Monday 13 June 2011

Grunking on your Scalp

Before I start, I'd like to remind you that I am not a doctor, nor a nurse, nor Doogie Howser. This is stuff I've gleaned from some journals I shouldn't have been looking at, since I still have another 75 episodes of One Piece to catch up on. 
Thus, if you have any medical issues, pleaseplease PLEASE go and have a chat with your doctor, who is actually qualified to dispense with medical advice.

If you read my breakdown of my braids here, then you may have noticed me use the word 'grunk'.

As usual, I was flippant about it, because it was something I assumed everyone had experienced before.

Not so, mes chéries! It looks like the 'Grunk', as I like to call it, is something else entirely.

Ever since I started relaxing, I remember the Grunk - loyal companion to my constantly itchy head who particularly enjoyed making its presence excessively known after 2 or 3 months in braid extensions; I thought it was something that I would just have to accept as a part of life.

Like meany older cousins.

However, I've realised that this is not true. Well, the Grunk, not the mean older cousins.

Mean older cousins are definitely a certainty of life.

If you go on forums or facebook pages or any communal hair pages, and someone describes something that sounds like The Grunk - flaking, itchy scalp that is soothed briefly after a wash, but comes back with a vengeance as soon as you look the other way, most people advise them to clarify with ACV or use a scalp scrub.

Uh, up is usually waxy product build up that leaves your hair dull(er) and lank.

The Grunk (in the context of hair) only occurs on your scalp, because your hair is dead - it cannot produce flakes. 

Though with people with straighter hair, the Grunk can travel down the hair strand and settle on your shoulders.

Sound familiar?

I call it The Grunk.

For some, it is Seborrheic Dermatitis.

For other, it's dandruff.

Before you squeal, close the webpage and protectively clutch your Head and Shoulders at the very mention of the D word, hear me out.

I'm about to put on my 'smart' cap and get my JC swag on.

There is a theory that goes like this:
Everybody has microflora, known as Pityrosporum ovale or Malassezia ovalis on their scalp. 

I'm going to refer to them as the Grunkers though, because that's what I know.

And that's how I roll. 

The Grunkers are a part of the essential workings of the scalp.

Every now and then, they'll release flakes that get rinsed away when you wash your scalp/hair. You don't notice them because...well, they're not noticeable.

People with dandruff have more of the Grunkers working in the same area, so the flakes stick together and are more noticeable:

And if it's Sebhorric Dermatitis, your Grunker density may be slightly higher than that, so the flakes are extremely noticeable.

Grunker Lights! Yay! ^_^
Sources: Journal of Investigative Dermatology [(1975), v.64(6) pg 401]
Journal of American Academy of Dermatology [(1985), v12(5) pg 852]
American Journal of Clinical Dermatology [(2000), v1(2) pg 75

They're basically the same thing, just different levels of severity.

I think cradle cap is also similar, but when it's present in babies, and the Seborrheic Dermatitis is similar to ezcema that people can get on other parts of the body.

I'll tell you what this doesn't mean - it doesn't mean that people with dandruff are dirty, or don't wash their hair enough.

I find it unusual that, amongst the 'natural community', topics like this haven't come up more often - almost every single person will say something about maintaining the health of your scalp being imperative for the health of your hair, but then what do you do if your scalp is flaring up something rotten? It only came to my attention when Serenity Spot brought it up on her blog.

There may be some connection between this and use of relaxers, but any evidence is purely anecdotal.

From what I can see, there's no definite cure - it's a condition that either you manage for the rest of your life, or it clears up on its own.

If you think you have too many Grunkers in your hair trunk, as a normal (albeit nosey) member of society, I would advise you go to your doctor and get their recommendation for treatment.


  1. I think that scalp issues need a doctor's examination. I think especially for dandruff if over the counter treatments have not worked it really is worth a visit to the doctor.

    Some people have reported really severe dandruff and yet they have eliminated many potential agravators from relaxers, conditioners and oils.

    I think what is left is a dermatology visit and an allergy test.

    Grunk is a really creepy name lol.

  2. Gunkers? Lol!

    Good post though. I learnt something new, thanks!

  3. @JC: Whoops! I think I forgot to mention that in the post >.< I was getting too carried away with my Paint artistry *sigh* I thought it reminded me of the stuff Gremlins come out off in the films - and now I've grossed myself out!

    @Natural Nigerian: Maybe if I got out more, I'd have less time to think up this stuff. Well, it's only a theory that's been printed in a few journals, but it's not the definitive guide to all scalp problems. Just something I thought was interesting :)

  4. Hey! I saw when you posted this last week and I really really wanted to comment but I had so much revision to do exams etc. but I just wanted to so thank you so much, because you have made my own situation much more clearer to me. I though I slightly understood it but this post makes it much more clearer so once again thanks :D and I totally agree with Jc it's important to see a doctor because if I didn't I wouldn't have my treatment now.


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