As much as knowing your hair is important, know your scalp is as important too —if not the most essential.
Understanding the fundamentals of our scalp’s health is important especially when trying to achieve hair growth. With debate of genes aside, all hair grows, but it’s crucial to ensure that the condition in which it’s surrounded to thrive is maintained properly —that is the scalp.
A pH between 0 and 6.9 is acidic, 7 is neutral (with pure water at a pH of 7), and anything between 7.1 and 14 is alkaline. The scalp and skin pH (including sweat and sebum) ideally should be between 4.5 and 5.5 for a heathly scalp. This conducive environment of slightly acidic nature ensures the prevention of fungi and bacteria forming on the scalp. However how we cleanse and take care of our scalp can affect this balance.
Although it is essential to cleanse our scalp periodically, excessive cleansing however can cause more harm than good. This doesn’t just regard to the cleansing itself but also the product or cleansing agent that we adopt into our hair care regimen can be detrimental to our overall scalp health.
Our skin and likewise our scalp has been conditioned to produce sebum. Sebum is our bodies natural oil which acts as a moisturiser for our skin. However when this sebum is being stripped mechanically, it can disrupt the natural pH balance of our scalp.
Opt for a pH balanced daily cleanser and conditioner ranging closer to that of your scalp’s pH —around 5 is ideal. You can check your products pH buy using a test strip. (Can be purchased from your local beauty supply store).
Other methods of balancing the scalp’s pH include rinsing your hair and scalp in a mixture of equal parts apple cider vinegar and distilled water to restore a balanced pH. Afterwards, rinse out the mixture repeatedly with clean water and be careful to avoid the mixture’s contact to your eyes. This mixture also helps to prevent and eliminate dandruff.
Whether your scalp produces too much or too little sebum, ensuring the proper cleansers for your scalp is essential. Harsh products containing sulfates, parabens and phthalates can cause further irritation on the scalp regardless of where your scalp falls with the level of sebum production. You can opt for a natural cleansing surfactant instead (most being derived from Coconuts).
Regardless of how much sebum your scalp produces, you will notice if you are over cleansing your scalp, look out for signs of irritation, soreness, redness, dry patches, itching and flaking.
For those of us with dry scalp and other scalp related abnormalities (such as psoriasis, eczema dermatitis) it is just not the limited production of sebum or lack there of that is the issue. It is the disruption of the sebum formation. Especially with Psoriasis, due to the abnormal and excessive skin renewal (shedding of the skin) caused by an auto immune response of our white blood cells attacking itself as a foreign invader, this disrupts our skins ability to form and retain enough sebum. As a result of this, If we cleanse the scalp with harsh or stripping shampoos, it can cause irritation, rendering our scalp more sensitive than it already is.
For most dry scalp sufferers, to make up for the limited production of sebum on our scalp, we tend to replenish our scalp with some type of oil as this helps to condition our scalp, but remember this needs to be cleansed properly in order to avoid clogged pores. It could also be beneficial to apply oils sparingly but frequently, and opt for light but effectively moisturising oils instead.