Nothing is ever really right unless it has a strong foundation. Well, when it comes to growing a full and healthy head of hair, that foundation would definitely be our scalps. I especially came to this revelation once I decided to stop wearing texturizers (which is basically just a very low-grade relaxer“> and dyeing my hair on a consistent basis. Once that happened, it took about a good six months for my scalp to even get to a place where I could start to focus on length retention. How do I know? Because it was itching, flaking and super dry. Yep. That’s what tends to happen after years of putting chemicals on your hair.

6 Things Your Scalp Needs for Happy Healthy Hair

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Now, as I’m in a pretty consistent hair care routine and I’m starting to see some real progress, I get that, before I focus on my locks, I have to tend to my scalp. A few years in, this is what I’ve come to personally realize that my scalp needs in order for it—and my natural hair—to thrive.

1. Exfoliation.

If you naturally have a dry scalp or you are a self-professed product junkie, it can definitely benefit you to exfoliate your scalp before shampooing your hair on wash day. Not only does it keep your scalp’s sebum in balance, it can remove any build-up that could clog up your hair follicles and hinder hair growth too. A really easy way to exfoliate your scalp is to mix a half-cup of brown sugar (it’s a humectant and its granules are a gentle kind of exfoliant”> with three teaspoons of olive oil (its properties help to prevent scalp infections as it increases blood circulation”>. Dampen your hair, apply the exfoliant and gently massage your scalp for 5-7 minutes. Then rinse, shampoo and condition your hair.

2. Detoxification.

Here’s something to seriously think about. Did you know that your scalp absorbs chemicals at a rate that is four times faster than what you might put on your forearms? Our scalps have pores, just like the rest of our skin. On the heels of that, the thing we need to keep in mind is underneath our scalp is our brain, so yeah—it’s super important that we detox our scalp, at least every six weeks or so. A really easy way to do that is to mix a half cup of bentonite clay (it contains properties that unclogs hair follicles that may contain chemicals and metals”> with one-third cup of apple cider vinegar (it is a clarifier and anti-inflammatory vinegar”>. If you also add two tablespoons of Aloe vera gel, its proteolytic enzymes will help to heal any dead skin cells that your scalp might have. Mix everything together and put it on your damp hair and scalp. Let it sit on your head for 30 minutes and then wash with a clarifying scalp. It’s an easy-yet-powerful way to give your scalp the deep cleansing that it needs.

3. An essential oil to increase scalp circulation.

Remember that your scalp is skin, just like the rest of your body. By applying an essential oil (along with a carrier oil”>, not only will that reduce dryness and flakes, it can pamper your hair follicles as well. One of my favorite oils is cedarwood essential oil. Cedarwood oil soothes itchiness, stimulates your scalp and ultimately promotes healthy hair growth. If you combine it with the carrier oil sweet almond oil, the almond oil will relieve dandruff and penetrate your scalp so that it is well-moisturized too.

4. Vitamin B foods.

Something that your scalp can never get enough of is Vitamin B. Long story short, it’s the kind of vitamin that creates red blood cells so that oxygen and proper nutrients can get your hair follicles so that your follicles can remain healthy and strong. Foods that are high in this particular vitamin include whole grains, seeds and nuts, eggs, red meat, poultry, fish, citrus fruits and dark leafy greens. If you eat them consistently, you should notice less scalp irritation and stronger hair within the month.

Read more: 10 All -Natural Scalp Cleansers You Need to Try

5. Some Aloe Vera and geranium oil.

Two things your scalp will absolutely adore is Aloe vera (which I mentioned earlier”> and geranium oil. Aloe vera, because it helps to keep the pH level of your scalp in balance; it contains enzymes that help to break down dead skin cells; it’s got fatty acids to relieve itchy and, it has vitamins A, B, C, E and amino acids in it. Geranium oil because it boosts blood circulation to your scalp while strengthening and restoring your hair in the process. Mix one-third cup of pure Aloe vera gel with 3-5 drops of geranium oil. Part your scalp, apply the mixture and style your hair like usual.

6. A massage.

While on the surface, a scalp massage may seem like a luxury, don’t get it twisted; when it comes to your scalp’s overall health and well-being, it is most definitely a necessity. Scalp massages trigger the production of the “happy hormone” serotonin so that you have less headaches and are less stressed. Scalp massages also relieve muscle tension so that you can sleep better and yes, they are proven to increase hair growth if done on a weekly basis, in part by increasing blood circulation to your scalp and, ultimately, your hair. If you’d like some tips on how to get the most out of a scalp massage, read our articles “How to Give a Scalp Massage” and “The 5-Minute Self-Care Practice Your Hair Needs”. Or, if you are more of a visual learner, you can check out some DIY scalp massage videos here, here and here. It’s one of the most relaxing ways to care for your scalp and your body overall.

Read more here:Your Guide to Natural Oils for Curly Hair, and share any of your tips for a healthy scalp in the comments!

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