Healthy hair

Why it’s time to give your scalp some TLC – and the best products to help

There’s no denying that how our hair looks can significantly impact our self-confidence. Yet, while we spend hundreds each year maintaining our tresses (around £400, according to a survey by GeeHair), many of us don’t show enough TLC to the literal root of our hair concerns: the scalp.

With most of the scalp covered by hair, it can be easy to overlook what’s going on. But it’s vital to give it attention, as poor scalp health is linked to an array of concerns including:

  • Dandruff/flaking
  • Itching
  • Redness
  • Excess dryness
  • Excess oil
  • Bumps or raised patches of skin
  • Hair loss

So, what factors add up to make our scalp unhappy?

Not washing your hair enough

 “The scalp contains 180,000 oil glands, so it needs to be cleansed and managed,” states consultant trichologist Eva Proudman, FIT, IAT, of UK Hair Consultants. “I would recommend washing daily or every other day.”

Using harsh or ineffective shampoos

“Some shampoos can have high levels of sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS) in them, which can dry and dehydrate the hair and scalp,” Eva explains. Meanwhile, “others have no sulphates in them so do not effectively clean. Both are detrimental to the overall health of the scalp.”

Overusing scalp scrubs

Unless you have a scalp concern such as eczema or psoriasis, which may necessitate more frequent use, “I would suggest weekly scalp scrubs to keep the scalp cell turnover healthy,” states Dr Sharon Wong, consultant dermatologist at HCA Healthcare. “It isn’t necessary to use an exfoliant daily or be too aggressive with it, as this can compromise the skin barrier and cause scalp inflammation and sensitivity.”

Product build-up

Using products in between washes, such as dry shampoo, can build up on the scalp, leading to “irritation and inflammation,” Eva shares.

Seborrhoeic dermatitis

Eva reveals that an imbalance of yeast naturally living on the scalp can lead to seborrhoeic dermatitis. Various triggers encourage this imbalance, including seasonal weather changes, stress, diet, and illness.

Scalp psoriasis

“This autoimmune condition causes the skin to regenerate five times more quickly than normal, leading to inflammation, flaking, and a thickened silver plaque,” Eva shares. “It can be incredibly itchy, too.”

The impact of menopause on the scalp

Many women in their midlife years experience changes to their hair. While research indicates that over half of post-menopausal women experience female pattern hair loss, Eva says the issue can begin much earlier. “During perimenopause, I see many ladies who are worried about the increase in hair shedding and overall thinning of the hair,” she reveals.

As with other menopause symptoms, hormone fluctuations are largely to blame. “Menopause signals large changes in female hormones: the reduction in oestrogen and progesterone can cause problems for the hair and scalp,” explains Dawn Hilton, MIT, The Trichology Specialist. She adds that those who already experience scalp concerns, such as dandruff and psoriasis, may see their symptoms flare during this period.

Said hormonal changes can lead to all kinds of effects on the scalp. For instance, says Dawn, sebum production slows during and after menopause, which can lead to a change in the scalp microbiome and cause our skin and hair to become drier.

In addition to lower sebum production, hormone-related skin thinning can cause dryness and irritation. Thinner skin means there’s less of a natural lipid barrier and “a reduction in moisture retention,” Dawn shares.

She also reveals that a decline in oestrogen and progesterone can impact another hormone, androgens. As a result, “females predisposed to genetic hair thinning may start to see the effects of this, as testosterone causes the hair follicle to become miniaturised,” Dawn notes. “A tell-tale sign of this is a wider parting.”

Eva explains that other menopause-related factors can also impact scalp health. For instance, perimenopause is associated with “a drop in stored iron due to changes in monthly cycles,” she says. Yet, “this iron store is key to a normal hair growing and shedding cycle.” She adds that poor sleep can also influence the hair’s growth and shedding cycle, as can ongoing anxiety – both of which are common symptoms at all stages of menopause.

It’s important to note that “not all issues with hair thinning are due to the menopause,” states Dawn. “If it feels too much, seek help via your GP, a trichologist, or a dermatologist. There are conditions that affect the hair which are more prevalent post-menopause that are not just linked to the ageing process.”

Scalp-loving products to try

Numerous products can aid in nourishing and supporting the scalp. Here are a few of our favourites:

Percy & Reed’s Strengthening Scalp Concentrate

£26, Percy & Reed (don’t forget to use the LIZLOVES to save 15% off your order)

This rescue remedy is rich in peptides and vitamins to help promote optimum conditions for hair growth. It helps to rejuvenate brittle, weak and fragile hair so it’s ideal if your hair is prone to falling and breakage.

Simply apply the concentrate directly to the scalp after each hair wash.

Vichy Dercos Anti-Dandruff Shampoo for Dry Hair

£12 for 200ml, Boots

This shampoo packs in scalp-friendly ingredients, says Dr Wong – including salicylic acid, which helps regulate sebum production; selenium disulphide, which reduces the amount of dandruff-driving yeast on the scalp; and glycerin, which helps preserve the skin barrier.

Eurcerin Dermocapillaire Calming Urea Scalp Treatment

£14.50 for 100ml, Boots

This leave-in product contains urea, “which acts as an anti-itch ingredient, in addition to having moisturising properties,” reveals Dr Wong. It also contains lactic acid for gentle exfoliation.

FFØR Re:Balance Duo

From £16 for 2x100ml, FFØR

A divine-smelling shampoo and conditioner pairing formulated with organic peppermint, lemongrass, and Brazilian nut oil to moisturise, soothe, and invigorate the scalp naturally.

Philip Kingsley Overnight Scalp Barrier Serum

£27 for 60ml, Philip Kingsley

This serum comprises lactic acid for exfoliation, Aloe vera for hydration, and Witch Hazel to ease itching and irritation. Massage into your scalp before bed so it can get to work overnight.

Sukin Sensitive Micellar Scalp Masque

£8.95 for 200ml, Sephora

A gentle masque enriched with natural ingredients, such as chamomile extract, to reduce the appearance of flakes and ease dryness, and argan and coconut oils for a hearty dose of moisture.

Words: Chantelle Pattemore

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