What TikTok is not telling you: Everything you need to know about at-home scalp care

By Harriet Piercy

Published Apr 24, 2022 at 08:31 AM

Reading time: 5 minutes

In an increasingly health-obsessed world, TikTok only continues to highlight areas of supposed self-care we might never have thought of before. While skincare had its moment in the spotlight, haircare is the latest trend to have its claws at our necks—or should we say scalps? It was just a short month ago that the ‘scalp check’ trend dominated the platform’s wellness corner and now, we’ve gone full-blown scalp health hooked. Let me explain.

@glowwithava

I am AMAZED!!! stay tuned for part 4 on how you can do it at home too 🤍 IG: GLOWWITHAVA #hairtips #scalp #healthyhair

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A healthy scalp is the essential foundation necessary for hair to grow, simple. It contains a greater number of vital oil and sweat glands than any other area of skin. So while we spend so much time (and money) on hair masks, overnight oils and all that jazz to look after the length of our hair, what if we’ve been neglecting the one area that can make all the difference?

Fun fact: your hair is actually technically dead. In other words, although all those costly hair serums might make you think you’re killing it in the locks department, you’ll have to focus right down to the ‘living’ follicles for deep change or impact. Factors like hair strength, growth, thickness and hair loss can all be attributed to the condition and healthiness of the scalp. Much like the skin everywhere else on your body, this part can become just as inflamed, aggravated or dehydrated.

Just to give you an example of how easily it can be affected from follicle to strand, if you have thinner or finer hair, you’re more likely to experience sun damage than those with thicker hair. Such a situation can create an oil imbalance as your scalp’s skin tries to soothe itself, and produce what we see as ‘grease’—though the oil acts as a protection, it isn’t necessarily wanted in excess either.

@xomelissatovar

share to save a besties scalp ✨ #dandruffproblems #hairtutorial #dryscalptreatment

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With a plethora of issues that could arise from incorrect care, there are routine things we should all be doing regardless of hair type—things that we may not even know to be a recommendation because of their obviousness.

Scalp treatment at home

Massage your scalp! You’re telling me we’re not relishing the ability to do this wonderful thing to ourselves, without a hairdresser who doesn’t listen, an uncomfortable sink rest and water which is either too hot or too cold, all from the comfort of our own homes? While there are an infinite number of scalp care treatments to try yourself, this suggestion is perhaps the easiest, most accessible and scientifically-backed one to note.

Anyway, the point is that you should make a habit of it because massaging your scalp will aid in removing unnecessary build-up of oils, dirt and sweat—not to mention the countless products and pollutants potentially clogging your follicles. I’m not telling you to do this every night either, the scalp is an extension of your delicate face, so utilise this method as you would an exfoliant—periodically. Doing so helps brush away dead skin cells to create space for any blocked or obstructed follicles to possibly produce more hair.

As trichologist (someone who studies and works with hair problems) Penny James told Highsnobiety, “The epidermis is all over our body, and it just so happens that we have about 100,000 follicles all over our scalp. That’s the only difference.”

Our crowns are also populated with a variety of microorganisms that form what is known as the scalp microbiome—a liveable environment made up of pH, sebum content, moisture and topography. Basically, our bodies are a complex community of systems, all seeking symbiosis. Any modification on a bodily system (think computers or road traffic to imagine the repercussions) will have an effect elsewhere.

The truth about scalp care

Let’s talk about washing your hair for a second. We are all wonderfully different, and there’s no one-size-fits-all as we know, but it’s also a well-known fact that many of us wash our hair far too frequently. This can be overly stripping and create an overproduction of sebum to counteract the dryness, in turn making way for a greasier mane. You can even train your scalp and create a cycle of your own, so why not try pushing back ‘wash day’ by one day at a time? Like we said, it’s a perfect little ecosystem up there, one that will look after itself as long as you don’t irritate your scalp with all the products you can’t help buying. And therein lies the problem: overconsumption.

The beauty industry is now undoubtedly booming with scalp care products—before we know it there will even be a night-time cream and its day-time counterpart as well as an anti-wrinkle routine for our hair beds. Genetics considered, scalp issues are influenced by a range of factors. Much like everything else in our body, it is all connected—our lifestyle choices and diet are the motherships we should all be working on. So, don’t go wasting your money on things that are only, literally, masking the root of the problem.

Trichologist Guy Parsons confirmed this by telling Harper’s Bazaar that a scalp is like “the flower bed and soil from which your hair grows.” Rather than lathering ‘quick fixes’ that have been specifically marketed at you in the supermarket aisles of your computer cookies, choose to heal whatever is going on with your skin from the inside out—in simple terms, what you eat. We’ll get into the right foods soon enough, but first, we wanted to clarify the importance general self-care can have on your mental health.

Indulge in those hair masks if they make you feel good—as a friend of SCREENSHOT told us, “I like using something that smells nice and feels nourishing, even if it isn’t that great in the long term just because it makes me dedicate the time it takes to myself and nothing else, all because of a hair mask.” There’s nothing wrong with giving yourself some ‘you’ time, just be aware of the context, and know that there are everyday choices that can help with the overall issue.

If you do want to get products involved in your self-care routine, Parsons recommended staying away from “ingredients that ‘block’ or suffocate the scalp from breathing. Look [out] for ingredients ending in ‘cones’(silicones, dimethicones, trimethicone), which are added to make hair feel softer, suppler and more moisturised, but [actually] are molecularly heavy and will block the scalp. Known irritants would be another thing to avoid.” He went on to say that “things like heavy hold sticky gels, mousses for hair sprays with a high alcohol content could cause extreme dryness to the scalp.”

What should I eat for better scalp health?

Start by including eggs in your diet, as they are a great source of biotin, which is essential for the production of keratin (a type of protein that makes up your hair, skin and nails). Eggs are also great sources of zinc, selenium and all micronutrients needed to keep all the systems in our body running in tune. Pretty neat, I know.

Then, include antioxidants—vitamin C being a big one since it helps the body produce collagen (a protein responsible for skin elasticity) and absorb iron from your diet. In case you didn’t know, iron deficiency is usually around when hair loss conversations are at play.

Next up are vitamin A and omega-3 fatty acids. Include those dark leafy greens and nuts such as walnuts, seeds like pumpkin or flaxseeds and fatty fish too if you eat that. Your body really needs them, they’re high in protein, selenium, vitamin D3 and B vitamins.

Overall, your diet should include as much variety as possible, in textures, colours and tastes. It’s all relevant to something somewhere, and side note: if you eat better, your mind will think better. Significant stress pushes a large number of hair follicles into a resting phase, which is why hair is lost during stressful times. You will be put under a lot less stress biologically without you even thinking about it when you eat a wholesome diet.

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