If you are losing your hair or experiencing thinning, you are not alone. The American Academy of Dermatology estimates that 80 million Americans contend with hereditary hair loss. And this number doesn’t account for people with thinning hair or hair loss caused by other factors.
A 2018 study by the International Journal of Trichology confirms that scalp health directly affects natural hair growth and hair retention. So, we’ve gathered research about hairstyle choices, hair products, and general health that directly affect your scalp.
Here are nine simple ways to maintain or improve the health of your scalp..
- Minimize Tugging and Pulling at Hair Follicles
Chipping at the hair cuticle is a known cause of hair loss and damage according to the 2018 study by the International Journal of Trichology. So, researchers recommend using gentle hair care and grooming tools to prevent damage to your hair cuticles.
- Use brushes and combs only when styling your hair. Don’t over brush.
- Manage tangles gently with wide-tooth combs and moisturizing conditioners.
- Squeeze the water from your hair with a towel and rough dry your scalp with a blowdryer on medium or cold settings . Don’t rub your hair or scalp abrasively.
Hairstyles that pull hair too tightly or for too long can cause Traction Alopecia and damage hair follicles according to multiple sources. Use caution with styles that pull strands at the scalp.
- Be gentle when pulling hair back for styles such as braids, ponytails or cornrows.
- Leave hair slightly loose at the scalp—especially for styles meant to last months.
- Seek experienced professionals when adding hair extensions and weaves.
- Choose light-weight hair extensions to prevent pulling at the scalp.
- Remove long or heavy hair extensions after two or three months.
Since scalp health is critical for hair growth, keep your scalp clean and exfoliated to minimize conditions like dandruff, excess oil, or acne. Most experts agree that hair shampoo has improved with scientific advancements in chemistry and technology.
But, with so many options, how do you choose?
Customers should choose shampoos based on their hair type according to a 2015 article published by the Indian Journal of Dermatology. Researchers offered the following suggestions as a guide for dermatologists.
- Pick normal hair shampoo if your scalp is not excessively dry or oily and your hair is not chemically treated.
- Find dry hair shampoo if you chemically treat your hair or use heated styling tools such as flatirons or hair dryers.
- Choose oily hair shampoo if your scalp produces excess oil.
- Use a deep-cleaning shampoo only about once per week if you use styling products such as hair spray, gels or mousse often.
- Avoid professional shampoos for daily use. These shampoos are generally intended for use before or after specific styling procedures or chemical processes.
- With all shampoos and conditioners, be sure to avoid sulfates and parabens, at the minimum.
If you also have an itchy or irritated scalp, try medicated shampoo for your hair type. You can add a separate conditioner after shampooing to repair any dry hair. If you are unhappy with your results, try a different shampoo or one with more natural ingredients and fewer synthetic ones.
A recent study suggests that anyone with hair loss or hair thinning may benefit from using a medicated shampoo to inhibit the growth of Malassezia, a common skin fungus. Researchers propose that shampoos with Malassezia-inhibitors should be an integral part of treatment for any patient with hair loss.
The 2018 study from the International Journal of Trichology explains that Malassezia causes oxidative stress resulting in skin conditions such as eczema, dandruff, and general skin aging.
Medicated shampoos are proven to treat scalp conditions such as psoriasis and seborrheic dermatitis. But the new study reveals that ZPT-based shampoo demonstrated increased hair growth in hair loss patients without existing scalp conditions.
If scalp health is akin to hair health, you’ll want to avoid chemical treatments or at least spread them over time according to a 2015 International Journal of Trichology article.
Chemical treatments not only dry hair strands, but can damage the scalp skin, hair follicles, and hair cuticles. Consider these suggestions before a chemical hair treatment.
- Consider a demi-permanent dye that lasts 10-15 shampoos instead of a permanent dye. Permanent dye products have been scientifically-proven in multiple studies to cause dermatitis, chemical burns, and scarring alopecia.
- Wait at least 12 weeks between chemical hair straightening treatments. Chemicals touching the scalp can cause burning and hair cuticle damage. Chemicals touching previously straightened hair can cause breakage.
- Avoid permanent hair dyes, highlights, or bleaching procedures on chemically- straightened hair. Apply demi-permanent dyes only after waiting at least 15 days after straightening.
- Use caution when using medicated shampoo with chemically treated hair. Using medicated shampoo may require intense conditioning with the advice of a dermatologist or experienced stylist.
Most people know that stress is a driving factor in many illnesses. But can it really affect your scalp and hair? Some studies show just that.
There is a scientifically-proven relationship between increased acute and chronic stress and hair loss according to the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology. The stress hormone cortisol affects the function and regulation of hair follicles in the scalp. Too much cortisol disrupts the hair follicle cycle and results in hair loss.
Chronic stress is also known to cause oxidative stress. Oxidative stress increases skin conditions such as psoriasis, eczema, atopic dermatitis, as well as premature skin aging.
To feel and look healthier, add regular meditation, yoga, or exercise to your weekly routine. Take periodic breaks during your working day when you’re feeling tense. Or add more fun to your weekends.
A 2016 study published by EPlasty, the Open Access Journal of Plastic Surgery, suggests that a weekly scalp massage could thicken your hair.
Participants in the study received a four-minute scalp massage each week for 24 weeks. By the end of the study, hair count remained the same, but individual hairs were thicker than before. The study attributes the increased hair thickness to increased blood flow resulting from the massage.
You’ll want to be sure hair strands are not pulled at the hair follicle during your massage. And considering the relaxation benefits of massage, why resist the pleasure?
Ultraviolet sun damage to exposed skin causes thinning of both the epidermis and dermis layers. So, it is important to protect all exposed skin from the sun’s harmful rays—even your scalp.
“There are several observations that would suggest the scalp is analogous to topsoil – that is, the thicker the topsoil, the better the grass will grow. This may be the case in the scalp,” explains Dr. Samuels, Chief of Dermatology at St. Luke’s Hospital in St. Louis, Missouri.
If you love the outdoors and can’t stay in the shade, protect your scalp and hair. Haircare products with sunscreen provide limited protection. Always wear a hat for any extended time in the sun. Hats made of sun-protective fabric with UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) of 30 or more are best.
Managing sun exposure should help scalp skin repair itself over time. For more rapid recovery, try scalp therapies with natural ingredients.
Minoxidil and Finasteride are common FDA-approved hair growth stimulants for hereditary hair loss. But these synthetic stimulants often have side effects like scalp irritation, inflammation, rashes, flaking, and scaling.
While these synthetic stimulants may activate hair growth, they may also inhibit your scalp health. Products with more natural ingredients can nurture scalp skin as well as stimulate hair growth. According to a 2015 article from the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences in India, more than 50 plants reduce the rate of hair loss and stimulate new hair growth.
Companies like Collective Laboratories combine known hair growth stimulants from plants such as lilac, ginseng, pumpkin seed, burdock root, oat bran extract, zinc gluconate, and malabar kino bark – together with powerful Trichogen (™), a compound derived from traditional Chinese medicine, and Hotflux ®, which increases blood flow to hair follicles.
If you notice an increase in hair loss or decrease in hair thickness, consider what has changed in the last couple of months. Then, decide if you can make any changes to stop the hair thinning.
- Have you changed medicines? Or your diet?
- Are you using different hair care products? Or a new hairstyle?
- Is anything causing undue stress in your life?
If you notice your scalp is itching or irritated, talk to an experienced stylist or your dermatologist. Professionals are learning more every day about how to manage skin problems, preserve existing hair, and regrow lost hair.
With so many causes of hair thinning and hair loss, it is difficult to know the best solution for you. But we are certain that scalp health is critical for continued hair growth.
Try a hairstyle or product change. Visit your dermatologist or try a hair growth serum. We believe that by doing little things every day has the power to create big results.
Tell us about your experiences and questions. We love hearing from you!