Because to achieve great hair you have to go to the root.
Written ByFIORELLA VALDESOLO
The scalp may be the most overlooked area of skin on your body. But, the fact remains that your scalp and hair have a symbiotic relationship: if the former is out of balance, the latter tends to suffer the consequences. “The scalp is where hair follicles reside and receive nourishment through a very rich blood supply,” explains New York dermatologist Francesca Fusco, M.D. “If the scalp is traumatized through chemicals, excessive heat, or physical traction it will have an effect on the hair follicles and, ultimately, hair growth.” Translation: Healthy scalp plays a big part in achieving good hair day status. We asked some of our favorite wellsprings of hair knowledge how to get there.
SHAMPOO MORE, NOT LESS
Yes, you read that right. In recent years, beauty wisdom has decreed that when it comes to washing your hair, less is more, but the scalp has often suffered the consequences of this laissez faire approach. “The skin on your scalp is an extension of the skin on your face and thus produces oil and sweat, gets dirty, and can harbor bacteria,” says London-based trichologist Anabel Kingsley. “You need to give your hair the healthiest conditions to grow in and that starts with a clean scalp.” That’s best achieved, says LA-based hairstylist Ted Gibson, by reserving shampoo for exclusive use on the roots and conditioner for mid-lengths and ends, always opting for paraben- and sulfate-free products, and actively massaging the scalp. (Hint: If it doesn’t feel like work, you’re not doing it right). “This will not only remove dirt and debris left from product, it will also stimulate blood flow which will encourage hair growth,” he adds. And just as exfoliating the skin on the face can help keep pores clear, a good shampoo ritual can have a similar sloughing effect. “It sounds like such a simple thing but regular washing can help your scalp prevent oil from sinking down into the hair follicles which can obstruct hair growth,” says hairstylist James Pecis.
Sensitive (scalp) types need to be especially conscientious about both their brush choice and how they wield it. Avoid metal brushes altogether: They are known to cause breakage and their optimal heat-conducting abilities can mean additional damage. Instead, says Pecis, look for a soft, flexible bristle like those found on the Yves Durif Brush. “This helps calm the scalp, stimulate the follicles, and increase blood flow leading to better, healthier hair,” he adds. Kingsley is also a fan of vented brushes, especially for heat styling, which allow heat to disperse more quickly. And while it’s tempting to tear through hair right after emerging from the shower, your scalp will suffer. French hair colorist Christophe Robin always does a thorough towel dry first, then gently starts with the lengths and works his way up. “When hair is wet it’s at its heaviest and therefore most prone to breakage,” he says.
SELF CARE WITH SCALP CARE
Any kind of evening self care moment is obviously an ideal way to decompress before bed, but a nighttime hair ritual lays the groundwork for your scalp to get some regenerative rest, too. Brushing at night helps “oxygenate the scalp and distribute oils evenly while you sleep,” says Robin. “Brush with your hair flipped over and it works even better!” Pecis also recommends a flip in the name of good hair. “Practice an inversion every day (like a headstand!) to circulate blood flow to the head and scalp. A bonus is a beautiful glow to your skin.”
DRY SHAMPOO IS NOT A SHAMPOO
Though they share a name, their purpose is not the same. Dr. Fusco warns that weekly reliance on dry shampoo in lieu of a traditional formula can be problematic for the scalp. “The scalp just like the facial skin needs exfoliation, and that’s provided by a regular shampoo,” she explains. “Dry shampoo is fine and great in a pinch but excessive use is not beneficial.”
CHILL OUT WITH YOUR BLOWOUT
It’s not blow-drying that damages the hair, says Kingsley, it’s over-drying. If hair feels hot to the touch or steaming, you’ve gone a step too far. “It sounds overly simple but just stop when it’s dry,” says Kingsley. “Damage occurs when we overstyle trying to get that one piece that’s flicking the wrong way or are too aggressive about removing a kink.” It also happens when we overzealously pull the brush through the hair—a gentle approach is always advisable. Just as important: keep a healthy distance between hair and the dryer (ideally about six inches, says Kingsley) and, if you use styling tools, coat hair with a heat protectant like Virtue 6-in-1 Styler first.
CONSIDER YOUR STYLE CHOICES
You may love the look of sleek braids, but your scalp is just not as into it. In fact, says Dr. Fusco, excessive traction from certain hairstyles is one of the most common reasons why people’s scalps become unbalanced. “Braiding your hair or wearing it up in a super secure ponytail every day can cause tension to the scalp making it feel sore to the touch, look slightly red and can even cause hair loss,” Pecis explains. Give your scalp a break from taut styles; for fast relief after wearing one, try a leave-on treatment like Oribe Serene Scalp Soothing Leave-On treatment. “It’s lightweight, helps maintain scalp’s moisture balance, and can also be used as a braid aid,” says Pecis.
YOUR HEALTHY SCALP
The French, first-wave natural hair brand is particularly adept at crafting elegant formulas using natural (not essential) oils. This pre-shampoo treatment is moisturizing and anti-inflammatory, comes in a handy rollerball for easy application, and, for the scent-averse among us, is entirely fragrance-free.