Beauty

5 easy ways to get a healthy scalp (and the best hair of your life)

Posted by
Suzanne Scott
Published

Skincare for your scalp is here and it’s going to completely transform your hair. Here’s what you need to know…

As a sex, women have embraced anti-ageing solutions with vigour; we have a skincare arsenal to rival the contents of our wardrobe, we’re on first-name terms with our facialist and don’t think twice about spending a hefty percent of our wages on a skin transforming serum. In fact, according to CEW (Cosmetic Executive Women organisation) last year, we spent almost £1billion on skincare. Evidence, as if it were needed, we take our skincare seriously.

But another area of our body is also in dire need of this level of attention – our scalp. Just a few centimetres north of our face is one of the most neglected areas of our bodies. Finally, though, the scalp is getting its moment in the spotlight – and deservedly so. Cosmetic giants, fuelled by customer and beauty industry demand, have come round to the idea that a healthy scalp is fundamental to envy inducing hair. They’re channelling money into scalp-care research to discover the optimum conditions for healthy, new hair growth, ‘waking up’ inactive follicles and generally creating a more attractive, hair-promoting scalp.

It couldn’t be a moment too soon, if you ask us. If your hair hangs there like a forlorn, limp friend, then brace yourself – things are about to dial up a notch. Dr David H Kingsley, president of the World Trichology Society (a trichologist is to hair what a dermatologist is to skin) and author of The Hair-Loss Cure (iUniverse), agrees: “In the past, scalp health wasn’t ‘sexy’. 

Besides shampoos for dandruff, most companies were only interested in haircare and ignored the fact that hair grows from the scalp. But they’re starting to take the health of the scalp more seriously, as an oily, itchy or flaky scalp can affect the sheen and body of the hair. Unattractive hair can, quite simply, make women unhappy. Healthy hair makes women feel better about the way they look, and that all stems from a healthier scalp.”

Just as our hair is a good barometer of our general health, it also reflects the condition of our scalp. Lacklustre, greasy hair with a lot of fall-out is usually an indication of inflammation of the scalp, excess sebum (oil) and blocked follicles. An angry scalp is sensitive, feels tight and appears red. And if your diet isn’t up to scratch (cupcakes are not a food group), or you’re suffering a trying bout of stress, your scalp may show signs of flakiness – an indication that it is not receiving the nutrient quota it needs. You can expect to see the effects in your hair around three months later.

A healthy scalp should be a neutral colour and tolerate aggressors, such as wind and heat – without any telltale evidence that it’s stressed (including all the above symptoms). But it’s a particular problem for those struggling with fine or thinning hair. Ricardo Vila Nova, the resident trichologist at Urban Retreat in Harrods (affectionately known by his clients as ‘The Hair Whisperer’) explains. “An excessively greasy scalp accumulates toxins in the follicles, which is a big problem for thinning hair.” 

These toxins inhibit the natural growth of the hair – and often it can’t push through the follicle to grow at all. More bad news (there is good news coming…) research carried out by Japanese cosmetics giant Sensai shows that as women grow older, the scalp produces more of the protein TGF-beta, which inhibits the growth of hair cells, causing hair to fall out sooner, and what does grow is noticeably thinner. So the message is simple: for hair that radiates health and is so shiny you could use it as a sun reflector, there’s one place that deserves your undivided attention.

So just as you treat your face to a daily cleanse, tone, exfoliation and the odd mask, you should do exactly the same with your scalp. Take a moment to revel in the excitement of your new scalp regime – your hair will thank you for it.

Cleanse

It’s a myth that you shouldn’t wash your hair frequently – you wash your face every day, so why wouldn’t you show your scalp the same courtesy? After all, it gets just as dirty. “The scalp often follows the skin type of the face, so if your T-zone is oily, then your scalp usually is, too,” explains Kingsley. “Shampoo every day, if possible, as the more often your scalp is washed, the less flake ‘build-up’ is likely to occur.” For something that’s gentle on your scalp, try Bain Riche Dermo-Calm Shampoo, £19.50, for dry hair, or Bain Vital Dermo-Calm Shampoo, £19.50, for normal to combination hair, both by Kérastase. 

Massage

Make the most of your time in the shower with a scalp massage. There isn’t a trick to getting it right, just use your fingertips to massage the skin in circular motions with a firm pressure for a couple of minutes. This is most easily done when you are shampooing or have a mask on, as the friction and stimulation will be enough to bring blood to the surface of your scalp and give your circulation a boost. Good scalp circulation ensures your follicles receive extra oxygen and nourishment to maintain a glossy head of hair. If you have dull and lank hair, massage alone can transform it. 

Tone

“Everyone forgets about toning the scalp, even though it’s essential for the production of healthy hair,” explains Vila Nova. “The scalp should be toned on a regular basis, as it’s important to replace the protective film over the skin removed by shampooing and restore the PH balance.” Use a toner designed for the scalp (see below) and apply after every wash: towel dry your hair, part it into sections and squeeze the toner directly onto your scalp with the nozzle – it won’t weigh it down at all. 

Exfoliate

You exfoliate your skin to remove dirt and dead skin, and your scalp requires the same treatment to prevent follicles from becoming congested. “Due to the concentration of hairs, the scalp is the ideal place for bacteria, which can cause dandruff and other skin conditions,” says Vila Nova. A regular, exfoliation using a dermabrasion product will keep your follicles free to produce healthy, strong hair. 

SPF

One of the most important things you can do is protect your scalp from the sun. Like your skin, your scalp can get sun burned like any other part of your body. UV damage can also affect your follicles, resulting in thin hair. You would never dream of leaving the house without UV protection on your face so you should treat your scalp to the same courtesy. In fact, go one better and throw in an antioxidant or two to help correct existing UV damage and protect your hair against damaging free-radicals. Caring for your scalp is not instantly rewarding, but a few simple tweaks will restore the shiny, full, strong hair we all took for granted when we were younger. Follow the skincare prescription (below). In three months you’ll be closer to your dream hair.

Your scalp skincare prescription

The cleanser:  La Roche-Posay Kerium Extra Gentle Shampoo

With salicylic acid, this shampoo is super gentle even on the most sensitive scalps. So gentle, in fact, it can be used every day without causing irritation.

£12, larocheposay.co.uk

The exfoliator:  NIOXIN Scalp Renew Dermabrasion Treatment

Use this intensive anti-ageing dermabrasion treatment once a month – it gently exfoliates the scalp, removing build-up from around the follicles and boosts scalp skin repair by up to 34%. 

£12.75, nioxin.com

The toner:  Philip Kingsley Scalp Toner

This rehydrating toner is best applied to towel-dried hair. Use the nozzle applicator and apply to the scalp in sections. It contains witch hazel, menthol and sodium salicylate, which together, stimulate blood flow, absorb follicle-clogging excess oil and protect against scalp bacteria.

£19.50, philipkingsley.co.uk

The protector:  Label M. Protein Spray

A light mist that protects hair and scalp from the heat of styling tools. It contains a blend of jasmine, sweet pea, wheat and soy to repair and protect against UV and environmental damage.

£15.75, feelunique.com

The SPF:  Bumble & Bumble Hairdressers Invisible Oil Heat/UV Protective Primer

If you only add one thing to your haircare regime, make it UV protection. This mist is virtually invisible, but it packs a powerful protective punch with six lightweight oils that not only protect against UV but also fortify fragile strands. 

£21, lookfantastic.com

The mask:  Nexxus Youth Renewal Masque For Fine Hair

100% pure elastin protein prevents breakage in parched hair, while liquid pearl lends a mirror-like shine. Apply to damp hair twice a week and leave on for five minutes.

£19.99, boots.com

The hair loss treatment:  Roots Double Effect Hair Growth Intensive Treatment

With a potent 3% Procapil, this much-loved spray restores and strengthens hair follicles and rejuvenates the scalp for healthy, lustrous lengths. 

£14.99, superdrug.com

Images: Unsplash/ Instagram