Scalp care often refers to ensuring that the hair follicles are not blocked and that the scalp is not inflamed or irritated. Before we can get into what blocks the hair follicles or irritates the scalp lets understand what the scalp is. The scalp is made of soft tissue and houses the hair follicles which make and grow our hair. The main function of the scalp is to protect the cranium.The skin at the top of our heads is a little bit different to that on the rest of our body. This is because it grows hair fundamentally and is much more sensitive and can easily be irritated or inflamed. This is what makes the biggest difference in scalp care and skin care.
When taking care of the scalp it is important to remember that the scalp grows hair a lot more than the rest of the skin. This means that the hair follicles get stimulated to make a lot more hair and grow it. The hair follicles can easily get blocked because they are like pores which the hair strand comes out of. Hair products and sebum can block the hair follicle causing the hair strands not to grow or get blocked.
Sebum and hair products are still important in the overall health of the hair and scalp therefore we need to find a balance where there is enough sebum and product that does not create build-up on the scalp and thus blocking the follicles. We can call this the prevention of build-up in which we use just enough hair products that are needed by the hair and constantly wash out any excess product.
Let's say you have product build-up, how do we safely remove it without irritating the scalp? Using sulfate free shampoos that are meant to deep clean the hair and scalp are the best option. Most natural hair shampoos are made with no sulfates or parabens, this leads to lower risks of inflammation and irritation. If you feel a need to further clean the scalp and exfoliate , using a tool like a scalp massager or shampoo brush can help lift off any dead skin cells and product build-up off the scalp. Using tools that are created specifically for the hair and scalp is essential because they are made to be functional and gentle to the scalp. Other items can be too harsh on the scalp causing scratches and irritation.
Due to the scalp's sensitivity, many things can irritate it - excess products, certain ingredients in products and even dirt and dust particles. Irritation and inflammation can be felt or seen through dandruff and itchiness. Irritation is often resolved through thoroughly washing the hair and using soothing products like aloe vera however once there is inflammation, then there is a chance there could be bacterial infection. If inflammation and/or irritation lasts even after an exfoliating wash, then you need to see a professional - a dermatologist or trichologist.
The scalp is relatively easy to take care of but it is as easy to irritate it. Some of the things that we do as “normal” hair care things can either enhance the health of our scalp or cause irritation if excessively done. An example of this is oiling your scalp or much commonly known as basing your scalp. This is when we put oil or butter on the scalp and massage it in; this is done to stimulate the scalp to grow hair. Stimulating the scalp means there is blood flow which means that the scalp gets the nutrition and oxygen it needs to keep growing hair, however if this is done excessively then it can cause product build-up and/or irritation due to the constant pressure caused by massaging.
Other issues can be detrimental and cannot be solved by washing and exfoliating. One of these issues is chronic dandruff. Dandruff is the flaking of the scalp. The reason one can have dandruff varies and oftentimes can be resolved by using anti-dandruff shampoo, however dandruff can be chronic and be coupled with inflammation. This can be a result of bacterial infection and if you suspect this to be the case it's important to see a professional urgently. If you wash your hair with an anti-dandruff shampoo and no changes occur, it is also important to see a professional to diagnose the cause and treat it.
This is all we have for now, if you ever find yourself worrying about scalp care just remember: a little goes a long way. Most of the time the scalp is just fine, the things we do to the hair and scalp are what causes scalp issues.