Everyone knows that a tree won’t grow in sand. But it’s equally unreasonable to expect an unhealthy, badly-kept scalp to produce beautiful, healthy, glossy hair too. We probably know about providing our hair and skin with nutrients, but we forget about our scalp, sometimes leading to hair problems and even hair loss. If your scalp is tight and itchy, if your hair is limp, dull or thinning, or if it is weak and lacking in body, treating your scalp better may be the answer.
Your shampoo or conditioner might not be right for you
Thinning, dull hair that lacks body, or an irritated scalp can both be helped by choosing a shampoo and conditioner that nourish your scalp. Aloe vera, vitamin B5, and natural oils such as Moroccan Oil, avocado and sunflower oils are all natural ingredients that will gently nourish your scalp. Clear Scalp and Hair Therapy, T/Gel Shampoo by Neutrogena, and Nioxin are all examples of products that are designed to be therapeutic for the scalp. Dramatically improving the look of dull, thinning and limp hair may be as easy as switching brands. The label should have words such as nourishing, healing and “healthy scalp” on them. After switching to a new shampoo and conditioner, you may have to wait as long as 8 weeks to see noticeable results.
Shampooing your hair properly
A good hair day depends on removing built-up hair product and excessive oil from your scalp. De-gunking lets your follicles grow and give you the best possible hair. It may not be brain surgery, but proper technique can really help. The first step is to give yourself a good scalp massage while shampooing your hair.
Conditioner is for scalps, too!
Stylists often tell you not to condition your scalp, because it can lead to limp, oily hair. They have a point of course, but you should still condition your scalp on occasion, just not every time. Start by applying the conditioning product to the ends of your hair, and work your way up to the scalp with the rest of the conditioner. Problems usually occur when you don’t thoroughly rinse the conditioner out of your hair, making it feel limp and oily after it dries. Conditioning your scalp is usually fine if you remember to rinse very well, for at least 30 seconds. Using a product with peppermint or eucalyptus will refresh your scalp and lock in moisture, but will not make your scalp over-produce oil.
Buy a good quality brush
Regular brushing stimulates the scalp, keeps the natural oil moving through the hair, and keeps the tangles away. How old is your current hairbrush? Do you even remember where it came from? Most of us have no idea. I still own an old plastic hairbrush that I got before I left home for college, and I’ve been carrying it around ever since. That brush is not helping my cause in any way. Buy a brush that is made entirely or partially with real boar bristles. They cost a bit, but they last for a long time and will really improve the condition of your hair.
Beat the heat
At risk of sounding like a broken record, I will once again remind you that hair dryers and other heat producing appliances can be bad for your scalp or hair. Think about the five or ten minutes of searing hot air blasting at your scalp every day. Would that be good for the skin on your face, or any other part of your body? Most of us are in a hurry in the mornings, but try to leave a little extra time to dry your hair more slowly. Allow your hair to dry at room temperature while you do the rest of your morning rituals – eating breakfast, getting dressed, checking Facebook – and then hold the dryer farther from your scalp and lower the heat setting. Your hair will be less damaged and prone to thinning, and your scalp will be healthier.
To make matters worse, after drying our hair, we may reach for a curling or flat iron. It’s not hard for hair to break when you expose it to temperatures in excess of 300 degrees. Lower the heat setting on these appliances to prevent damaged, broken hair that feels coarse, dry and thin.
Even better, take a time-out from using any heat at all to style your hair. Wait longer between shampoos or experiment with the look of naturally dried hair sometimes.
Get rid of Gunk
I find myself repeating this piece of advice every time I write on the subject of hair care. Leave-in conditioners, heat protecting products, defrizzing agents, hair sprays, volumizers, shine serums, dry shampoos, gels, and mousses… All of these products end up on our scalps if we put them in our hair. The gunk can plug the follicles and pores on your scalp, causing problems for your hair. Blocked-up follicles have trouble producing any kind of hair, much less beautiful, healthy thick hair. Build-up on your scalp can even cause your hair to thin, so clarifying/deep cleansing treatments are essential on a regular basis, regardless of your hair type.
Guard against sun damage
With repeated exposure, your scalp can quickly be damaged by the sun’s UV rays. Especially for thinning hair or an already irritated scalp, always remember UV protection. If your part is defined or your hairline is receding, pay particular attention to these areas.
You’re what you eat
Your diet, your vitamin intake, and any medicines you take have a profound impact on your hair. There are specially formulated vitamin supplements for healthy hair and scalp, and eating a balanced, healthy diet is something you should always consider. A better diet can help get your hair out of a rut.
Talk to your doctor
Most hair and scalp issues are harmless and can be addressed by better hair care habits. However, thinning and limp hair and an irritated, flaky itchy scalp can sometimes be symptoms of underlying medical problems that need attention. Skin disease such as psoriasis, hormonal imbalances, and thyroid problems can all affect the condition of your hair and scalp. When you’ve tried changing your habits and the hair issues are still there, ask a doctor if you need blood work to look for underlying medical problems.