You might never consider your scalp or its health until it gets itchy or irritated. But a healthy scalp is the key to beautiful, shiny, easy-to-manage hair, so it's worth sparing it a few minutes in your beauty regime.
The good news is that our scalps are surprisingly low-maintenance, and some of the best products are everyday ones – such as intensive conditioners and hair masks – which also incorporate ingredients designed to give our scalps’ health a boost.
Look for intensive conditioners that incorporate some kind of scalp-boosting properties – ESPA Pink Hair and Scalp Mud, £18, is a great example of this type of multipurpose product, and will help to detangle locks while giving your scalp a deep clean.
You might not be able to see your scalp, but it’s important to think of it in the same way that you think of the skin on your face. You wouldn’t drag a hair brush across your face (we hope), so don’t do it with your scalp.
Spend some time finding the right hairbrush for your hair type (we like Bodyshop Hairbrush with bamboo pins, £8) and when you wash your hair, use the pads of your fingers to gently massage in the shampoo or conditioner – if you’ve got an itchy scalp, it’s a sign of irritation and rubbing your scalp too vigorously can exacerbate the problem.
We all love a hot soak in the tub, but the water you use to wash your hair should be lukewarm. Using water that’s too hot can cause your scalp to produce sebum, which will leave hair looking lifeless and dull.
It’s also important to spend plenty of time rinsing out your shampoo and conditioner. These products aren’t designed to be left in contact with the skin and by doing so you risk aggravating existing problems or creating new ones.
Rinsing hair becomes even more important if you’re a regular user of products such as hair spray, leave-in conditioner and serum, as a build-up of these products can clog the follicles and lead to infection. For the same reason, exfoliation is just as important on your scalp as on any other part of your skin.
Products designed to remove the build-up of both dead skin cells and product residue are quick and easy to use. Kerastase’s Bain Exfoliant Hyrdatant and Bain Exfoliant Purifiant both work in the same way as a facial exfoliator – keep a bottle in the shower and incorporate them into your regular beauty regime.
Massage techniques don’t just help hair products to permeate your scalp more effectively, but also play a huge role when it comes to stimulating hair growth.
“Many of us don’t realise how much tension we hold in our head or how tight our scalp can become, and a gentle scalp massage can stretch, release and ease this away,” says Marian Hook, director of training at ESPA International.
“Scalp massage isn’t just deeply relaxing, but it also eases tension in the scalp which is often caused by stress and lifestyle. Massaging the scalp improves and stimulates the circulation providing nourishment to the hair roots.”
If you’re going on holiday, remember to protect your scalp in the same way you’d protect your skin. “Either wear a hat, or massage some of your sun cream along your parting to avoid sun burn and re-apply throughout the day,” suggests Jane Barnett, Kérastase’s national education manager. “Also apply sun cream along your hair line if you’re wearing your hair tied back.”
There are a wide range of nutrients which can benefit hair and scalp health. These include niacin, zinc, and vitamins A, B and C.
The mineral silica can be especially beneficial, because it works by strengthening the blood vessels and improving circulation, which stimulates blood flow to the scalp and encourages growth.
It’s also an essential component of our skin’s connective tissues and can strengthen bones, nails and hair. Whole grains, carrots, beer, coffee and mineral water contain silica.
Silica supplements are also widely available (try Bio Care Hair and Nail complex, from £26.35) and can be especially effective in cases of age-related hair thinning, due to the fact that our bodies’ ability to retain silica decreases as we age – although it’s important to speak with your doctor before taking silica supplements.
Kerastase Specifique Dermo-Calm Masque Sensidote, £21.44.
Viviscal Gentle Shampoo, £11.95.
Redken Scalp Relief Oil Detox Shampoo, £9.38.
Kerastase Initialiste Advanced Scalp and Hair Concentrate £32
Nourkrin Hair Nutrition Programme, from £50.95
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