Saunas have been used by cultures around the world for millennia. But do they have hidden dangers for your hair? Let’s find out.
Across Europe, Central America and Asia, saunas have been used by various cultures for millennia. Their use is associated with a host of benefits, including helping with colds, cleansing the skin, flushing out toxins and relieving stress.
But does sitting in a hot steam room have any negative effects on your hair? And what does it do to dandruff?
How saunas work
Saunas come in many shapes and sizes, depending on the culture and tradition, but they generally have a few things in common.
A sauna is a room or building where the heat is raised, either using a dry heat or with steam. Sitting in the room causes you to sweat as your body temperature rises. This is considered to be the source of the benefits of sauna usage.
Unfortunately, this constant heat isn’t always good for your hair. While it isn’t a direct cause of dandruff, it can cause problems.
To find out why, let’s discuss what dandruff is.
What causes dandruff
Our scalps are home to a microbe called malassezia. It is typically harmless to us, feeding on our natural scalp oils to survive and leaving oleic acid as a by-product.
Unfortunately, even though malassezia is largely harmless, a portion of the population is sensitive to oleic acid. This is the cause of dandruff, and in those who suffer from it will lead to symptoms that include:
- An itchy scalp
- Dry, white flakes of skin
- A red, irritated scalp
Luckily, it’s easy to control dandruff using a good anti-dandruff shampoo. Unluckily, frequent sitting in a sauna can make things more difficult.
Saunas and your hair
Your scalp is a fairly delicate ecosystem, and extended exposure to heat can cause problems. Unfortunately, the entire point of saunas is to expose yourself to heat for extended periods.
The main issue here has to do with humidity. Malassezia thrive best in a warm, moist environment. Humid heat in the sauna, or even sweating on the scalp during the sauna, can cause an increase in malassezia on the scalp. This could contribute to a flare up of dandruff symptoms.
Happily, the same thing you do for dandruff normally will work here too.
As soon as you get out the sauna, jump into a cool shower. Not only will this feel great, but if you use a dandruff shampoo – particularly one designed to control excess oil – at the same time, you’ll be able to keep your scalp happy and healthy.