Many people are concerned about the health of their hair, but this depends in large part on the health of their scalp. By taking care of your scalp health, it can help facilitate healthy and lustrous hair
If you have ever experienced dry, itchy, or flaky skin on your scalp, there may be underlying conditions which can be improved. By paying attention to the skin from which your hair grows, you can improve your overall hair health and the condition of your scalp.
Let’s look at the relationship between your scalp and your hair, and how the two work together.
What Role Does the Scalp Play in Hair Health?
The scalp holds a cluster of hair follicles, nerve endings, and specialized skin cells. According to a 2019 study, the scalp is a unique environment in the human body with cuteneous and subcuteneous tissue, microbiomes, and continuous regeneration of hair follicles. If there is an imbalance or unhealthy environment in the scalp, it can lead to issues like dandruff, dermatitis, eczema, psoriasis, premature hair loss, or thinning hair.
Making sure your scalp is healthy is extremely important to the overall health, strength, and appearance of your hair.
Women tend to have more fluctuation in their scalp condition than men, due to hormonal changes. However, everyone must pay attention to scalp health, as other factors that influence scalp health are stress, diet, hair products and treatment, environmental conditions, pollution, and lifestyle choices.
What Makes a Scalp Healthy?
A healthy scalp is free from skin conditions like inflamation, redness, itchiness, dryness, flakiness, or irritation, and has a healthy microbiome. Hair follicles in a healthy head of hair are producing enough sebum to naturally moisturize the hair, and the pores are not clogged with oil, dirt, or dead skin cells. The ideal pH balance of a healthy scalp is about 4.5, give or take 0.5 points. The lower the score, the more acidic, the higher the score, the more alkaline. Maintaining the right pH balance means the microrganisms that are native to the scalp will maintain balance.
Your follicles also contain sebaceous glands which produce natural oils which keep your scalp moist. Many scalp skin issues can be traced to over-production or under-production of sebum. When your hair is healthy, the cuticle and outer layer of the hair is smooth, shiny, and supple.
Another thing people may not realize is that your scalp is home to a diverse biome of microscopic organisms. This scalp flora is natural and tends to be most diverse where sebum from the sebaceous glands provides adequate moisture. When there is imbalance, and one species of scalp flora outnumbers the rest, it can cause scalp irritation.
Characteristics and Causes of an Unhealthy Scalp
An unhealthy scalp usually has excessive buildup of hair product, dead skin cells, dirt, and oils around and in the hair follicles. This can lead to, scalp dryness and irritation, dandruff, itchy scalp, oily or greasy hair, acne, and in the most extreme cases, hair thinning or hair loss.
By following healthy habits and hair care routines, your scalp and hair will remain in the best shape possible.
How to Improve Scalp Health
There are several things you can do in your hair care regimen to improve scalp and hair health.
Use Gentle Hair Care Products
The scalp and hair have a pH of 4.5 +/- 0.5. Using shampoos and conditioners that promote healthy scalp pH balance, and that clean excess dirt, sebum, and dead skin cells help keep the scalp in prime functional capacity.
It’s best to use shampoos that are sulfate-free. Washing hair every day isn’t necessarily the best option either, for those with a dry scalp, as it can strip away natural oils that protect the hair strands. A better regimen is to wash your hair three to four times a week or as recommended by your stylist.
When you wash your hair, massage your scalp gently. Digging in with your fingernails may open small abrasions through which bacteria can enter.
You should also avoid shampoos with silicones, dimethicones, and trimethicones. These can make your hair feel softer and silkier, but they are known to block hair follicles and sebaceous glands. Also refrain from using sticky gels or hairspray with a high alcohol content, which can dry out your scalp.
Diet Makes a Difference
Hair is made up of keratin, and other amino acids like cystine and glutemic acid. Eating foods naturally high in amino acids, like red meat or eggs can help your scalp and hair stay healthy. Taking an amino acid supplement can also promote health in your scalp and hair.
Foods like fish, which are rich in Omega-3, and fresh vegetables and fruits, rich in Vitamin C and D, also help scalp health.
Vitamins and Antioxidants
Antioxidants such as Vitamin E, help counteract oxidative stress, which is one factor in psoriasis. Antioxidants combat free radicals, which are oxygen-containing molecules with an uneven number of electrons. These free radical molecules are the byproducts of natural processes like metabolism that can cause damage to cells in our body. Free radicals react with other molecules and cause oxidation, which can damage hair within the follicle and prevent it from growing.
Poor diet, smoking, air pollution, and chemicals can cause free radicals. Antioxidants help prevent free radicals and limit metabolic waste.
Choosing a diet rich in a variety of antioxidants, like Vitamin A, beta-carotene, Vitamin E, lycopene, Vitamin C, and lutein will help your scalp and hair health. A healthy variety of foods like nuts, legumes, fish, leafy greens, carrots, beets, citrus, and kale can help keep your hair looking good and prevent early onset of other diseases linked to cellular degeneration.
Exfoliating Your Scalp Regularly
Dead skin cells can build up on your scalp like they do on the rest of your body. Using a a gentle exfoliant or scalp scrub regularly can help get rid of dead skin, stimulate the blood vessels in the scalp, and reduce dandruff. You can also use a DIY exfoliant, with a finely ground substance such as brown sugar or salt, with water or coconut oil as a carrier agent. Whatever you use for an exfoliant, massage the scalp gently as opposed to rubbing it aggressively, so you avoid opening small abrasions in the sensitive scalp tissue.
Locking in Moisture
Retaining moisture in your scalp and preventing dry skin can help keep the right amount of sebum on your head. When you wash your hair, use lukewarm water. When you dry and style your hair, avoid overuse of hairdryers and heat styling to prevent the scalp from drying out excessively.
Scalp Health is Hair Health
Taking care of your scalp through proper diet, hair care, and avoiding excessive chemical treatments can help rejuvenate your hair health.
Want to Learn More about Cosmetology?
If you have an interest in hair care and hair styling, and want to pursue a career in cosmetology, MTI College has a world-class cosmetology program. Starting dates are opening throughout the year. We partner with Paul Mitchell the School to bring students a thorough cosmetology training program. Contact our Admissions team to get more information on becoming a licensed and fully-trained cosmetologist.