Why luscious, beautiful hair starts with looking after your scalp

Want healthier hair? Experts say a healthy scalp is the key to stronger, more lustrous locks. Here is how to show yours some love.

When it comes to our crowning glory, we often focus on the state of our hair but tend to forget about our scalp.

Out of sight, out of mind, right?

However, research has found that scalp health can impact hair growth and condition.

So, if you want healthier, fuller and longer locks, it may be time to give your scalp a starring role in your haircare routine.

We asked the experts what you can do for better scalp health.

Why is scalp health important?

Much like our skin’s microbiome – which impacts the appearance of our skin – our scalp has its own microbiome.

“A healthy scalp microbiome is important,” trichologist Chelcey Salinger, who consults at the Australian Trichology Centre, says.

“A scalp microbiome that is imbalanced can cause oxidative stress, which can impact the amount of damaging free radicals that are present.”

Therefore, in addition to regular shampooing, using a medicated, anti-yeast shampoo once a week can be beneficial, Chelcey notes.

How can you tell if your scalp is unhealthy?

Common symptoms of a scalp that’s not in optimum condition can include itchiness, inflammation or dandruff, dermatologist and Inside Out Dermatology founder Dr Niyati Sharma says.

From an aesthetics perspective, research shows hair that has emerged from an unhealthy scalp can have an altered cuticle (the outermost part of the hair shaft), with surface pitting, roughness and breakage – which means less shine.

How do you take care of your scalp?

Here are four easy-to-follow rules for a healthy scalp:

Healthy scalp rule #1: Don’t wash your hair too often

Be mindful of how often you’re washing your hair.

“If you’re washing your hair so often it’s not letting the natural oils of the scalp moisturise the scalp, it can dry it out much faster,” Dr Sharma says.

Allowing the body’s natural oils to do their job is important, but if you don’t like the look and feel of oily hair, you could try double cleansing.

“If someone’s got a very oily scalp, double washing is worth trying because the first round of shampooing is enough to remove some of the oil, and then the second round will be able to do a more thorough clean,” Dr Sharma explains.

“If you’ve got a very dry scalp, however, I would just do it (shampoo) once.”

Healthy scalp rule #2: Choose the right products

When it comes to scalp health, Chelcey says using shampoos containing antioxidants and prebiotics can be beneficial.

“If you have dandruff, then using a medicated shampoo is going to be important,” she advises.

“Leaving your shampoo on for three minutes before rinsing can give any active ingredients a chance to have longer (scalp) contact time and work better.”

Healthy scalp rule #3: Skip leave-in products once in a while

Dr Sharma says to be mindful of the frequency in which you use hair products that aren’t designed to be rinsed off, such as dry shampoo and hairspray which can be irritating to the scalp.

“Any product that is designed to be left on can have more of an impact on the condition of the scalp,” Dr Sharma explains.

Healthy scalp rule #4: Handle your hair (and scalp) with care

Chelcey says it’s important to be gentle when using brushes and combs, and to avoid overheating the scalp and hair with hot tools such as hair dryers and straighteners.

And if you work out, be sure to thoroughly wash your hair after exercise – the warm, moist environment is a great place for yeast to thrive, she adds.

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Written by Tania Gomez.