Bacteria and Fungi on the Scalp Keep It Healthy

February 7, 2018

We don't always think of the scalp as skin, but that's exactly what it is. Yet we frequently fail to give it the time and attention we give to the rest of our bodies. Sometimes that's okay. But like the rest of your skin, the scalp is home to a host of fungi and bacteria that need to stay in the proper balance for this part of your body to stay healthy.

Imbalances can cause prolonged frustrations in a quest for healthy hair as well as hair loss. Fortunately, there are ways to address imbalance issues, and various skin care companies are pursuing new avenues of treating these issues before they start. Who knows - before long, you may be able to buy a probiotic for your hair!

When we hear the term "microbiome," we usually think of the gut. But the scalp has its own microbiome. The most common sign of a disruption in the micro-ecology of the scalp is dandruff. An overgrowth of yeasts can kill off skin cells early, causing scales to form. One of these types of yeast, called M. restricta, can be up to 10 times more prevalent in dandruff-prone areas of the scalp than in dandruff-free areas. These areas also show differences in the overall makeup of the bacteria and fungi populating the scalp, with dandruff-prone scalps having a lower ratio of healthy bacteria to unhealthy bacteria. The latest research clearly suggests that the microbiota of the scalp plays a role in the formation of dandruff, though the exact cause is not yet known.

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Researchers are hopeful that continuing to investigate this relationship will lead to breakthroughs in dandruff treatment options. Currently, dandruff must be consistently treated with an antifungal product. This limits the growth of yeasts, which typically noticeably improves dandruff within a few applications. However, treatment often needs to be repeated every four to six weeks as the yeasts recolonize the scalp. Obviously, this is not an ideal solution, so researchers are interested in finding a way to help the scalp microbiota maintain its equilibrium more effectively. This research may ultimately lead to products that can treat a number of skin conditions, from dandruff to atopic dermatitis to signs of aging.

The role of microbiomes both inside your body and on the outside is fascinating. This line of research could have very positive implications for our health. I'll be sure to keep you posted on new breakthroughs as they happen. In the meantime, an anti-dandruff shampoo is worth trying if you need one. Shampoos that contain zinc and selenium are often the most effective in resolving dandruff. Mix a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar with 2 tablespoons of water and apply to your scalp and hair. This helps to slowly rid the yeast on your scalp and give your scalp a more acidic pH - also helping to ward off bacteria. Just don't be frustrated if you need to repeat the process regularly. That's part of how the microbiome works.

To your health, naturally,


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