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What is a healthy scalp environment and how can you achieve it?

When it comes to hair and scalp health, you may have heard the phrase ‘scalp environment’ or, more specifically, an optimal scalp environment, but what exactly does this mean? And how can you attain it? In this article we explore the definition of a healthy scalp environment and more importantly what it means for you and your journey to your best hair yet. Read on for our top tips on how you can achieve an optimal scalp environment.

What does having a good scalp environment mean?

A good scalp environment refers to a scalp that is absent of excessive oil or dead skin cell build-up. The benefit is that it optimises healthy hair growth.

How does having an optimal scalp environment support the growth of healthy hair?

Our founder, famed Trichologist Philip Kingsley, paved the way in recognising the importance of a healthy scalp environment for healthy hair growth. Our hair goes everywhere we go, and therefore accumulates the same amount of dirt and pollution the rest of our body does. The same goes for our scalp, which is densely populated by sebaceous (oil) glands that can swiftly become clogged by a build-up of oil, sweat and dead skin cells, if not properly shampooed away. The most common myth we encounter in our Clinics is that frequent shampooing is bad for the hair, but there is no scientific evidence that backs this up. Another common misconception is that frequent shampooing increases oil production, but this is also untrue. Regular shampooing actually helps to maintain a clean, healthy scalp environment, free of accumulated dead skin cells, allowing the hair to grow from the scalp unimpeded. This also allows any topical scalp products to work more effectively, since they are able to reach the follicle more easily. The Malassezia yeast — the overpopulation of which is associated with dandruff — also feed on the oils on our scalp, which makes regular shampooing even more vital in the pursuit of a healthy scalp environment, and in turn healthy tresses.

When considering how often you should shampoo, it is important to think about the steps that proceed your hair wash routine. For example, excessive use of heated tools may cause damage to the hair, but otherwise, frequent (even daily) shampooing is likely to be your best bet for achieving optimal scalp health.

How do you create a good scalp environment?

Our Trichologists advocate shampooing regularly to help prevent the aforementioned oil, sweat and dead skin cell build-up on your scalp, and thus achieve an optimal, balanced scalp environment. Moreover, if using a medicated shampoo, this will allow for more frequent and closer contact with the active ingredients. To ensure a thorough cleanse of the scalp, technique is crucial: gently massage the shampoo into your scalp with your fingertips for 60 seconds and be sure to focus on the roots alone — never apply or rub shampoo on the mid-lengths and ends, as this can dry strands out.

What challenges can our scalp environment face?

We’re all familiar with the gut microbiome, but have you heard about the scalp microbiome? The entire surface of our skin — including our scalp — is home to a vast population of microorganisms. Usually these do not cause us any harm, but an imbalance can trigger certain scalp conditions. The most common example of this is dandruff which is known to be onset by an overpopulation of Malassezia yeast (a type of fungus) on the scalp. This leads to an increased rate of skin cell turnover and the dreaded flakes associated with the condition. Contrary to popular belief, dandruff is actually caused by an oily rather than a dry scalp, therefore it is imperative to maintain regular hair washing to avoid a greater accumulation of dead skin cells which can exacerbate it.

Other conditions include seborrhoeic eczema or dermatitis (known as cradle cap in children), an inflammatory rash which occurs on areas of skin where sebaceous (oil) glands are prevalent. It generally occurs in the following zones:

  • Front area of the scalp
  • Below the forehead
  • Behind the ears
  • Nape of the neck
  • Random patches across the scalp

The skin becomes inflamed, with large, tightly packed flakes covering a reddened area of the scalp. These flakes or scales are usually (but not always) accompanied by itching. Heavy scales often cause less itching than milder, lighter scales. Many people believe that flakes resulting from seborrhoeic dermatitis are dry, and so rub in oil to remove them. However, the flakes are in fact greasy, therefore rubbing in oil will simply make them more adherent and oilier, not to mention make your hair feel and look lank.

Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition characterised by patches of red, flaky, scaly skin. On the scalp, psoriasis can be severe, causing very adherent, tightly packed scales and underlying redness. Itching can, but does not always, occur. Read more about psoriasis here.

Which common scalp conditions can directly impact the health of the hair?

Research has shown that psoriasis in particular can impact the quality of the hair itself, with strands growing from areas of the scalp affected by psoriasis found to be thinner in diameter, and to have surface pitting. Some flaky scalp conditions have also been associated with increased hair shedding, and research suggests the use of products containing an antifungal ingredient — such as Piroctone Olamine — can help to reduce increased hair fall. Try our Density Stimulating Scalp Mask which energises, invigorates and balances the scalp to help encourage healthy hair growth. In fact, 90% of independent trial users reported their scalp felt healthier after use.

Dandruff is a common problem relating to the scalp, how can I treat it?

Products containing antifungal ingredient Piroctone Olamine work to rectify this imbalance, helping to prevent dandruff, so making the switch is a good idea. Try our Density Preserving Scalp Drops and Density Stimulating Scalp Toner, plus Flaky/Itchy Scalp Anti-Dandruff Shampoo and Flaky/Itchy Anti-Dandruff Scalp Toner, which are all rich in scalp friendly Piroctone Olamine.

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