The Science of Scalp Care
Understanding Your Scalp and How to Take Care of It
Caring for skin health goes beyond a daily face care ritual. After all, skin covers us from the top of our heads to the tips of our toes! Yet we often overlook scalp care as part of our self-care routines.
Adding scalp care to our skin care rituals brings a host of physical and emotional benefits. How we feel about our hair has a significant impact on our sense of self and well-being.The scalp is the foundation of hair health and directly contributes to hair growth, strength, and shine (or lack thereof).
In today’s post, we’ll explore all things scalp, discuss the importance of scalp care for overall hair health, offer tips for a healthy scalp, and provide advice on addressing common scalp issues.
Understanding Your Scalp
Before we dive into scalp care, let’s review the anatomy of the scalp. From the outside in, your scalp is made of five layers:
S – Skin
C – Connective tissue (subcutaneous fat, blood vessels, nerves, and lymphatic system)
A – Aponeurosis (connection point for scalp and forehead muscles)
L – Loose connective tissue that provides cushion and allows mobility
P – Pericranium (outer layer of skull bones)
As skin therapists, we’re concerned with the outer layers of skin and its hair follicles, plus the subcutaneous tissues that cushion the skin and house the blood vessels and lymph responsible for nutrient and waste transport.
Is Scalp Skin the Same as Other Skin?
The skin on the top of your head is similar, yet different from skin elsewhere on your body.
All skin is part of the same integumentary system and therefore shares some structural and functional similarities no matter where on the body it is. Besides the visible “flesh” of skin layers that are constantly regenerating from the inside out, the integumentary system includes the skin’s appendages: sweat glands, sebum glands, hair, and nails. These components of the integumentary system work together to provide physical and immunological protection, thermal regulation, and social communication, among other functions.
So how is scalp skin different than other skin? For one thing, scalp skin is thicker than elsewhere on the body and hosts more hair follicles, sweat and sebaceous glands than any other part of the body.
The warm, moist environment created by dense hair coverage and increased oil production makes the scalp more prone to fungal and bacterial infections. And with more nerve endings, the scalp is more sensitive and prone to itching, irritation, and inflammation.
Scalp skin and its unique microbiome, the community of microorganisms that live on the surface of the skin, play an important role in scalp health. Disrupting this delicate balance can lead to a host of scalp issues.
What are Some Common Scalp Issues?
As with the rest of our skin, a multitude of factors affects scalp health. Hormones, environmental pollution, UV exposure, lifestyle, medications, and diet all contribute to a number of scalp and hair-related conditions such as hair growth or hair loss, dandruff, dry or itchy scalp, and more.
Scalp acne is also common, especially in people who have oily skin. Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune condition that can affect the scalp, causing red, scaly patches of skin. Similarly, scalp eczema plagues many people, particularly during seasonal shifts.
Other issues may include scalp sunburn, scalp allergies, and scalp sensitivity or irritation caused by harsh hair care products or styling practices.
Why is Scalp Care Important?
Scalp care is important for several reasons:
Promotes healthy hair growth. A healthy scalp leads to healthy hair growth. By keeping your scalp clean and well-nourished, you can create an optimal environment for hair to grow.
Prevents dandruff. Dandruff is a common scalp condition that causes flaking and itching. Proper scalp care can help prevent dandruff by removing excess oil and dead skin cells from the scalp.
Reduces hair loss. A healthy scalp can also help reduce hair loss. A buildup of oil, dirt, and product on the scalp can clog hair follicles, leading to hair breakage and loss.
Maintains pH balance. The scalp has a natural pH balance, and when this balance is disrupted, it can lead to dryness, irritation, and even infection. Proper scalp care can help maintain the natural pH balance of the scalp.
Improves overall scalp health. Regular scalp care can help improve overall scalp health, which positively impacts the appearance and feel of your hair. By keeping your scalp clean and well-nourished, you can help prevent a range of scalp conditions and promote healthy hair growth.
8 Tips for a Healthy Scalp
Now that we understand the importance of scalp care and the common scalp and hair issues that people face, let’s discuss some tips for achieving and maintaining a healthy scalp.
1. Regular Scalp Cleansing
One of the most important things you can do for a healthy scalp is to keep it clean. Regular scalp cleansing removes dirt, oil, and buildup from the scalp, which can help prevent common scalp issues. However, it’s important to avoid over-washing, which can strip the scalp of its natural oils and cause dryness.
How often you should wash your hair is determined by your hair type and lifestyle. Generally, it is recommended to wash your hair every 2-3 days, but your frequency may differ depending on your hair type and lifestyle. If you have an oily scalp, shampooing more frequently may be advised.
When washing your hair, choose a gentle, sulfate-free shampoo that is formulated for your scalp type. As a monthly treatment, consider using a clarifying shampoo such as Davines SOLU Sea Salt Scrub Cleanser to refresh the scalp and remove any buildup, impurities, or residue from styling products.
2. Avoid Hot Water
Hot water can strip the natural oils away from the scalp, leading to dry and itchy skin. Instead, use lukewarm or cool water when washing your hair and scalp.
3. Limit Heat Styling
Blow dryers, flat irons, and other heat-styling tools can dry out the scalp and lead to itching and flaking. Try to limit your use of these types of tools and always use heat-protective styling products, such as Davines MELU Hair Shield or LOVE Smoothing Perfector thermal serum.
4. Scalp Massage
Scalp massage can help improve circulation and stimulate hair growth. Massaging the scalp also helps distribute natural oils throughout the hair, which can help prevent dryness and breakage.
For an effective scalp massage, start at the front of your scalp and work your way to the back, using your fingertips to gently massage your scalp in circular motions. There are scalp massaging tools available to make self-massage easier. (Or, better yet, book a professional scalp treatment and massage with us! Our 30-minute Bed Head Scalp Therapy service can be scheduled on its own or added to any skin treatment.)
5. Choose the Right Hair Care Products
Choosing the right hair care products is crucial for maintaining a healthy scalp. Seek out shampoos, conditioners, and styling products that are free of harsh chemicals, sulfates, and other ingredients that can irritate the scalp.
When it comes to choosing a hairbrush or comb, opt for those that are gentle on the scalp. Avoid combs with sharp teeth or brushes with hard bristles that can damage the skin and hair follicles.
6. Eat a Healthy Diet & Stay Hydrated
What you eat can also impact the health of your scalp and hair. A healthy diet that is rich in vitamins and minerals can help nourish your scalp and promote hair growth. Foods that are high in protein, such as lean meats, fish, and beans, are particularly important for healthy hair growth.
In addition, make sure you are drinking enough water to keep your scalp and hair hydrated. Dehydration can lead to dryness, which can cause itching and flaking.
7. Manage Stress
Stress can have a significant impact on the health of the scalp and hair. Stress hormones such as cortisol can cause inflammation throughout body, including the scalp, where it can trigger various scalp issues such as dandruff, scalp psoriasis, and seborrheic dermatitis. Stress can also disrupt normal hair growth cycles, leading to hair loss and thinning.
8. Address Scalp Issues
It’s important to address scalp issues as soon as you start to experience them. Dandruff, psoriasis, hair loss, and other scalp conditions can be treated with specialized shampoos and other topical treatments. For more severe cases, your doctor may recommend oral medication or light therapy.
If you are experiencing hair loss, it’s important to speak with a healthcare provider to determine the underlying cause and the best treatment options for you. Hair restoration techniques range from prescription medications and hair transplant surgery to more accessible esthetic procedures such as micro-needling and non-surgical hair densifying treatments such as the ElaProMed Hair Restoration Treatment.
Scalp care provides an array of physical and emotional advantages, such as promoting strong and healthy hair. Scalp health is intricately connected to overall well-being and like the rest of your skin, can be viewed as a barometer of what might be happening elsewhere in your body. By dedicating time to your scalp health, becoming familiar with its appearance and texture during different phases of life, you can develop a closer connection with your body and become better equipped to identify and promptly address any changes in your scalp.
By following these tips for a healthy scalp, you can help prevent common scalp issues and keep your hair looking its best. Remember to choose appropriate hair care products, eat a healthy diet, address scalp issues promptly, and manage stress. With proper scalp care, you can enjoy strong, shiny, and beautiful hair for years to come.