I am obviously not a doctor. I am, however, a very good Googler of random symptoms in search of a self-diagnosis — to the point where actual doctors are always impressed by the amount of knowledge I possess about diseases I most definitely do not have. So when I started having itchy, flaky patches of skin on my scalp last year, I didn’t head straight to the dermatologist first — I cracked open my computer and consulted the “Diseases and Conditions” tab at MayoClinic.org that I have open at all times. Turns out, I was suffering from a bit of seborrheic dermatitis: a noncontagious skin rash — kind of a turbocharged version of regular old dandruff.
Even real doctors don’t actually know the root cause of seborrheic dermatitis, though winter weather, stress, fatigue, and certain neurological conditions can cause flare-ups (a nasty little guy called Malassezia in skin’s oily secretions may also play a role). I successfully treated my flaky, itchy scalp with a medicated shampoo, but the thing that has really kicked my seborrheic dermatitis’s butt was a $6 hard-rubber shampoo brush.
After breaking a few fingernails in a desperate attempt to give my scalp a good scrubbing, I finally Googled “scalp brush,” which led to me purchasing multiple crummy, hard-plastic versions until I finally settled on this one. Its flexible vinyl bristles give just the right amount of scrubbing pressure without scraping or scratching your head. It works to break up any stubborn dandruff flakes and gets my scalp cleaner than my hands alone ever possibly could —a total luxury for the cost of two lip balms.
Here’s how I use it: I apply shampoo directly to the brush and massage it into my scalp in the mornings (it’s better for tight circles on the skin than combing through the hair). I don’t think I can properly explain via the written word how blissful the experience is. The effect is much like getting a scalp massage at the hair salon (with extremely firm fingers). I even use it while rinsing my hair, to ensure I’ve gotten all the shampoo and conditioner off my scalp. As a result, my dry, patchy flakes are now totally gone — and my scalp, a notorious grease pit, feels cleaner and squeakier than it has in years.
More Strat-approved skin smoothers
Writer Jinnie Lee introduced us to Japan’s best-selling facial exfoliator during Made in Japan week: “Ever since using it, my skin has felt softer, fresher, and even more youthful — never dried out or tight. I personally like to end the exfoliating ceremony with a quick pat of whatever serum I have, for good measure. My friends have started referring to me as ‘Babyface.’ I use it twice a week, which is just enough for a single bottle to last about a year.”
Writer Rachel Raczka is a Turkish glove convert: “I didn’t notice clumps of dead skin washing away, but I did find that it created a sleeker-than-usual surface for shaving and soaking up moisturizer. It wasn’t until a few days of regular use that I noticed the bumps on my arms and legs had faded, and the rest of my bod appeared healthier and glowier from consistent use. It’s like those elimination diets that promote better skin from within, but instead of laying off dairy or wheat, you eliminate a layer of your epidermis.”
During Feet Week, writer Hannah Morrill let us in on the dermatologist-recommended foot cream that gets her heels baby-butt soft: “Besides heavy-duty hydrators, the best foot creams also contain chemical exfoliants — lactic acid, urea, salicylic acid — that loosen the bonds between ossified dead skin cells, allowing them to gently slough away. The best contender I’ve found for this job? CeraVe Renewing SA Cream, which itself was developed with dermatologists and contains both exfoliant salicylic acid (that’s what the SA stands for) and ammonium lactate in the first ten ingredients, meaning the concentrations are significant, not an afterthought.”
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