Healthy Scalp, Healthy Hair

Look in the mirror, look at your skin and tell me what you see?

I’m sure your responses will be varied with possible descriptions including qualities such as smooth, wrinkled, moist, dry and flaky, irritated or oily and congested. These qualities are easy to see when they are staring back at you, but if you cast your view upwards to your scalp tell me what you see?

Hair. But what’s beneath it hidden from view?

 Normal, healthy scalp

Normal, healthy scalp

 Dry, scaly scalp

Dry, scaly scalp

 Oily, congested scalp

Oily, congested scalp

Your scalp is a mostly forgotten extension of your skin and your skin is responsible for a range of functions that keep you healthy such as the excretion of waste, control of body temperature and the protection of vital organs. It has its own ecosystem which has to be maintained with the right conditions for the system to support its many functions correctly. We all have our own “private climate” unique to us that includes such things as your skins acidity, temperature, oil production, salt levels and naturally occurring bacterial flora. Each of these components are in a state of constant change being influenced by factors such as your hormones, diet and exposure to the elements. These changes can then affect the health of your skin in many ways including the production of oil from the sebaceous glands, the natural shedding of dead skin cells, the variety of hosted living organisms and the production of hair.

Did you know your skin is the largest organ of your body, has an average thickness of 4mm and accounts for about 7% of your weight.  It is made up of layers and it is the outer layer, called the epidermis that we see. This layer is made up of seven subsequent layers which all have a role to play in making your skin look and feel as you see it. In the deepest layer of the epidermis we have the stratum germinative. This is where the cells of the skin are alive and moist and are constantly dividing which gradually forces them up to the outer layer, the stratum corneum where they start to dry out, flatten and die. This is your skin as you see it day in and day out and it is in a constant state of reproduction in an upward migration. This process of renewal is continuous and takes around one month to complete without you even being aware, until something goes wrong.

An upset to this rhythm could cause the skin to shed at a more rapid rate causing flaking to occur which we commonly see as dandruff. Combine this flaking with excess oil production and you get the cells sticking together forming larger, more obvious flakes and if the skins ideal “private climate” is upset you could add to the cocktail by getting an infection as well. This compounding set of issues can cause the skin surface to become irritated, congested and inflamed, whilst upsetting the ultimate environment for life and the healthy growth of your hair.

Your skin feeds your hair at the bulb providing the nutrients needed for growth from a network of blood vessels and capillaries, so to provide the optimal conditions for the growth of hair, let’s care for our scalp like we care for our facial skin.

First step is to exfoliate.  You will be familiar with the methods and results for your facial routine and would notice the smoothness of your skin after the release of the dead skin scale. On your scalp this is best done with a brush to get through the hair and deliver an exfoliation treatment to the skin. A good quality hair brush will do the trick or why not try a scalp brush designed to gently remove build up with a looped bristle.

Second step is to cleanse. On your face you will be using a foam, cream or gel cleanser to wash away the impurities of the day such as oil, make up and pollutants and it is recommended to do this twice daily by your skin care professional. Your scalp will come under the same attack from these invaders but they will be trapped within your hair therefore I recommend to cleanse the scalp daily. Using a scalp cleanser will gently cleanse your scalp restoring the naturally favourable environment required for hair growth and is used before you shampoo. Continue your regular routine with a shampoo and conditioner that will treat the primary concerns of your hair.

Final step is to treat. You would finish your facial regime with a serum or moisturiser to address any skin care concerns and to moisturise and protect your skin from the environment. By applying a scalp tonic you can soothe irritation and balance oil production, re-enforcing all your good work and maintaining your scalp in prime condition in between cleansing.

We want our skin to show us as a glowing example of our health and wellbeing so we cleanse, tone, massage, masque and moisturise using potions and lotions for their benefits and results and do everything in our power for our external display. 

But just because your scalp is hidden from view don’t think all your hard work will go unnoticed by anyone but yourself. I bet your Hairdresser will comment!

Stuart Cloake