Be it pipes, toilets, or vacuums, nobody likes a clog. Especially when it’s on your head. Let’s talk about clogged hair follicles. What are they? What causes them to clog? And how do you treat them?
What are clogged hair follicles
First, what are clogged hair follicles? A hair follicle is a small structure in the skin that your hair grows from. Sometimes your hair follicle gets blocked or clogged due to sebum buildup, an excess of products such as shampoo or conditioner, or potential build up of excess chemicals used in hairsprays, dyes, or other hair care products.
This especially can happen in areas of the body with a lot of sweat and skin folds, such as the under arms, or legs. And sometimes, this can happen to the hair follicles on your scalp.
While you might just need to rinse your hair out to get rid of the extra product, sometimes the build up can actually clog the hair follicle. This clogging can cause your skin to get red and inflamed, make tiny bumps (almost pimple like that covers the skin,) and be painful and itchy. In some extreme cases it can also stunt hair growth or lead to worse conditions such as boils, scar tissue, or folliculitus.
How follicles become clogged
Your hair follicles may be clogged for a couple different reasons.
Too much hair products may be the cause of a clogged hair follicles. Especially if you don’t wash out all the product properly and there is still a residue of it on your scalp.
Dead skin cells can also cause clogged hair follicles. They should shed and new ones regrow, but sometimes the skin cells don’t shed fast enough and instead they build up.
Another reason for a clogged follicle happens because of too much sebum and keratin. These are natural oily-like proteins found in hair, skin, and nails that help to protect the skin and hair. Too much buildup of these proteins can also cause a clogged hair follicle.
After it becomes clogged the hair follicle can trap sweat inside, which causes bacteria to grow. The bacteria growth can lead to the hair follicle filling with pus, becoming swollen, and even rupturing.
How to avoid scalp build up
Try some of these suggestions to avoid getting clogged hair follicles.
- Avoid using too much hair product. Hair products can be great for styling and taking care of your hair, but too much can cause buildup and eventually clogged hair follicles. Use a small amount of product when applying it to your hair, and make sure to rinse it out really well.
- Take care of your hair. Regardless of scalp buildup, maintaining a healthy hair routine is needed to keep hair staying shiny, strong, and beautiful. Regular brushing and washing can also help prevent buildup.
- Avoid heat. Using a lot of heat, through straighteners or other things, can cause your scalp to dry out and get clogged. Avoid or limit your hair’s exposure to heat.
- Use natural shampoos. Using a shampoo with a lot of chemicals or harsh ingredients can irritate the scalp and cause build up. Click here to read about what ingredients are the worst for your hair, and consider buying shampoos with more natural ingredients or making your own.
- Wash your hair after exercising. Especially if your workout caused you to sweat a lot, as that could mean the sweat started clogging up hair follicles.
How to unclog your hair follicles
If your hair follicles are already clogged, here is a list of 5 natural remedies to help unclog them.
1. Exfoliating your scalp
Exfoliating your scalp can be a great way to remove any product, dead skin cells, and other build up. An exfoliant is usually part scalp massage and part treatment with ingredients to help heal the scalp.
There are different exfoliants you can buy or make, or you can get exfoliant gloves. Rubbing the product on your scalp in a circular motion and rinsing it off with warm water will help your scalp and hair follicles unclog. Exfoliate your scalp once a week.
2. Apple Cider Vinegar Rinse
Rinsing your hair with apple cider vinegar is a great way to unclog your scalp. It gets rid of and prevents bacteria growth, cleans out dead skin cells and other build up, balances the ph level of your hair, and soothes any itchiness or greasiness in the scalp.
3. Tea tree oil
Tea tree oil helps unclog pores and hair follicles. It has many benefits, including antimicrobial properties and antiseptic. It has awesome cleansing powers and is known for it’s ability to unclog follicles and help your scalp be healthier and cleaner. Mix 3 drops of this oil with 2 tablespoons of carrier oil and massage your scalp. Let sit for 15 minutes and wash out.
4. Cold showers
Using hot water dries out skin and hair. This can lead to clogged pores. Using a cold shower will help firm up the skin and help your hair be more healthy. Warm or hot water will open up your pores, which can be helpful for them to clean out, but then cold water will help the pores close and narrow, and unclog. Cold showers can also help get rid of and prevent dandruff, improve blood circulation to the scalp, make the hair smoother, and prevent breakage.
5. Aloe Vera
Aloe Vera contains an enzyme called proteolytic enzyme, which can help break down dead skin cells, excess sebum, and more. It also helps soothe the skin, so if you have any bumps or red itchy areas from your clogged follicles, aloe vera can help calm the skin down and promote healing. In short, aloe is a great remedy for clogged hair follicles. Use a shampoo with aloe vera in it, or use aloe as a hair mask one to two times per week.
Healthy Diet for hair follicles
Eating a healthy diet full of fruits and vegetables is another great place to start for clogged hair follicles. A healthy diet will help your body start producing just the right amount of sebum so your follicles won’t get clogged and healing can happen fast if they do.
Focus on eating healthy fats from fish, nuts, seeds, avocado, and plant oils to reduce inflammation. Try to limit your intake of sugar, dairy, and fried/greasy products will also help reduce your oil and sebum production and can help your hair stay healthy.
Increase your water intake.
The bottom line
Clogged hair follicles aren’t fun at all. At the very minimum they can be mildly annoying and make your hair look very oily and greasy. At their worst clogged hair follicles can lead to folliculitis.
If things don’t improve with these natural remedies go see a dermatologist or speak with a certified health coach.