Just do us a favor right now and give your scalp a little check-up. Is it feeling moisturized or dry? Flaky or smooth? Is there any build-up? Does it hurt to move your hair around? We’ve been there.
The truth is many of us neglect our scalps. We tend to be more focused on how the hair looks rather than how the scalp feels.
Scalp discomfort is nothing to be ashamed of, considering how common it is. That said, we think it’s time we start to pay a bit more attention to our scalps. After all, the best way to achieve a beautiful head of hair is to focus on its roots.
With that said, we’ve gathered up some of the top ways you can improve your scalp health and start working towards the hair of your dreams.
Before we get into the tips, we want to highlight why scalp health is so important. To do that, we have to consider what’s going on up there. Spoiler alert, it’s kind of a lot.
Just like your gut, your scalp has a complex microbiome. Microbes, fungi, and your scalp’s natural oils (called sebum) all work together to shed old skin, cleanse your hair of dirt, and foster new hair growth.
The chemistry of our scalps, all the way down to pH, is essential in defining its health. It can be a tricky task. For one, many shampoos and conditioners include ingredients that disrupt our hair’s natural cleansing process.
Everything from stress to diet to exercise can leave a mark on this delicate ecosystem. However, ensuring its health is the surest way to prevent irritation, including but not limited to dandruff.
Maybe the most compelling reason to prioritize your scalp health is what the practice can help you avoid. We all know the feeling of a dry, itchy, flaky, and irritated scalp. Most people will experience dandruff at least once during their lifetime.
An unhealthy scalp can lead to a slew of issues on top of your head. Sometimes this may just mean a simple itch, but other times can lead to more serious issues like scabbing and cysts.
It’s no small thing to say that scalp health promotes healthy hair growth. Both stress and dandruff have been linked to premature aging of the hair and an increased chance of hair loss. Conversely, a healthy scalp that receives regular TLC is more likely to produce stronger and faster hair growth. More on that later.
The truth is our scalp is an essential piece of the puzzle when it comes to hair care. Whether you’re experiencing irritation or want to foster thicker and healthier hair strands, prioritizing your scalp is an excellent place to start.
You may have caught on that we’re a little passionate about this stuff. Some of that passion is derived from scalp health being so under-discussed. So let’s set the record straight on some concrete, actionable steps you can take towards achieving a healthier head.
We want to put this tip first because it applies to basically everything we recommend below. The truth is everyone’s scalp is different and will respond to treatments differently.
Before you start to update your hair care routine, try to identify how your hair naturally exists and what it may need to stay healthy looking and nourished.
Your curl pattern, strand thickness, and natural oil production all play a role in how to care for your scalp. If your scalp is naturally oily, consider washing your hair more often, using gentle shampoos. If your scalp is naturally dry or your hair is prone to frizz, you may want to take more days in between washing.
Straight hair may need less oils and conditioners than curly hair because the curl pattern allows oil to move down from the scalp to the hair strands easier. Conversely, curlier hair patterns need more regular conditioning at both the scalp and the ends.
The point is, the best first step for finding out what you can do to improve your scalp’s health is to take a close look at what makes your hair unique.
Finding the right routine for the health of your scalp is an ongoing process that may change depending on how often you’re exercising, washing, or feeling stressed but it’s an essential part of the process.
This next tip may be a tough pill to swallow, but it’s the best advice we’ve ever received in scalp care. Do us a favor and go into your bathroom and bring back the shampoo.
We’ll wait here… Do you have it? Good.
Take a look at the ingredients label and see if it includes any of the following:
Sulfates: Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, or Sodium Lauryl Sulfate.
Parabens: Methylparaben, Ethylparaben, Propylparaben, or Butylparaben.
Phthalates: These are usually buried under the term ‘fragrance.’
If your shampoo or hair care products have any of those words on the ingredient label, throw it out.
Sulfates strip the hair of its natural oils, parabens have been tied to cancers and hormonal disruptions, and phthalates are banned in many countries outside of the US for a good reason. You can find more information on these here.
Long story short, the ingredients in your hair care products have a big impact on scalp health. Look for products that include natural essential oils and active ingredients with antibacterial properties like Zinc Pyrithione, which we use in our Balancing Shampoo and Restoring Serum to fight flakes.
Your curl pattern, strand thickness, and natural oil production all play a role in how to care for your scalp.
Over the course of any given day, your head goes through a lot. Sometimes regular washes aren’t enough to cleanse the scalp of all that dirt and excess oil. When that happens, we recommend exfoliation.
Try using a scalp brush before showering to gently break up dirt and debris from your hair and stimulate blood flow to the scalp which may promote new growth.
Studies show that regular scalp massages foster thicker hair growth by stretching the hair follicles and increasing circulation to the area. Bonus? A scalp brush feels divine and can help you destress and relax.
On the flip side, it’s possible that your scalp might be in need of more moisture. This can happen when external factors are causing dry scalp.
Everything from weather to how often you blow-dry your hair can make your scalp feel dry. In these moments, there is nothing better than trying out a deep conditioner or hair mask.
Sure, it’s a little extra but deep conditioners go further than your regular conditioner in restoring moisture and strengthening the barrier between your skin cells and the outside world. You only need to do it about once every week or so to start seeing a real difference.
Our diet impacts our entire body and the scalp is no exception — sadly french fries have not yet been tied to improving hair health but we’ll let you know if that ever changes.
What you eat does have an inordinate effect on the health of your hair follicles and how the skin on your scalp ages. Try incorporating more of the supplements and foods below to help support a balanced and happy scalp.
Antioxidant-Rich Foods: Oxidative stress can contribute to premature hair loss, in addition to a number of other medical conditions. Fruits and vegetables are high in antioxidant content and can help combat those issues and keep your body’s various systems in check.
Omega-3s and Fish Oils: Science is still evolving here but there is promising research tying fish oil supplements with healthier hair growth. By both reducing swelling and increasing circulation, omega-3s can have a powerful impact on the well-being of your scalp.
Probiotics: As we mentioned before, the scalp is ruled by a complex microbiome. Probiotics introduce healthy bacteria that helps keep our various microbiomes healthy, including our scalp.
Look for probiotics that include Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, as they’ve been tied to increasing hair thickness.
We hope by now you’re regularly applying SPF, even when it’s cloudy. Sun damage is no joke. By the same token, your scalp also needs and deserves protection. Wear a hat on sunny and smoggy days, try to limit your use of heated styling tools, and protect your scalp from extremely cold, dry air.
Scalp health and hair care go hand in hand. By prioritizing your roots, you’re investing in a beautiful head of hair in the future. Follow these tips and see how your scalp thanks you.
Ready to start your hair care journey? Take our quiz to see what your scalp needs.