Image: Unsplash via Park Street
Many people forget the fact that the scalp is an integral part of our body, and it is also an extension of the skin. Just like the body, the scalp also needs care and attention, and neglecting it may affect the health of your hair because healthy hair starts with having healthy follicles. Our hair grows from the follicle and studies have shown that the growth cycle can be altered by hormones, medications, diet, illness, and many other factors (dermatologist.com). Using the scalp care tips I’m about to share will help you build a solid routine and maintain a healthy scalp.
“Scalp health definitely impacts hair health,” confirms Anabel Kingsley, trichologist at Philip Kingsley. “Your scalp is a living tissue, a mini ecosystem of sorts, that supports your hair follicles and the hair that emerges from them. When the scalp is in good condition, strands are given a healthy base from which to grow.”
Scalp care and hair care isn't only about shampoo and conditioner. Just like your skin, your scalp and hair are affected by your lifestyle, the seasons, and any other products you use. If you read my recent article, “The Top Scalp Care Essentials & Tips to Encourage Healthy Hair Growth,” you know that taking care of your scalp is vital to promoting healthy hair growth, but how do you build healthy scalp care routine?
Keep stress levels down.
Stress can precipitate hair loss. There are many ways to relieve stress, and exercise is one of them. Meditation and positive thinking are more ways to lower stress levels.
Keep the scalp clean.
A healthy scalp care routine involves regular cleansing to remove bacteria, sweat, and excess oil. The scalp differs from other parts of your body, in that, it contains larger oil glands and produces more sebum (an oily, waxy substance produced by your body’s sebaceous glands). When we think of scalp build-up, we usually think of products; however, there are other contaminants such as sebum, dead skin cells, mineral component transported by sweat (i.e., salt), pollutants from the environment, dust, etc. The result of scalp build up over time is greasy, dull, sticky, hard to manage hair, etc. and because of their consistency and adhesive properties, all of these contaminants cannot be removed from the hair by merely combing or brushing it, you need a cleanser.
Cleansing is one of the most critical parts of scalp care, but what you shampoo with is just as important as how often you do it. Rather than shopping for shampoos at random, look for brands that have their basis in natural ingredients or those geared toward your specific scalp problems.
Product suggestions: Kinky Curly Come Clean Shampoo, Bounce Curl Clarifying Shampoo, followed by an ACV Rinse, Shea Moisture African Black Soap Shampoo, Briogeo Scalp Revival Charcoal and Coconut Oil Micro-Exfoliating Shampoo.
Don't forget to exfoliate. To help boost the skin cell turnover process, exfoliate your scalp at least once a month. If you suffer from dry skin or psoriasis, you may need to exfoliate two or three times per week.
Product suggestion: goop Himalayan Salt Scrub Shampoo
Many common scalp problems come from dryness. Excessive dryness or itchy scalp can progress into other situations to develop on the scalp, which should be avoided at all costs. If you’re dealing with scalp dryness, take an inventory of the products you’re using on your skin and hair-- are there harmful or drying ingredients, etc.
Also, consider the temperature of the water when you shower- avoid exposing your scalp to hot water — spending time in excessively hot water strips the oils from your hair and skin. Give your scalp a break from the heat of the blow dryer and allow your hair to dry naturally by air drying.
Beneath the skin on your scalp is an intricate network of blood vessels that carry oxygen and vital nutrients to the scalp. Scalp massage is a natural method for hair growth that increases blood circulation to the scalp to stimulate the follicles, thus activating the sebaceous glands, which further helps in nourishing the scalp.
Keep the circulation going in your scalp by massaging it at least once per week. Spend two to three minutes per section leading up to approximately 10 minutes massaging your scalp, using gentle circular motions. Incorporating essential oils like peppermint, rosemary, tea tree, lavender with a carrier oil is one of the common, yet simple ways to rejuvenate the scalp.
Note: Always mix the essential oil with a carrier oil to dilute it and reduce the potency. Essential oils should not be exposed to sunlight because oils like grapefruit, when exposed to sunlight, can irritate your scalp. Keep essential oils away from the eyes. Always choose high-quality essential oils and carrier oils that are authentic or pure and not mixed with other ingredients or chemicals.
Product suggestions: Righteous Roots Oils, Mielle Rosemary Mint Scalp & Hair Strengthening Oil
Limit chemical treatments and harmful ingredients.
Chemicals used in hair treatments, like hair dyes, can dry out and irritate your scalp. Make sure to have chemical treatments performed by a licensed professional to limit the damage. Also, during any chemical treatment, be on the lookout for signs of irritation like burning or itching. Should they occur, notify your stylist immediately. Ingredients like harsh sulfates, drying alcohol, acids, and fragrances are all common ingredients known to cause irritation. Instead, switch to products catered toward sensitive skin or fragrance-free versions.
Alternative to hair dyes- henna (a patch test should be used for any henna-containing dye). It is also crucial to be sure the henna is, in fact, true henna.
Protect your scalp from the sun.
Sun damage causes thinning of the epidermis and dermis (thedermatologist.com). Skin cancer is the most diagnosed form of cancer in the United States and often develops on the scalp , which is nearly always exposed to the sun during your day-to-day activities. When you plan to be in the sun for long periods of time, wear a hat to protect your scalp. A hat with at least a 2- to 3-inch brim all around is ideal because it protects areas that are often exposed to the intense sun.
Eat a well-balanced diet.
Our hair, skin, and nails are a direct reflection of our internal bodily conditions. Nutrition is vital for all body processes, and your hair is no exception. If the hair is compromised from the start by health and or an unhealthy diet, the hair will be weak and will eventually become feeble from a lack of nutrition. A nutrient deficient diet can be linked to hair loss, and while factors such as age, genetics, and hormones may also affect hair growth, optimal nutrient intake is paramount. Incorporating a multivitamin into your well-balanced diet will help cover many nutritional deficits.
Note: We, as consumers, should always seek the advice of a licensed medical professional before starting any supplement regimen. Your doctor can help you determine which, if any, supplement will work for you, given your medical history and current health condition.