Given the attention we give our facial skin, it’s somewhat surprising most of us have never really considered that it extends well beyond our hairline.
When it comes to our heads, we’ve always been more concerned with the condition of the hair that sprouts from it, than what lies underneath.
Which is an oversight according to experts, because treating our scalp well is exactly what can contribute to healthy, resilient and luscious locks. Better education and increased product options mean the tide is turning as dedicated scalp-care becomes a new haircare must-have alongside traditional shampoo, conditioner and styling products.
“Scalp health is important as it is like a garden that grows beautiful flowers,” explains Nigel Russell, trichologist and hairdresser with over thirty years experience. “If it is either over hydrated or under hydrated, the result will not be good. If a scalp gets too much build-up and is not exfoliated properly then this may create scaling, redness and irritation.”
He says poor scalp health can lead to ongoing issues that become hard to manage and interfere with healthy hair growth, with strands becoming weaker and prone to breakage and increased hair fall, not to mention dandruff.
Stacey August, hairdresser and owner of Village Hair agrees, saying scalp dysfunction means you won’t be getting the best from your style.
“You may experience your hair being over-oily, creating flat, dull hair, or if you have an extremely dry, flaky scalp your hair may in turn be very dry as there aren’t enough natural oils to nourish it. Another sign is that your hair is starting to thin.”
Scalp support: Kerastase Genesis Anti Hair-fall Fortifying Serum; Virtue Labs Topical Scalp Supplement; Sunday Riley Clean Rinse Clarifying Scalp Serum; Actyva Purezza Exfoliant Gel Treatment; Kevin Murphy Scalp Spa Scrub; Briogeo Scalp Revival Charcoal + Coconut Oil Micro-exfoliating Scalp Scrub Shampoo; Briogeo Scalp Revival Stimulating Therapy Massager
Commonly we just aren’t increasing the cell turnover in the area the way we do when we exfoliate our face, particularly following heavy or repetitive use of styling products and dry shampoo that can coat strands and contribute to follicle congestion.
Other factors like vitamin deficiencies, health conditions, hormones, medication, high cortisol levels due to stress and even a change in weather have each been known to impact the health of the area which contains a myriad of blood vessels that transport the all-important nutrients your hair needs for growth, protection, shine and suppleness. Dandruff can also be caused by a fungus called Malassezia, a yeast that thrives on excess scalp oil.
Flakes on your collar is a common first indicator something is amiss but even if there are no signs of trouble, treating your scalp well will reap benefits.
Washing your hair thoroughly and regularly is key, ensuring shampoo is distributed well and massaged into the roots before being rinsed away completely.
Beyond the shower-standard products we’re used to, dedicated, occasional-use items to keep the area in good shape now include scalp scrubs with both gritty particles as well as more gentle AHAs that break down product and sebum build-up and dissolves dead skin cells. Just like a face routine, once cleansing is complete, replenishment is necessary too. Traditionally this was contributed to with conditioner but now also includes the option of treatment serums and oils that increase hydration and offer vitamins and nutrition that support hair follicles.
“A good scalp massage will also stimulate blood flow and keep the scalp healthy so it’s producing good healthy hair,” adds Russell. “It can stop the scalp becoming too tight across the head, which often occurs when we are stressed.”
He agrees scrubs and dedicated massagers can be helpful.
“As long as the teeth of the brush are not stiff plastic and it is a gentle action then they are fine but not on an oily scalp as this would stimulate oil production.”
To prevent too much trial and error and to diagnose any more serious issues, August suggests a good first step is to consult an expert in the salon. She uses a special Kemon Trico analysis microscope to get a close-up view of hair and scalp. A connected app then helps diagnose their condition and recommend appropriate products.