance right. DIY treatments can disrupt your scalp's natural microbiome and leave your hair dry or greasy, both of which will aggravate dandruff problems.

Plus, these DIY haircare ingredients can end up being surprisingly expensive when you buy them individually - much more costly than buying a properly formulated shampoo that actually works. So leave hair care products to the experts and your scalp will thank you later.

The bottom line

Does it seem trivial to worry about your scalp health in the midst of a global pandemic? It’s not. Other people are dealing with the same worries and issues. So please, give yourself permission to pay a little extra attention to your hair. 

Those small acts of self-care are incredibly important in an era when so many people are stressed and struggling. And if you take the time to find a scalp care routine you really love, you just might find that it becomes an important part of your overall hair and scalp health - during and after these difficult times. Learn more about the very best in scalp care here.

The “Gotta Get” Set

If you have light-to-moderate flaking, dry scalp, redness or irritation, this is the go-to duo for you. Formulated as a pair, our medicated shampoo tends to your dandruff, while the conditioner adds needed moisture to your scalp and hair. The net result = a clean, hydrated scalp and healthy, shiny hair. Check out The "Triple Threat" Set if you flake on the regular and could use a bit more control.

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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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