Written by Alicia Lartey
Image by @chrispaulthompson
Everything is a science or can be improved with science! I never thought I would see the day where I am writing about hair or the scalp but as an aesthetician with a scientific background, we actually have some cool bits of information to share! Hair is composed of the protein keratin, with each protein being linked through peptide bonds.
My personal hair-science journey started after the rise and fall of the natural hair movement. I realized I was washing my hair with conditioner, dealing with acne on my scalp and hair that was holding on for dear life!
One of the most common misconceptions is that hair is alive (it is not.) and that we do not need to wash our hair often to preserve the natural oils. We often forget how important scalp health can be to the overall condition of our hair, or any plans to have healthy hair in the future; the question often remains how do we look after our scalp?
First of all the scalp is skin, which is an organ, the main difference between your scalp and the skin on your face is the concentration of hair follicles, oil glands, and access to sunlight. The scalp has many oil glands and a higher concentration of hair follicles – which can actually be different in shape depending on the curl of your hair.
Your scalp shares some of the same common concerns that are present on your skin. If you have oily skin, you are likely to have an oily scalp, but did you know you can actually experience acne on your scalp too? I, unfortunately, have been blessed with dealing with acne around my scalp and hairline, which often causes my scalp to feel inflamed and very uncomfortable. Since reconciling the idea that the scalp shared the same concerns as the face, I began focusing a lot on scalp health and trying to find ways to exfoliate that area. My favourite exfoliating acids soon found their way to my scalp, as part of my weekly hair care routine!
The best way to understand scalp care is by categorizing your scalp as either oily, dry, or normal, you can categorise further once you understand what you are doing.
Oily scalps: people with oily scalps tend to find their hair feeling more weighed down at the root as well as excess sebum on the scalp. One of my favourite exfoliating acids for oily skin and hair is salicylic acid (BHA). Salicylic acid helps to remove oily build-up from around the hair follicles and on the scalp due to its keratolytic property. Chemical scalp exfoliation helps to remove build-up and debris and promote overall hair health. Salicylic acid also works well paired with other acids such as glycolic acid and lactic acid, by having a blend of acids you are able to benefit from multiple acids at once.
Cleanse Rinse Clarifying Scalp Serum
If you are after a scalp serum that does it all, the Sunday Riley Clean Rinse Clarifying Scalp Serum will leave your scalp feeling clean without harsh scrubbing.
Dry scalps: having a dry and flakey scalp can be particularly uncomfortable and reduce the longevity of your hairstyle. Whilst excessive dryness can be something worth visiting a doctor for, mild dryness can actually be treated in a similar way as you would treat the skin on the face. When dealing with dryness on the skin I tend to suggest using ingredients such as lactic acid, polyhydroxy acid, glycerin, and snail mucin. All of these products can actually be used in the hair too. If you have a hydrating serum that is close to expiry, using it up on your scalp is a great solution.
The Inkey List
One of the greatest toners of all time, Inkey List PHA Toner, can actually be used on the scalp too. Polyhydroxy acids are great for locking in moisture whilst providing light exfoliation.
Regular scalp maintenance: weekly scalp massages when washing the hair with your fingertips help to loosen debris that can be lodged on the scalp, but did you know you can elevate your experience by adding rosemary oil? Rosemary oil can be compared to 2% minoxidil in the treatment of some forms of hair loss, it has been used in many cultures as part of hair rituals for years and has great benefits. When looking for rosemary oil, make sure to choose an organic oil that has preservatives. A bonus when choosing an oil is to choose one with a dropper to make it easier to apply your oil directly to the scalp.
If you are dealing with scalp concerns or you are not sure about how to elevate your scalp routine, visit a trichologist who will be able to give you the best guidance on what would be ideal for your specific needs.