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Ask a Hairstylist: How to Deal With “Sand” on Your Scalp

It could be from your hair products.
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Q: Over the last few months I've noticed these hard grains of "sand" on my scalp. I don't know how else to describe them. They're small, hard and come off in my hands quite easily. Because I know they're there, I will often run my fingertips along my scalp and try to get rid of them. I don't feel overly itchy, but on occasion it happens.

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I've never had dandruff, but I don't think it's that. I'm wondering if it's a product build-up or a reaction to my new-ish shampoo and conditioner. My typical washing routine is Tigi Bed Head Epic Volume Conditioner daily and Tigi Bed Head Epic Volume Shampoo every other day. I use Pureology Purify Shampoo and Schwarzkopf Professional BC Color Freeze once a week... or when I remember.

As for styling, I use Schwarzkopf Professional OSIS+ Grip Volume Extreme Hold Mousse, Redken Texture Rewind 06 Pliable Styling Paste mixed with AG Hair Welding Paste, and TRESemmé Hairspray.

I thought you might be able to offer some advice. Any thoughts? — Gimped

A: Gimped, first and foremost, consult with a dermatologist. This should be your first course of action.

My advice is a "product avoidance diet." 

Mousse, paste and hairspray can be a pretty toxic mixture for your scalp on a regular basis. The combination can create a product build-up and mixture of chemicals that will leave a residue. There is simply no time for the scalp to breathe and realize how it feels about being smothered. This could be creating an environment that is causing the "sand" you are describing.

So taking a hair product holiday is a good place to start, especially if there are any scalp conditions that seem chronic.

I would recommend washing with Nizoral. It is a great cleanser for the scalp.

Nizoral Anti-Dandruff Shampoo

I have used it almost daily for many years, as I have a very sensitive scalp that reacts poorly to most products. If I need to control my hair, I can never let the product touch my scalp. When I don't wash my scalp every day, it flares up and takes a couple of days to calm down. I also wash my face with Nizoral to deal with dry patches of skin.

That said, I know if you are using that many products to achieve your desired style, then "no products" might be too much of a withdrawal…

In that case, it may not be as effective, but natural aloe vera as hair gel can give the hair some support. It also has healing properties as a bonus for using it in the interim.

Jason Aloe Vera Gel

Once you feel your scalp is healthy and free of "scalp sand," then introduce one product back at a time. If it is a particular product that causes this condition to flare up, then you have found the culprit.

There are also dietary issues that can have a direct affect on your skin and scalp. To discover those, you might need to take it to the next level and do a food elimination diet with the assistance of a professional.

I hope this helps you and others who need to get their scalp health back on track.