Shiny, full bodied strands are something we all strive for, with a range of tailored shampoos and conditioners now available to expertly treat your tresses from home. Although these are great for repairing and maintaining existing lengths, when it comes to healthy hair growth, it all starts with the scalp. "Your scalp is the foundation that your hair grows from, so an unhealthy scalp can have an impact on the quality and thickness of hair growth" explains consultant Trichologist, Kate Holden. "If the follicles are blocked by build-up of skin cells, scaling, bacteria, sebum or product this can have a major impact on the hair, and can lead to inflammation, infection and eventually scarring where no hair can grow from the follicle at all" she warns.
What causes an imbalance on the scalp?
According to Kate, the skin on your scalp may be off balance if it's "too oily, dry, or the skin barrier becomes damaged". She points out that this can be caused by "using too harsh products, not shampooing often enough, and using products that are too low in pH (our scalp is slightly acidic)" or the wrong product for your skin type. These can all lead to scalp problems including dandruff, seborrhoeic dermatitis and psoriasis says Kate
Not only can your haircare have an effect, but lifestyle also comes into play. "Stress, hormones, sun exposure, physical environment, and poor diet can also have an impact on scalp health" says Kate.
So how can you keep your scalp healthy?
How to maintain a healthy scalp and promote hair growth
Use a heat protectant
"The best way to help hair growth is to maintain a healthy balanced diet and lifestyle, while making sure that you are being gentle with your hair to prevent breakage" advises Kate. "The leading cause of breakage is from overusing heat, so make sure you have a good heat protectant" she adds.
Kate's top picks:
Just like it's advised to exfoliate the skin on your face regularly, scalp exfoliation can also keep the skin on your head healthy. Powered by either a physical or chemical exfoliant, "scalp exfoliators can be great to help remove dandruff and product build-up and bring blood flow to the scalp for strong, healthy hair" says Kate. However, she warns that you should always check with an expert before use if you have sensitive skin or a scalp condition which may mean some scrubs could be too harsh for you.
"It’s so important to protect the scalp and hair from UV rays during the summer" stresses Kate. "The most serious concern is reducing the risk of skin cancer, but as well as this UV rays can play a role in hair breakage and cause oxidative stress which can contribute to hair loss and greying hair". Her advice for keeping your strands shielded from UV damage, "keep in the shade and wear a hat, but a UV protection spray can help too". Use an SPF formula on the scalp to keep the skin protected and opt for a UV hair protector to prevent damage and dehydration to the hair.
How to balance a dry scalp
Although it's harder to just add a moisturiser to your scalp like you would for a dry complexion, if your scalp is dehydrated, Kate advises using a moisturising shampoo with gentle surfactants such as the Maui Moisture Nourish and Moisture Coconut Milk Shampoo. Water can be one of the main culprits behind dry skin so try and go longer between washes to maintain moisture, using a dry shampoo to keep your locks looking grease free and fresh. "A dry scalp shouldn’t be confused with dandruff which is typically an oily scalp condition" warns Kate, so make sure to check in with an expert before starting treatment if you are experiencing any flaking or irritation.
Kate's moisturising must-haves:
How to balance an oily scalp
On the other hand, "if you have an oily scalp, you may need to use shampoos which have stronger surfactants" says Kate. She recommends looking for a shampoo containing salicylic acid which can help to break down oil and decrease sebum production on the scalp.
How to balance a sensitive scalp
"A sensitive scalp can be caused by many factors, but common culprits are fragrances and SLS" (a cleansing agent found in many shampoos) says Kate. She advises looking for fragrance-free haircare formulas "or a shampoo that contains soothing ingredients like tea tree oil". It's also important to protect a sensitive scalp from further irritation, so ensure to wear an SPF in the warmer months to avoid burning and further imbalance.