If you’re reading this then you’re probably baring the brunt of an angry, irritated scalp giving you flakiness and a lot of annoyance. You're also probably familiar with that post shower feeling... You know the one, where you've scrubbed your hair to the point of painful only to find those telltale flakes still taking occupation on your head. Aside from the flaking, you may also be experiencing a lot of accompanied burning, itching and tenderness because your head seems determined to make matters worse. Ugh, the pains. Luckily, though, we spoke to our Dermatologist guru Dr Natasha Cook to get a handle on the best way to turn that angry scalp into a happy, healthy one...
A little less than half of the population suffer from a sensitive scalp, which is no shock as the skin of our scalp is around four times thinner than the skin on our face. So, along with the amazing guidance of Dr Cook, we've also found some perfect products to help restore your scalp and locks back to their luscious glory.
1. Ditch the foam
A foamy shower sesh does not equate to efficacy, people. Consider an aggressive scalp clean a thing of the past. Dr Cook says it's doing more harm than good, in fact. “It’s important to use shampoos that are gentle. Foamy products contain ingredients we call surfactants,” she explains. Hear that? No matter how addictive that squeaky clean feeling may be, quit the suds. “Surfactants over-strip the scalp and damage the natural barrier layer, therefore leading to increased sensitivity.” We have one foaming exception however, the in-between clean by Clean Projects Co which is 100% fragrance free and has zero SLS or parabens. Although it starts as a foaming product, the foam dissipates upon application making it a lighter, more sensible alternative to any shampoo on the market, especially if your scalp is in need of a detox. For anyone who loves to heat style, this product also allows for a perfect finish without the nasty chemicals. If you have a mildly sensitive scalp, the Kerastase Cleansing Soothing Shampoo, and Moo Goo Milk Shampoo (Beauticate founder, Sigourney's, personal fave for her family) are also great options. Always try to aim for something anti-inflammatory and hypoallergenic.
2. Wash less
It seems like a no-brainer, but like most people prone to a sensitive scalp will find, trying to wash away the irritation (dandruff included) can become addictive. But getting too squeaky clean is an angry scalp no no. “The more washing, the more potential damage to the scalps outer protective barrier layer,” says Dr Cook. Basically, when you start to dry your scalp out, you're over-stripping natural oils and your skin begins to over compensate going into what Dr Cook terms a 'reactive oiliness pattern of oil production'. Simply put, your scalp will keep freaking out and the vicious, angry cycle will keep on keeping on. No worries, we’ll happily give up washing our hair everyday, thank you very much. If need be you can use something like Klorane's Dry Shampoo with Oat Milk for in between washes, and pair with Dermaveen Shampoo Oatmeal or Organic Care Shampoo Dry Nourish when you do wash, for extra nourishment.
3. Recognise the root cause
Sometimes it's a sensitivity to certain ingredients, and other times it's a skin condition. Need we remember, the skin on our scalp is related to the skin everywhere else. According to Dr Cook, some who experience flakey scalp, may also notice the same pattern around the brow and folds of the nose area. "A process known as seborrheic dermatitis. Eczema can occur in the scalp, especially at the back of the neck / scalp area and on the body. Psoriais commonly manifests in the scalp and the body especially the elbows and knees," says Dr Cook. Check with a dermo or doctor to see if it's more than simple sensitivity, you'll thank yourself.
4. Go for a tonic
If your scalp is super inflamed, leaving a hair tonic on the scalp over night is Dr Cook’s biggest endorsement. In particular using alpha keri oil, coconut oil and almond oil can really help to neutralise and recondition the skin. If your skin is feeling more sensitive than usual, she recommends using a prescription anti-inflammatory steroid lotion (available from your dermo/doctor) under the oil. For weekly maintenance, a little goes a long way with Dr Hauschka’s Revitalising Hair & Scalp Tonic made with neem leaf extract. You simply massage it into either a dry or damp scalp, and leave it on until your next wash to work its magic. If you have fine hair, you can even use this product daily to help strengthen and fortify your strands.
5. High bar hair mask
Because you totally need an excuse to do that (not). Naturally your scalp's sensitivities are going to affect the quality and growth of your hair. Along with giving your scalp some serious love, it’s important to give your strands TLC too. Dr Hauschka’s Strengthening Hair Treatment is great as a quick, 20 minute leave-in. Make sure to cover with a warm towel for an extra intensive treatment. If you’re looking for maximum absorption, this anti-inflammatory Stimulating Scalp Mask by Philip Kingsley or Aveda Scalp Remedy Dandruff Solution are your new best-friends. They're the perfect concoction of vitamins and minerals to stimulate blood circulation, travel down your strands and improve your mane’s overall health and lustre.
6. And finally, less is more
To be honest, we're the first to blow a hole in our wallet buying tonnes of cult hair favourites. But, with a sensitive scalp it's best to invest in minimal, quality anti-inflammatory ingredients that will soothe all that aggravation going on up there. If you can, skip using other leave-in products like hair volumizers, root lifters, heat protectants, and try to steer clear of heat styling during the week. Instead, tie your hair into a bun and show off a great pair of earrings. It all makes a huge difference to the overall health of your hair and scalp.
Story by Claudia De Berardinis