Picture this… after developing the classic signs of Male Pattern Hair Loss you make the decision to go bald gracefully.
You shave your head, let nature take its course and over the years your thinning hair gradually causes your scalp to become fully exposed to the elements.
Or, you develop patchy hair loss from the autoimmune disorder Alopecia Areata – or total baldness of the scalp from its more severe iterations, Alopecia Totalis or Alopecia Universalis. Again, leaving your naked scalp displayed either wholly or in part.
In each instance, and in the case of other hair loss conditions where the scalp becomes exposed, there is a whole area of newly-revealed skin that needs taking care of and protecting.
But how many people are actually aware of why this is so important?
Actinic keratosis and skin cancer
One of the best things people who are bald can do to protect their scalp is to use a good quality sunscreen or sunblock on their head, ensuring it is regularly reapplied as necessary, based on the product’s instructions.
Those who are not necessarily bald but have thinning hair on top – something which is often symptomatic of Female Pattern Hair Loss – may find applying sun creams to their scalp tricky. There are, however, many dedicated sun protection sprays for the scalp and hair available now.
Of course, hats or other head coverings can also be used, but it is important to ensure you block as many of the sun’s UV rays as possible given the less hair there is, the less protection the head has from sunburn.
When there is no hair on top of the head, ultraviolet (UV) rays from daylight, or artificial UV light sources, are better able to penetrate the skin in this area, as well as the top of the ears, which would otherwise generally be better shaded by hair. Continues below…
This is why researchers, from Danish company LEO Pharma, developing treatments for Actinic Keratosis – a potentially pre-cancerous condition which causes a crusty, scaly scalp from repeated UV exposure – used men with extensive hair loss as their trial subjects.
According to official advice on actinic keratosis from the UK’s National Health Service (NHS), the rough patches of skin that this scalp condition – also known as solar keratosis – can cause, “aren’t usually a serious problem and can go away on their own, but it’s important to get them checked as there’s a chance they might turn into skin cancer at some point”.
It tends to affect areas that are most frequently exposed to sunlight, including the face, hands, forearms and lower legs as well as the ears and scalp.
Skin cancer prevention is the primary reason for ensuring proper scalp care featuring a suitable sunblock or high SPF sun cream is practised daily, all year round. Don’t forget, UV rays can penetrate even on cloudy days, not just sunny ones.
Other scalp conditions
Many scalp conditions, including psoriasis, can be autoimmune and hereditary in nature, and will therefore present whether you have hair or not; obviously if you are bald or have extensive hairloss, they may simply become more noticeable.
Whilst others, such as seborrhoeic dermatitis, which – when it affects the head – causes a red, itchy and scaly-looking scalp that flakes easily, are not genetic, but have other triggering factors such as an overgrowth of, or an over-active immune response to yeast found on the skin called Malassezia furfur. This is most likely to affect those prone to allergies, hayfever, asthma and eczema, and is generally worse in dry and cold weather.
These cannot be prevented, but practising good scalp hygiene, such as washing the scalp daily, is recommended. Patients are generally advised to use a tailored shampoo – often medicated shampoo with formulations including zinc pyrithione, selenium sulphide, coal tar or ketoconazole – as these can be beneficial and ease symptoms. It is important to follow the usage directions as some may only be used every other day, for example, or on a short-term basis.
It you are concerned about problems with your scalp, a hair specialist or dermatologist should be able to provide you with a diagnosis and appropriate treatment recommendations, following a consultation.
The Belgravia Centre is an organisation specialising in hair growth and hair loss prevention with two clinics and in-house pharmacies in Central London, UK. If you are worried about hair loss you can arrange a free consultation with a hair loss expert or complete our Online Consultation Form from anywhere in the world. View our Hair Loss Success Stories, which includes the world’s largest gallery of hair growth comparison photos and demonstrates the levels of success that so many of Belgravia’s patients achieve. You can also phone 020 7730 6666 any time to arrange a free consultation.