Bacteria, Yeast And Dead Skin Cells Are To Blame For Your Smelly Hair

It all comes down to bacteria.

Have you ever woken up in the morning and thought to yourself, "Wow, my hair smells really bad today and it's super oily"? Well, same.

Luckily, this little thing called dry shampoo saves the day by absorbing all those oils, while making your hair smell like a fresh garden of roses, leaving you unphased about your stinky scalp.

But we must ask: have you ever really thought about the reason why your hair smells? Or why it smells even worse than your body?

In an interview with Refinery29, dermatologist Francesca Fusco, MD, says the reason why our hair smells so bad is because of a build-up of sebum and sweat, which makes our scalp a "breeding ground for yeast, dead skin cells and bacteria."

Um, OK, that's gross.

Dr. Fusco notes that sweat doesn't actually have an odour, so what you're smelling in your hair is bacteria "feed[ing] off lipids and proteins in your sweat," which are secreting compounds that smell like onions and cheese (we're sorry we had to make you read that).

And since your hair keeps your scalp warm, it makes your head the perfect incubator for bacteria, especially when you sweat (that's when oils and fatty acids set in to "feast," according to Dr. Fusco).

Maxine Ryan, Pierre Fabre senior training manager, notes in an email with HuffPost Canada Style, the more oil your hair produces, the more bacteria has to "eat," which in turn will lead to a smell. And these oils aren't a result of not washing your hair daily — it often has to do with the fact that some people just naturally produce more oil than others.

"The key factor is hormones also known as androgens. They activate our sebaceous glands so they dictate how much or how little we produce," Ryan explains. "Some people have an under-production which causes the opposite effect and contributes to dry skin or scalp."

Cue dandruff.

But do not fret. A double dose of smell and dandruff does not mean you have poor hygiene. Again, it comes back to hormones and oil production. So for that, an anti-dandruff shampoo can keep your scalp healthy. As David Kingsley, PhD, tells Refinery29, finding a shampoo with zinc pyrithione "essentially kills off the yeast that causes the annoying white flakes."

The more you know.

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