The Importance of Scalp Health
As the cold days and nights of winter begin to roll in, discussions around scalp health often become a trending topic within haircare. Temperature changes, central heating, and less sunshine can all impact the scalp at this time – but the truth is that scalp health is not seasonal.
We ask our founder and leading Trichologist, Tony Maleedy, to get granular about scalp health and why it is such an important topic all year round and not just in the winter months.
Why is a healthy scalp important?
Well, great hair always starts with a healthy scalp! The analogy I like to give is that your scalp is similar to the rich fertile soil needed for plants to grow and flourish. Your hair grows from the scalp and depends upon it for its nourishment and well-being.
If the scalp becomes unhealthy, it shows in the hair. Dry scalp, dandruff, flaking, irritation, spots, inflammation, eczema, and hair loss, amongst many other conditions, can all be symptoms of an unhealthy scalp.
Improving the health of the scalp leads to enormous improvements - not only to the scalp itself - but also to the quality and condition of your hair and its ability to grow.
Just as an example of this - sebum (oil) is secreted from oil-producing glands in the hair follicles. In healthy conditions, sebum spreads over the hair, acting as a fantastic moisturiser and conditioning agent. If the scalp is afflicted with scale or flaking, this dead skin will become a barrier, absorbing sebum and affecting both the condition of the hair and the scalp.
What affects Scalp Health?
Lots of things affect scalp health. The scalp has its own delicate ecosystem – we refer to it as the microbiome. With so many oil-producing glands and hair follicles on the scalp, this microbiome is sensitive to change – stress, diet, illness, lifestyle, certain medicines, and even the products you use can impact the health of the scalp.
The most common problem, and probably the easiest to fix, is the amount you wash your hair. Washing your hair is singularly the best thing you can do for your scalp.
What is the difference between a dry scalp and dandruff?
It is a common misconception that dandruff and a dry scalp are the same thing. Although a dry scalp is a legitimate condition, it’s extremely uncommon. Dandruff flakes may appear like 'dry skin', however, the condition is not caused by a dry scalp.
The scalp contains between 80,000 and 140,000 large hair follicles – each of these has large sebaceous glands (oil-producing glands) attached to them. So the scalp, under normal circumstances, has a plentiful supply of oil and, therefore, is unlikely to become dry.
Dandruff on the other hand is caused when micro-organisms on the scalp are out of balance. Malassezia Globosa, a yeast that forms part of the scalp's microbiome, is found on all scalps (even healthy scalps) and feeds on the sebum produced by the sebaceous glands.
Dandruff occurs when the levels of Malassezia increase. There can be many triggers for this, but stress and dietary factors are very common. This process causes an inflammatory response resulting in flaking and itching typical with dandruff.
How does the EarthKind Tea Tree & Eucalyptus Shampoo Bar help?
Washing the hair and scalp with ordinary anti-dandruff shampoos can help remove scale however, many of these shampoos can be harsh and abrasive, exacerbating the problem in the long term.
We developed the Tea Tree & Eucalyptus shampoo bar with a high-quality but gentle surfactant (cleaning agent) made from coconuts which mean the bar is gentle enough to be used as a daily shampoo. Tea Tree & Eucalyptus oils are excellent antimicrobials that help to control the levels of micro-organisms on the scalp that cause dandruff.
Their anti-inflammatory properties also help to reduce the itching and irritation associated with many scalp conditions. Plus you get the additional benefits of using a highly concentrated, waterless bar, instead of a standard diluted liquid shampoo in a plastic bottle.
A severe case of Seborrheic Dermatitis
Do you have advice for those with more severe conditions such as scalp psoriasis and seborrheic dermatitis?
Yes absolutely, both seborrheic dermatitis and scalp psoriasis are serious conditions. Like dandruff, seborrheic dermatitis is connected to the microbial colonisation of the scalp, so our Tea Tree & Eucalyptus Bar for Improved Scalp Health can still be beneficial for milder cases.
However, in severe cases, seborrheic dermatitis causes an immune response in the body that speeds up the epidermal turnover. This is the rate at which skin cells reproduce and replace each other in the epidermis (the outermost layers of the skin). In healthy skin, the epidermal turnover takes around 28-30 days, but with seborrheic dermatitis, this epidermal turnover can speed up to 14 days or even faster.
It means this skin doesn’t have time to go through its normal processes, creating a layer of scale on the scalp that is red with inflammation – it can be both tender and itchy.
Psoriasis on the other hand is a disease of the skin – unfortunately, there is no cure, so treatments are all about trying to control the symptoms. Cases of scalp psoriasis often see the epidermal turnover speed up to just a few days, as opposed to the 28 days it is meant to take in healthy skin.
Over the course of 25 years as a clinical Trichologist, I treated thousands of cases of scalp psoriasis and seborrheic dermatitis. During that time, I developed the Juniper Scalp Therapy Shampoo as a way for my patients to treat these conditions from home.
Unlike other products on the market that claim to help, the Juniper Scalp Therapy shampoo has anti-mitotic properties that slow down the epidermal turnover, calming inflammation, soothing irritation, and bringing balance back to the scalp.
We also include a concentrated blend of six natural and therapeutic oils with anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. While Piroctone Olamine is a fantastic anti-fungal that has had a positive impact on hair loss in recent clinical trials.
For anyone with concerns about scalp psoriasis, seborrheic dermatitis, or hair loss, I would always recommend visiting a Trichologist for a consultation.
Are you worried about the health of your scalp? Find some useful links below.
EarthKind Tea Tree & Eucalyptus Shampoo Bar for Improved Scalp Health
Juniper Scalp Therapy Shampoo for Scalp Psoriasis, Seborrheic Dermatitis & Hair Loss
Institute of Trichologists – Find a Trichologist in the UK