As healthy hair is our goal, we must place great consideration on the condition of the scalp. The scalp is the foundation of the hair, it is the source of all the hair’s natural nourishment and no matter what, one is nothing without the other. One of the scalp’s most valuable resources is its sebum, the oily secretion of the sebaceous gland. Its purpose is to act as a lubricant for the hair and skin and protect against bacteria. As a natural skin protectant, sebum keeps your body from allowing too much water to enter your body and simultaneously prevents water loss from the body.

What is sebum?

Sebaceous glands are found all over the body except on the palms, soles, top of the feet, and the lower lip. Sebum is a liquid substance of lipids or fats made up of a combination of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen and can be derived from plant and animal sources. According to a Sebum Overview by Mary Salisbury, “Sebum contains a variety of different lipids, including cholesterol, glycerides, fatty acids, squalene, and wax and cholesterol esters, but the exact composition of sebum varies with a person's age.”

The regulation of sebum is necessary for optimal performance. Too little sebum will leave the hair and scalp dry. When this occurs, additional oils are necessary for regulation. Natural, organic selections like coconut oil are highly recommended. Jojoba oil is the closest to natural scalp sebum and is also a prized remedy. For more benefits add some drops of tea tree oil into your jojoba oil or coconut oil. This oil is known for its antiseptic, antibacterial, and antifungal properties. Dry scalp leaves the hair follicles malnourished and will eventually lead to breakage.

Too much sebum could cause greasy or oily hair and scalp, which many consider unflattering and could present the onset of a scalp condition called seborrhea. Excessive sebum can eventually harden and cause hair loss. When sebum production is at an all time high, tea tree oil can also help to regulate by unclogging the follicles. The cause of this excess sebum or lack thereof could be hormonal. Changes in stress levels or high hormonal changes like a menstrual cycle, pregnancy, or menopause could be the culprit. However, sometimes the natural condition of your scalp is a matter of genetics and must be treated topically and/or internally. For extreme cases, schedule to see a local dermatologist. 

Importance of Cleansing

An appropriate shampoo along with regular scalp massage and moderate brushing or combing one’s hair to spread the oil will also help with overproduction and underproduction of the sebaceous glands. A nourishing, gentle shampoo is in order for providing an appropriate amount of nutrients to the hair and scalp for increased regularity. However some have often questioned how can we know which cleansers are good? Can shampoo overly cleanse, stripping the scalp?

Owner and Founder of CURLS, Mahisha Dellinger, explains the mystery behind choosing a good shampoo and warns against scalp stripping: “Yes, you can strip the hair and scalp of its natural oil, sebum. This is common when using sulfate-based cleansers and alcohol based stylers that dry out the hair/scalp.” When asked what is so unique about CURLS cleansers, Dellinger responds, “Rather than harsh, drying additives, CURLS cleansers uses organic extracts like pineapple and grapefruit extracts, carrot seed oil, other natural elements that speak the language of curly hair which tends to be drier.”

How Do You Know When Your Hair & Scalp are Stripped?

Your scalp will feel parched and squeaky. For dry hair this is extra harmful, as it will only increase your dryness. Oily scalps could also be stripped of their sebum, which will cause their scalp to overly produce more oil in an effort to counteract. Dellinger recommends both dry and oily scalp concerns to regularly use a mild, sulfate-free cleanser with organic nourishing elements for regular cleansing. The purpose of a moisturizing cleanser is to remove the excess dirt and debris from the hair and scalp without taking away all the scalp’s goodness. Excessive oily scalps will benefit from utilizing a nourishing, clarifying shampoo once every eight weeks.

People with scalp challenges must be wise in their lifestyle and product selection. Watch how the shampoo you currently use is affecting you hair and scalp and if it is time to make a change, go for it. In search for a gentle shampoo? Check out the Top 30 sulfate-free shampoos.

What are your favorite gentle shampoos?