Thriv­ing locks start with a healthy scalp, so in­dulge yours

Women's Health (UK) - - CONTENTS - Words BECCI VALLIS

Out of sight, out of mind works like a dream when at­tempt­ing to for­get a needy ex – less so when it comes to main­tain­ing the health of your scalp. Just be­cause you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not there, nor that it can take care of it­self. ‘The scalp of­ten goes un­no­ticed – when peo­ple don’t see some­thing in the mir­ror, they tend not to give it the same care as they do, say, their face,’ says tri­chol­o­gist An­abel Kings­ley. But the scalp is be­gin­ning to gar­ner at­ten­tion. One in four peo­ple ad­mit to hav­ing dan­druff, and Google searches for ‘dry and itchy scalp’ were up 310% in 2017*. Pun­gent phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal so­lu­tions once sold in ugly bot­tles have been repack­aged and filled with on-trend in­gre­di­ents. Now, ev­ery­one wants in. Dubbed the ‘skini­fi­ca­tion’ of hair, the move to fo­cus on scalp health (while driven by con­sumer in­ter­est) is pow­ered by big brands up­ping their re­search and de­vel­op­ment games. Take Paris-based Sis­ley – for the past five years, its lab teams have turned the spot­light on scalps, with a brand new range, Hair Rituel, the re­sult. ‘The fac­tors – whether ge­netic, en­vi­ron­men­tal or be­havioural – harming hair’s beauty and youth­ful­ness are the same as those that dam­age the skin,’ says Sis­ley sci­en­tific di­rec­tor José Gines­tar. ‘It’s why we’re ded­i­cat­ing our ex­pe­ri­ence and knowl­edge of skin­care to the scalp and hair fi­bre.’ New­com­ers, such as Ker­luxe and Lon­don Labs, are re­leas­ing prod­ucts de­vel­oped us­ing the same the­ory.


But even if the skin on your scalp acts in a sim­i­lar way to the skin on your face, isn’t it likely to be well pro­tected by your hair? Ac­tu­ally, your hair and scalp en­dure far more than you’re prob­a­bly aware. ‘You’re more ex­posed to sen­si­tis­ing agents be­cause of the in­creas­ing num­ber of chem­i­cals used in ev­ery­day prod­ucts,’ ex­plains tri­chol­o­gist Iain Sal­lis. ‘Plus, hair­care regimes have be­come more con­fused as peo­ple favour dry sham­poos and be­tween-wash treat­ments over a daily cleanse.’ Then there’s the low-level stress you’re likely bat­tling con­stantly. Just as high lev­els of cor­ti­sol can cause a buildup of se­bum on your face or trig­ger dry patches, the same can hap­pen to the scalp. How will you know? Oily roots, itch­ing and dry, flaky skin, for starters. How­ever thick and healthy your tresses, they’re no de­fence against pol­lu­tants, which can set­tle on the scalp and strip away the nat­u­ral pro­tec­tive coat­ing, lead­ing to dry­ness, ir­ri­ta­tion, in­flam­ma­tion and even tem­po­rary hair loss. Skin­care afi­ciona­dos are wise to the neg­a­tive im­pact of pol­lu­tion: L’oréal has re­ported a 41% rise in con­sumers look­ing for clar­i­fy­ing scalp so­lu­tions, while Bri­o­geo Scalp Re­vival Char­coal + Co­conut Oil Micro-ex­fo­li­at­ing Sham­poo was the third best­selling hair­care prod­uct on cult­beauty.co.uk in the first quar­ter of 2018. Colour­ing hair can dam­age the con­di­tion of your scalp, too, par­tic­u­larly if you use a pre-light­ener or bleach. And prod­ucts that con­tain sil­i­cones, sodium lau­ryl sul­phates and min­eral oils (your av­er­age sham­poos, serums and hair­sprays then) are also com­ing un­der scru­tiny, as they can clog pores, suf­fo­cate the scalp and pre­vent oxy­gena­tion. Even dry sham­poo should be used with cau­tion. ‘When you sleep, your skin ab­sorbs ev­ery­thing and it needs to breathe, so it’s best not to go to bed with it in your hair,’ ad­vises hair­dresser Christophe Robin. It means, in an ideal world, you would wash your hair ev­ery night be­fore bed – the equiv­a­lent of not go­ing to sleep with your make-up on. ‘The fre­quency of sham­poo­ing doesn’t af­fect se­bum pro­duc­tion, and reg­u­lar wash­ing also en­sures that ac­tive in­gre­di­ents have a bet­ter chance at pen­e­trat­ing the der­mis,’ says hair restora­tion con­sul­tant Dr Irum Khan. Last, but by no means least, is your age. ‘Age­ing changes the struc­ture of the skin on your scalp, caus­ing degra­da­tion of the con­nec­tive tis­sues that pro­duce col­la­gen,’ ex­plains Dr Khan. While a lack of col­la­gen ma­te­ri­alises on your face as fine lines and wrin­kles, when it comes to the scalp, this de­gen­er­a­tion weak­ens the hair fol­li­cle. The re­sult? A greater like­li­hood of strands clog­ging up your plug­hole. It all makes a very con­vinc­ing ar­gu­ment that the skin on your scalp is a car­bon copy of that be­low your hair­line – al­beit thicker with a heftier sum of se­ba­ceous glands – which is why the idea of scalp skin­care is more than just the lat­est mar­ket­ing ploy from the beauty in­dus­try. ‘Your hair and scalp go through the same thing as your face, so why wouldn’t you care for them in a sim­i­lar way?’ ar­gues Kings­ley.


So, where to start? Look to your skin­care regime for guid­ance. ‘Each prod­uct has a key role in cleans­ing, nour­ish­ing and op­ti­mis­ing the scalp and hair struc­ture,’ says Dr Khan. ‘Sham­poo and con­di­tioner cleanse and prep the scalp and hair shaft, while scrubs have an ex­fo­li­at­ing ac­tion that detox­i­fies the scalp by re­mov­ing resid­ual im­pu­ri­ties. This aids the ef­fec­tive­ness of masks, oils and serums, which work to re­plen­ish nu­tri­ents and tackle is­sues such as dan­druff and hair loss.’ De­spite the par­al­lels with the fa­cial prod­ucts al­ready perched on your bath­room shelf, slap­ping face cream on your fol­li­cles isn’t the best method of scalp main­te­nance. Yes, many of the in­gre­di­ents are the same, but the for­mu­las and con­cen­tra­tions dif­fer to work on the thicker skin of your scalp with­out dam­ag­ing your fol­li­cles. Take sal­i­cylic acid, a com­plex­ion-boost­ing fave – you’ll find it’s a com­mon com­po­nent in scalp-care be­cause it re­duces dan­druff, but in a higher con­cen­tra­tion than in your face serum. Oribe’s new Serene Scalp Bal­anc­ing Sham­poo, £42, Bum­ble And Bum­ble Scalp Detox, £25, and R+CO Crown Scalp Scrub, £35.95, all con­tain it in abun­dance. An­other go-to, bor­rowed and adapted from skin­care, is niaci­namide, which stim­u­lates col­la­gen pro­duc­tion – find it in Nanogen’s Hair Growth Fac­tor Treat­ment Mask, £29.95.


Hyaluronic acid is as much a hy­drat­ing hero for the hair as it is for the skin. ‘The hyaluronic an­ionic charge al­lows the mol­e­cules to en­ter the hair cor­tex and strengthen the struc­ture,’ says Dr Khan. Nat­u­ral in­gre­di­ents play a big part in scalp care. For Lon­don Labs, it’s prickly pear seed oil that holds the se­cret to a prob­lem-free peak. ‘It’s pure, cold-pressed and mim­ics your own skin oils very closely,’ says co-founder De­faf Alamri. ‘We’ve also patented a pep­tide ex­tracted from the prickly pear flower that’s been clin­i­cally proven to in­crease cel­lu­lar turnover.’ Sal­lis is hop­ing such seed-based so­lu­tions will help drive the mar­ket to­wards more eco-friendly prod­ucts, how­ever, he be­lieves that the best so­lu­tions to prob­lem scalps still tend to be med­i­cated. While Head & Shoul­ders’ new Supreme range has been re­for­mu­lated to cater for our new­found scalp appreciation, it still in­cludes ZPT (zinc pyrithione), as does L’oréal Pro­fes­sion­nel’s In­stant Clear Sham­poo – be­cause it does such a stel­lar job of tack­ling dan­druff.


At the crux of whether your scalp regime will suc­ceed is the ap­pli­ca­tion. And it isn’t the 30-sec­ond rinse and re­peat you were hop­ing for. ‘You need to spend time mas­sag­ing your scalp, as well as the ac­tual hair it­self,’ says Masa Ohta, lead con­sul­tant at Leonor Greyl. ‘Start when your hair is dry. Ma­nip­u­late and mas­sage the skin on your scalp, ap­ply­ing firm pres­sure to boost blood flow – your scalp would likely look red if you could see it – then ap­ply your sham­poo to your scalp and the top sec­tions of hair,’ she adds. ‘Af­ter three to five min­utes, rinse and ap­ply a mask on the lengths and ends. Now turn your at­ten­tion to mas­sag­ing the hair – scrunch­ing it does noth­ing. Work and press prod­uct in to ex­pand the hair and al­low the in­gre­di­ents to pen­e­trate the in­ner cor­tex. It’s the same phi­los­o­phy as a deep-tis­sue mas­sage.’ Ohta isn’t the only one bang­ing the drum for scalp stim­u­la­tion. Last year, Aveda launched a scalp ‘fa­cial’ in con­junc­tion with its Pra­masana col­lec­tion, which in­cludes a cleanser, con­cen­trate and ex­fo­li­at­ing brush. The per­fect en­try point to self-ad­min­is­tered head mas­sages, the looped bris­tles boost that all-im­por­tant mi­cro­cir­cu­la­tion, as well as en­cour­ag­ing im­pu­ri­ties and dirt to wrig­gle free. Again, use it on a dry scalp be­fore you get in the shower and your head will be primed for the ‘skini­fi­ca­tion’ steps that fol­low. Other new in-sa­lon pre­scrip­tion ser­vices in­clude Kéras­tase’s Speci­fique Pu­rifi­ca­tion Sys­tem, £85, which uses a Clar­isonic brush to boost cir­cu­la­tion and scuff away im­pu­ri­ties, and Nioxin’s Scalp Re­new Der­mabra­sion Treat­ment, £15. As for whether th­ese treat­ments are a ne­ces­sity, Sal­lis says it’s more down to per­sonal choice. ‘You re­quire a scalp fa­cial as much as you do a nor­mal pam­per­ing fa­cial – so you may want one, but the scalp doesn’t need one.’ The one area in which the jury is still out is whether the new scalp lay­er­ing process re­quires more or less wash­ing. The French pre­fer to wash their hair just once a week to avoid ir­ri­tat­ing the scalp. How­ever, Kings­ley ar­gues that daily sham­poo­ing is ideal, con­sid­er­ing that you sweat, se­crete se­bum and shed skin cells 24/7 – es­pe­cially im­por­tant if you’re an avid ex­er­ciser. While it will take at least a full skin cy­cle for your scalp to ben­e­fit from your new habits (ear­mark 28 days), some sooth­ing primers and calm­ing serums pro­vide in­stant re­sults. Also, con­sider the knock-on ef­fect a health­ier, de­clogged scalp has on your hair. Soft­ness, shine, more vol­ume, a re­duced risk of split ends and hair loss – there cer­tainly isn’t a down­side to those ex­tra ac­tive in­gre­di­ents you’re about to send its way.


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