The Importance of Scalp Treatments and How to Recommend Them to Your Clients

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Scalp 101: Everything you need to know about scalp health

Scalp health is having a moment in the hair world, and by ‘moment’, we mean that clients are finally realising that there’s more to scalp health than dandruff and there are ways of preventing, determining and solving these issues that don’t include supermarket brands that strip hair of its health whilst trying to combat an undiagnosed issue.

Scalp health is just as vital as skincare – which we know people love – it’s simply an extension of your face, extended beyond your hairline.

Ask your clients: Do they clean their face with body wash? We’re betting most (if not all) would say no. Then why wouldn’t they use something that was made for scalp specifically, to give their scalp the TLC that these unsung heroes of hair need?

Below, we’re breaking down why scalp health is so important, what causes a dry scalp, an oily scalp and dandruff and how you can help your clients with their scalp issues. Basically, we’re giving you the Scalp 101 guide!

Why is scalp health important?

Firstly, having a healthy scalp is key to maintaining healthy hair. A scalp that is energized and cared for means lustrous, healthy hair.

Secondly, a healthy scalp helps with hair growth. When a scalp isn’t healthy, the follicles on the scalp become blocked, which impedes hair growth.

Dry scalp, dandruff, oily scalp – what’s the difference?

Okay, this is where we’re going to get technical. Actually, no, we’re going to get Trichological. Below, Anabel Kingsley, Consultant Trichologist and Philip Kingsley Brand President, breaks down the most common scalp issues.

What Causes Dandruff?

We’re busting a myth here: Dandruff is caused by a dry scalp.

Not at all! Dandruff is usually oily, not dry. There are 2 main reasons for this. The first is that dandruff is often triggered by stress. Stress can inadvertently increase your body’s production of male hormones, and this in turn may cause the sebaceous glands on your scalp to produce more oil.

Secondly, the yeast responsible for dandruff (called malassezia furfur) is lipophilic – meaning it thrives best in an oily environment. Don’t rub in oils to remove dandruff – this will only make it worse. Choose products that specifically combat the yeast responsible for it’s formation, like the Philip Kingsley Flaky/Itchy Scalp Shampoo and/or Flaky/Itchy Scalp Toner.

Itchy Scalp

What are possible causes of an itchy scalp? 

Scalp dry Article Image 580w x 385h.jpgThe main culprits of an itchy scalp are dandruff and seborrhoeic dermatitis (dandruff’s big and often oilier brother).

Dandruff/ seborrhoeic dermatitis occur when the micro-flora of your scalp becomes unbalanced and certain yeasts (called the Malassezia species of yeasts) overgrow. This causes skin cells to produce more rapidly than usual, and the development of tell-tale flakes and irritation.

Why these yeasts overgrow can be the result of a number of factors, one of which is stress. This is because stress can disrupt your skin’s barrier function. It can also cause an increase in oil production. Another is infrequent shampooing; yeasts love and thrive in an oily environment. A dairy-heavy diet can also flare-up flaking and itching.

An itchy scalp isn’t always a sign of a scalp condition, mind you. Your scalp is skin and can become itchy for similar reasons to the skin on the rest of your body. For instance, a change in seasons, central heating, and cold, dry winter air commonly make the scalp itch. Long haul flights can also cause your scalp to become itchy for a few days.

It may even correlate with your mood, anxiety levels and state of health. Sometimes, your scalp can itch and be sensitive for no apparent reason.

Diet also plays a role. Winter is the season of cheese plates and celebratory glasses of champagne. Both of these can aggravate your scalp. Other foods which can trigger itching are very sugary and spicy foods, tomatoes and red peppers.

Psoriasis can become worse in winter due to decreased sun exposure.

How can you relieve and then treat an itchy scalp? 

Just as if you had a skin condition on your face, like acne, you should use daily topical products to address a scalp condition. Consistency is key.

Use a daily targeted shampoo and scalp toner, and an intensive scalp mask twice a week until symptoms clear. Dandruff and seborrhoeic dermatitis tend to re-cur and are not ‘curable’ – so keep these products handy in your shower to use as needed.

Make sure you are shampooing daily to every other day if you can. It is particularly important to remove dead skin cells and excess oils when you have a scalp condition. Other topical products you use are also better able to penetrate a clean scalp. Regular shampooing will also help to minimise the occurrence of scalp flare-ups.

Taking a holistic approach is also important – it is not simply the products you use, but how you are looking after yourself internally. If you frequently suffer from an itchy, flaky scalp, you should take a look at your diet.

I recommend my clients increase their intake of foods rich in inti-inflammatory Omega 3. Good examples are salmon, sardines, seaweed, chia seeds and flax seeds. Taking an Omega 3 supplement can also help.

You should also try to deduce if certain foods or drinks make your scalp worse/flare it up – and then adjust your diet accordingly. Many people find full fat dairy products, like cheese, as well as white wine and champagne, make their symptoms worse. Other people find that red peppers, cooked tomatoes and sugary foods send their scalp a blazing.

Another thing to keep an eye on when it comes to scalp health is stress. Stress can certainly aggravate your scalp, so it is important to manage your stress levels. Yoga, Pilates, mindfulness, meditation, swimming and walking can be great stress reducers.

Any other do’s and don’ts for an itchy scalp that you haven’t mentioned?

Do not scratch. As tempting as it is, scratching an itchy scalp with make the itching worse (it’s called the ‘itch-scratch’ cycle). Scratching your scalp can also abrade your skin, which can cause scarring.

Scratching can also introduce bacteria onto your scalp from your fingernails, which may cause infection. If you have a problematic scalp, carry a soothing scalp toner in your handbag and dab onto the affected areas when itching strikes. I recommend our Flaky Itchy Scalp Toner.

Leading up to and during your period, you may find your scalp gets oilier and itchy. If this is the case, swap out your regular shampoo for a soothing anti-microbial one for a few days, and use a post-shampoo targeted scalp toner. If itching or oiliness is particularly bothersome, treat your scalp to a targeted mask.

Dry Scalp

What is dry scalp?

A dry scalp occurs when the top layer of skin (the epidermis) lacks moisture (water). It is commonly due to environmental factors, such as weather. However, it is more likely to occur when your scalp is not producing enough, or adequately replacing, sebum (oil) – which tends to happen as we get older.

A dry scalp usually causes the appearance of fine, easily removed white flakes. A dry scalp is usually quite itchy.

How common is dry scalp?

A dry scalp is common – although not quite as common as having dry skin elsewhere, such as your hands, arms, legs and even your face. This is because your scalp is a highly sebaceous environment (i.e. it contains more oil glands, and therefore produces more oils, than most other parts of your body). Your scalp, usually, is also protected from environmental assaults by a thick coating of hair.

A dry scalp is more common in the summer months as the scalp can become sunburnt. It is also more likely to occur during winter, due to dry air and wind and central heating. A dry scalp is less common in the Spring and Autumn. Scalp dryness is also more common in older individuals as their scalps produce less oil.

What can cause dry scalp?

Winter. Cold temperatures, decreased humidity, blustery winds and central heating during the winter often cause or worsen a dry scalp. Internal factors, such as age, hypothyroid and malnutrition can also make it more likely to develop dry skin – including a dry scalp.

What is your favourite fix for a dry scalp?

Apply a targeted scalp mask that has been specifically formulated for a dry scalp once to twice a week. For dry scalps, I love our Philip Kingsley Soothing Scalp Mask. It is enriched with hydrating Aloe Vera, cooling slow-acting Menthol, and moisturising Olive Oil to provide immediate and long-lasting comfort.

Oily Scalp

What causes an oily scalp?

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  • An oily scalp is most often caused by not shampooing frequently enough. Your scalp is skin and houses thousands of sebaceous (oil glands) more. Like the skin on your face, you scalp needs to be cleansed regularly.
  • Scalp oiliness can change throughout your menstrual cycle. Leading up to and during your period, you may find your scalp gets greasier – and also a bit pimply.
  • Stress. Stress can elevate androgen (male hormone) levels – which can send oil production on your scalp into overdrive.
  • Your hair texture. If you have fine hair, you will most likely find your scalp gets greasy quickly. This is because every hair follicle is attached to an oil glad – and those with fine hair have more hairs on their scalp (and therefore more oil glands) than any other hair texture.
  • Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). A very oily scalp can be an indication of PCOS. However, you will usually get other symptoms apart from this, such as increased facial hair and acne.

What are the symptoms of an oily scalp other than oiliness? For instance, itchiness, pimples, etc. 

  • An oily scalp is more prone to getting blocked pores and pimples.
  • If your scalp is oily, it is also more likely to be flaky and itchy. Dandruff is actually an oily scalp condition.
  • If your scalp is oily, your roots are likely to be limp and weighed down.

What are the types of products that can help an oily scalp? For example, scalp scrubs, shampoos, hair masks etc. 

Like the skin on your face, your scalp can benefit from a weekly targeted mask and a daily Toner.

  • If your scalp is oily and flaky, use a weekly scalp mask that helps to gently exfoliate and cleanse. I recommend our Flaky Itchy Scalp Mask which is formulated with anti-fungal Piroctone Olamine, exfoliating Salicylic Acid & Lactic Acid, soothing celery seed extract, and antioxidant-rich Green Tea Extract.
  • Use a daily scalp toner that contains an astringent ingredient (an active that helps to soak up excess oil) – such as Witch Hazel. I love our Stimulating Scalp Toner.
  • Shampoo daily to every other day with an anti-microbial shampoo, like our Philip Kingsley Flaky/Itchy Scalp Shampoo.

What are some tips for managing an oily scalp? For example, should you wash your hair less, skip conditioner, watch what you eat, any home remedies?

  • If your scalp is greasy and you are washing your hair less than every other day, increase your shampoo frequency. Like your face, your scalp needs to be cleansed if it is oily.
  • Don’t apply conditioner to your root as this will weigh them down even more. Instead, focus on your mid-lengths and ends.
  • Keep your stress levels in-check with yoga, Pilates, mindfulness, meditation or light to moderate exercise. High stress levels can increase your scalp’s oil production.
  • If you scalp is oily, itchy and flaky, cut down on your intake of full-fat dairy products and very sugary foods.

Scalp Treatments

Below, we speak with Lisa Caddy, consultant Trichologist with Philip Kingsley on the importance of scalp treatments… and how to recommend them to your clients.

What is the purpose of a scalp treatment?

philipkinglsey-treatments-580x385.jpgHealthy hair grows from a clean and healthy scalp and so scalp treatments can be really beneficial. Think of them as a facial, after all the skin on your head is only an extension of the skin on your face. Use a scalp mask, to cleanse, hydrate, invigorate or remove dead skin! Using a scalp treatment targeted for your needs or concern can be a great problem solver and a good way to optimize hair growth.

Who is the ideal target for a scalp treatment? Dry scalp? Itchy scalp?   

Flaky and/or itchy scalps probably benefit the most from regular scalp treatments. Scalp treatments with appropriate ingredients can help to remove flakes, calm itching, reduce oiliness and overall improve scalp health. However, anyone can benefit from a good scalp detox! 

How do you get rid of scalp buildup? 

‘Scalp build up’ is often just dead skin cells not being removed due to either infrequent shampooing or simply not shampooing thoroughly enough. Daily or regular shampooing will remove dead skin cells through the action of massage.  

However, skin cells can build up also as a result skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis, and so targeted exfoliating scalp masks will help to rid the scalp of excessive flakes.  

Is it safe to exfoliate your scalp? 

Yes, but you don’t need products with abrasive particles in them. These can scratch the scalp and disrupt the surface of the skin. Choose an exfoliating scalp treatment which contains hyaluronic acid or similar to exfoliate and keep the skin supple through hydration.  

Do you recommend any at-home scalp treatments to clients?   

I wouldn’t recommend any DIY remedies, especially not oils – in many cases oils make the scalp condition worse. Scalp masks are a great at home treatment to clean away dead skin cells, sebum, sweat, bacteria and residue leaving the scalp fresh and healthy.  

Philip Kingsley’s Exfoliating Scalp Mask deeply cleanses the scalp to unclog pores and keep the skin supple and hydrated. It is enriched with clarifying BHA and balancing Zinc to help clear the scalp and reduce excess sebum.   

A Stimulating Scalp Mask brings blood flow to the follicles transporting nutrients and oxygen to invigorate the scalp whilst a Soothing Scalp Mask will calm and soothe sore, stressed or sunburned scalps.  

What salon professionals looks for in a scalp treatment? 

Active ingredients. Anti-inflammatory ones (salicylic acid), anti-oxidants (Green tea), exfoliants (alpha hydroxy acids) or calming and moisturising ingredients such as aloe vera and vitamin E. 

Scalp Products your clients will love: