Why does your scalp smell bad?

The smell of flowers is in the air and a light breeze ruffles your hair– but wait! Why does it smell? You may have done everything right (washing your hair regularly, possessing non-oily-looking hair), yet why does it smell? How embarrassing!

What causes smelly scalp?

The main causes of a smelly scalp lies in skin conditions and improper washing:

1. Skin conditions

Skin conditions such as seborrheic dermatitis or dandruff are rashes on the scalp, which causes itching or flaking. The oily flakes tend to cause an unpleasant odour.

Our scalp contains a microbiome for healthy functioning. However, when there is an excess of a type of bacteria or fungus, the microbiome imbalance creates an infection which contributes to a smelly scalp.

2. Improper hygiene

Over-washing strips away natural oils found in our scalp. In turn, the scalp overcompensates for this loss by producing more sebum. Sebum, along with dirt, builds up on the scalp, thereby irritating it and making the hair smell. Likewise, under-washing your hair also lets oil gather within the scalp and generates an odour.

3. Diet 

Some research has suggested that consuming meat-only affects the smell of our scalp. Foods with strong smells like onion or garlic can also seep out of our pores onto our skin, including the scalp.

4. Anxiety & Stress

Anxiety & stress interferes with regular hormone function, which might result in additional oil production on the scalp.

5. Wearing a hat

Wearing a hat for long periods of time in hot and humid Singapore may facilitate the build-up of sweat and bacteria on the scalp, thus resulting in an unpleasant odour.

How to get rid of the smell?

You may apply some home remedies:

Essential Oils

Essential oil, such as tea tree oil. Tea tree oil is antimicrobial and effective at treating conditions that cause smelly scalp like seborrheic dermatitis.

Aloe Vera

Aloe vera has antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties, and is widely used for various dermatologic concerns.

Lemon Juice

Like tea tree oil, lemon juice contains antimicrobial properties which reduces smell-generating bacteria in the scalp. However, it is irritating to sunlight, and should be used with caution!

Targeted Hair Products

Alternatively, you may try targeted hair products like Chanamu Tea Tree Shampoo. With ingredients such as tea tree and lavender, your scalp will feel cleansed and moisturized after use.

In addition, you may also wish to give Chanamu Scalp Care Tonic a try. Simply spray on the scalp and massage. The natural ingredients in the tonic will effectively solve scalp oiliness, dandruff, and odour in your scalp.

How to prevent smelly scalp?

  • Follow a healthy diet and avoid consuming foods with strong odours.

  • Learn to manage stress such as through yoga.

  • Create proper hair-care routine & hygiene habits. This includes washing and conditioning hair and scalp with the right products regularly; avoiding over- or under-washing hair. As a rule of thumb, Asian people should wash their hair daily, and incorporate a dandruff shampoo each week if he/she has dandruff.

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Sources: (1), (2), (3), (4)