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Sweaty scalp itch: sports vs itchy scalp

When you exercise, even your scalp sweats and scalp itch can get worse. It’s all down to dandruff, which can flare up if you let sweat build. Here’s how to stop it. Find out how sports can make your scalp itchy and your hair look greasier. 

How sports affect an itchy scalp

While it’s good for your health to work up a good sweat, the effects on your scalp might be less than desirable.

That’s because you’re creating a warmer, more humid environment that causes the dandruff-causing microbe Malassezia globosa to thrive.

A young man in a sport hoodie looking on the side.

Watch out for that helmet

If you’re playing sports where you need to wear a helmet, it can be even worse.

Under your helmet, you’re raising the temperature of your head even more and, combined with the sweat, it creates a moist, warm microclimate which is ideal for dandruff-causing microbes.

So, as you play, these microbes can thrive, making the problem seem worse than before.

It can be pretty itchy too. When you scratch that itch, you can further damage the skin and cause the dandruff problem to get worse still – it’s a vicious cycle.

How sports can make your hair greasier

Sweat on your scalp can produce a similar effect to a build-up of oils – your hair looks greasy.

What’s the difference between sweat and sebum?

Sebum is a natural oil that’s constantly produced by the sebaceous glands under the skin. It’s needed to protect and moisturize the hair and scalp, but too much of it can give the hair a greasy appearance, and in some cases lead to irritation and dandruff.

The main reason you sweat is to control your body temperature. When you exercise, your body temperature rises and you sweat lots – when sweat evaporates from your skin, it helps to cool you down.

How does sweat affect your hair?

Sweat travels down the hair shaft, spreading oils and dirt down the hair with it, which can make the hair look dull and greasy.

Plus, a sweaty scalp is a warm, humid microclimate that’s perfect for the dandruff-causing fungus, Malassezia, to thrive. If it’s not dealt with properly, this could cause itching, irritation and even dandruff.

So make sure to thoroughly wash the sweat from your hair and dry it after exercising.

Get sports-ready

Head & Shoulders shampoos and conditioners provide protection against dandruff and the associated itch.

They also give a great clean to wash away any sweat, salt, dirt and oil that build up on the scalp.

Try our Itchy Scalp Care shampoo with eucalyptus, which effectively tackles an itchy scalp from the first wash, leaves your hair clean and will help to keep dandruff at bay.

There’s also our handy on-the-go spray which instantly cools your scalp – it’s perfect to fit in your sports bag and you can use it wherever you are.