By Audrey Sivasothy, author of The Science of Black Hair: A Comprehensive Guide to Textured Hair Care
Your healthy scalp is the birthplace of your healthy hair care journey. It is helpful to think of your scalp as the “fertile ground” from which your hair will sprout and grow. If properly tended to, your hair will thrive. Maintaining a healthy scalp is very important for optimal hair growth.
The Functions of a Healthy Scalp
The skin cells on the surface of the scalp naturally shed as new healthy scalp cells are formed. The scalp cells are shed as minute particles that are invisible to the naked eye. This process is so highly synchronized that it often goes undetected until the process is thrown out of sync. When the scalp skin cell replacement process is disrupted, dandruff and other scalp issues arise.
The basic life of a cell, whether it be the hair cells replicating within the follicle itself, or the cells present on your scalp, involves several basic functions. All cells need a supply of water, nutrients from the blood stream, a favorable environmental temperature, and the ability to “respire” and eliminate waste. Frequent hydration through the process of shampooing and conditioning will help keep this process in good working order.
What is a healthy scalp?
Healthy scalps are those where the skin is toned, pliable, and stimulated. A toned and flexible scalp indicates a healthy network of connective tissue and nourishing blood vessels, and a pliable scalp skin allows for better circulation to the hair follicles. A healthy scalp is also a clean, stimulated scalp. Here are the top 4 ways to maintain a healthy scalp:
1. Clutter Free is the Way to Be!
The scalp is an extension of the face. Just as pores can become clogged on the face, the follicles of the hair can experience the same type of obstruction if products are placed directly on it. This is especially true of heavy oils and greases. However, many women of color in particular are known for religiously slathering heavy oils upon the scalp. When products are allowed to build up on the scalp and hair, moisture conditions become unfavorable and problems with dryness and growth will arise.
The scalp produces its own perfect oil, sebum, and does not need help from us via topical products. Some notice that their scalp is chronically dry and flakes, but this condition is only aggravated by the addition of products onto the scalp skin. It creates a vicious cycle of dryness. The scalp will produce less sebum to compensate for the products you are putting on it. And without this constant even production of sebum, the function of the scalp is thrown off balance. Dandruff and dryness return from the lack of sebum production, and then we tend to want to put more oils on the scalp thinking this will help. Then again, the scalp cuts back on sebum and dryness returns. The scalp, like any other skin needs to be able to respire (perspire) etc. With heavy concoctions on the scalp clogging the pores, an unhealthy environment for growth is created and the function of the scalp is hindered form operating at its optimal levels. The proper way to hydrate the scalp is simply through frequent washing and conditioning. This keeps the scalp skin clear of any obstructing clutter and keeps it moisturized and supple.
For moisturizing and styling, apply your products from the newgrowth all the way to the ends avoiding the scalp as much as possible. Some product will inadvertently touch the scalp during the normal course of moisturizing, but avoid actively going through and coating the scalp with heavy oils.