A HEAD START
Thriving locks start with a healthy scalp, so indulge yours
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.
HEADING FOR A FALL
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.
GOING TO YOUR HEAD
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.
‘ALL THOSE FACTORS HARMING YOUR HAIR DAMAGE YOUR SCALP, TOO’
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.
A HEAD START
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.
‘YOU NEED TO SPEND TIME MASSAGING YOUR SCALP, AS WELL AS YOUR HAIR’