A neglected scalp is where the first signs of future hair and skin concerns show up. Here's everything you need to know about it
1. It's prone to UV damage
If you have a thick head of hair, the skin underneath is safe. But thinning hair or even partial baldness means your scalp can get sunburn. Cover exposed areas with sunscreen and "keep your head covered with a scarf, hat or an umbrella," says Dr Rachita Dhurat, director of Mumbai's Skin, Trichology & Aesthetic Centre.
2. It needs to stay dry
"Never ever tie your hair before it is dry as trapped moisture can lead to itching and fungal infections," warns Dr Dhurat. "Be particularly careful in summer, as the scalp sweats more."
3. It gets hungry
"Drink lots of water and take Vitamins E, B6 and B12 to help replenish moisture, and eat a balanced diet that includes omega-3 fatty acids," advises Dr Shahin Nooreyezdan, senior consultant of cosmetic surgery at Delhi's Indraprastha Apollo Hospital. Smoking constricts arteries and capillaries, leading to faulty blood circulation - even to the head. Exercise. It increases blood flow to the extremities.
4. Shedding is normal
"As new cells form on the scalp, old skin cells are shed as very minute particles," says cosmetologist Dr Pai. "It is only when this scalp skin cell replacement process is disrupted that dandruff, itching, flaking and scaling crop up." So some shedding is good.
5. Oily scalps get dandruff too
Getting warm oil massages every week, even in the heat? Good going, but it's not going to keep dandruff away. "Sebum produced in the scalp lubricates it naturally," explains Dr Arvind Poswal, a hair transplant surgeon at Dr A's Clinic, Delhi. "When this gland dysfunctions, the resulting excess sebum combines with dirt, pollution, sweat and increased cell turnover to create a thick sticky, oily dandruff."
6. Your scalp is unique
So what is an oily scalp to do? Get cleansed with a mild shampoo with an acid base. Dr Pai recommends looking for ingredients like salicylic acid, zinc pyrithione and ketoconazole (in brands like Scalpe and Salisia KT). Opt for shampoos containing coal tar, lactic acid or urea (in brands like Fongitar and Lonax T) if your scalp is dry. And remember: only those with a very oily scalp must wash every day.
7. It benefits from a good scrub
"Exfoliation helps remove product build-up and dead cells. Plus, the extra stimulation boosts circulation," says Dr Nooreyezdan. Try this: mix 3 spoons of brown sugar with 2 spoons of coconut oil. Add a few drops of essential oil (tea tree, jasmine or lavender). Massage on your scalp for some time before rinsing. Use weekly. "Aloe vera gel, tea tree oil, oatmeal, yoghurt, lemon juice, onion juice, thyme and sage work well on the scalp," she adds.
8. It likes a good moisturiser too
"Oils stay on the skin longer than creams, so they are perfect to keep moisture locked in," says Dr Pai. "If your scalp is oily but your hair is frizzy, avoid oiling the scalp and roots of the hair. Focus instead on mid shaft and hair ends." Dr Nooreyezdan also recommends a weekly 20-minute hot oil treatment before your shower.
9. It hates hot air
Would you subject your face to a hair dryer? So why torture your scalp with it? "Too much blow drying can reduce the moisture content of your scalp. So let your hair air dry naturally for as long as you can," recommends Dr Rachita Dhurat. Dhurat lets her own waist-length hair dry completely under a fan. "If you have to blow dry, try a lower heat setting or opt for cold air, and hold the blow dryer 11 to 12 inches from your hair and scalp," she says.
NUTS ABOUT YOU: Almond oil keeps your scalp’s moisture locked in.
10. It loves a good rub
Even 10 minutes of daily head massage (just using your fingertips) can keep the scalp healthy. Don't tug, pull or knead too hard. Work small circular motions from your forehead to the nape, or from the sides to the top. It will work wonders not just on your head, but on your mind too.
Massage with these
Avocado oil is rich in nutrients, amino acids, essential fatty acids, Vitamins A, B, D and E
Castor oil speeds up natural growth of hair, reduces frizz and split ends and prevents drying of the scalp.
Extra virgin olive oil conditions the scalp and provides relief for a dry scalp
Sweet almond oil ensures that moisture in your hair stays locked in and keeps the scalp healthy.
Jojoba oil is loaded with vitamin E, and is an effective moisturiser.
From HT Brunch, April 14
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