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Scalp scrubs are a trendy hair care product made by a number of brands that promise to exfoliate and remove dead skin from the scalp. Using a scalp scrub is marketed as a way to take care of your scalp while helping your hair grow long and strong, but is it an essential step towards a healthy scalp? Express.co.uk chatted to Head and Shoulders’ expert and consultant dermatologist Dr Alia Ahmed to find out whether or not scalp scrubs are necessary.
Your scalp is a host to not only hair but also oil, dead skin, dirt, irritants, sweat and microbes.
Letting these nasty things build up in your hair and on the scalp can cause an overgrowth of scalp yeasts, dandruff, dryness and itching.
You might not be able to see your scalp but it is important to look after the skin to prevent these problems.
Leaving your scalp dirty can cause the hair follicles to become clogged with dead skin and other build-up, which will diminish the quality of your hair.
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According to Dr Ahmed, you need to cleanse your scalp effectively by removing oil, dead skin, dirt, irritants and more from the surface itself.
Unhealthy and unbalanced scalps will start to present unpleasant symptoms, such as any of the following:
- Ongoing itch, dryness, redness or flaking
- Excessively greasy scalp
- Persistent yellow scales
- Pain, feeling of tightness, irritation, or burning
- Pustules or oozing skin
- Some types of hair loss can be related to having an unhealthy scalp
Everyone has problems with their scalps from time to time, but you should never have persistent symptoms.
Dr Ahmed said a healthy scalp should be similar in colour to the rest of your skin, clear of surface debris and free of flaking or dryness.
The quality of hair growing from the scalp may also give some clues to scalp health.
So how do you achieve a healthy scalp? Here are four ways to keep your scalp in tip-top shape at all times.
4 steps to a healthy scalp
The most obvious way to look after your scalp is to always shampoo and rinse it when you feel the build-up of oil, sweat and dead skin cells on your scalp.
Dr Ahmed said: “I usually suggest washing your scalp and hair again as soon as issues reappear, for some people, this can be daily, for others less often.
“Remember that the scalp is becoming covered by dead skin cells, oil, sweat and other irritants daily, so performing a deep clean using products regularly will optimise the scalp environment to support hair growth.
“People tend to worry that washing the scalp often will be too harsh for the skin, but your scalp will benefit from a regular wash if you choose PH balanced products to support the scalp microbiome and remove scalp buildup.”
Dr Ahmed recommends using targeted shampoos with ingredients to solve issues like dryness, itching and flaking (e.g. piroctone olamine, selenium sulphide).
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Do not just wash your hair in any water, you need to consider the water quality where you wash your hair most often!
If you have hard water at home, which more than 60 percent of UK residents do, Dr Ahmed suggests purchasing a shower filter to soften it.
She also advised: “Look for ingredients to remove build-up and scale on the scalp as well as nourishing the hair (which can become dry and brittle)
“Instead of showering on the hottest setting, use tepid water to wash your scalp so as not to irritate it.”
You don’t need to avoid styling your hair or using products, but try not to drench your hair in oils.
Dr Ahmed said: “When styling hair, use the minimal amount of product needed and try to avoid applying anything unnecessary directly to the scalp.
“Use hairstyling practices that are gentle on the scalp and hair, and always use UV protection and products with antioxidant ingredients.”
Your hair may need different products throughout the year.
For example, in the winter we tend to have our heating on inside and this makes your hair dry. In this case, your hair might need some oil-based products.
Dr Ahmed recommends products with piroctone olamine and selenium sulphide if your scalp is super dry.
Are scalp scrubs and other scalp products necessary?
While scalp exfoliation and scrubs are really popular at the moment, they aren’t necessary.
Dr Ahmed explained: “Scalp scrubs can be useful to remove scalp debris, however, they do not replace the need for regular washing.”
Physical exfoliants can help to remove scalp debris such as product build-up, but they should always be used “gently and with caution,” she said.
Dr Ahmed added: “The scalp is stress-responsive and creating excessive physical stress may cause problems.”
All you really need is a shampoo to cleanse your scalp, remove build-up and debris and rebalance the factors that may be causing issues like dandruff, such as one of the three variants of the Head & Shoulders Deep Cleanse range (£5.99, Superdrug).
Scalp massages can improve your mood while soothing your scalp.
Dr Ahmed explained: “Apply your shampoo and work into the scalp gently for a few minutes if you can, then rinse it off completely.
“This is a good way to massage your scalp, stimulate blood flow and can relax and calm the mind.
“Physical touch conveys positive messages, it can be reassuring, comforting and pleasurable, to the point of being able to repress pain and negative emotions.
“Contact with the skin, like stroking or touching pressure points, can be stress-relieving and soothing.
“Other benefits of touch include mood enhancement, improved self-esteem, strengthening relationships, improving cognitive function and immunity.
“The application of skin or scalp care can therefore become a positive and mood-enhancing activity.”
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