The Regimen: A Complete Guide to a Healthy Scalp

September 1, 2020 | Written by Christine Lee

If you are worried about thinning hair, you have probably looked into products which can help to add volume or strength – and you may have even explored drug options like minoxidil (Rogaine) or finasteride (Propecia). But have you given much thought to your current hair care regimen? It is your full regimen (cleansing, conditioning, rinsing, scalp health, and nutrition) that can make your hair, and scalp, the best they’ve ever been.

Whether you are experiencing thinning or loss, or whether you already have a great head of hair, your hair and scalp regimen will ultimately be a key factor to your overall scalp and hair condition. For so long, the hair care industry has almost exclusively focused on our hair strands, using terms like “thickening,” “volumizing,” “shine,” “strengthening,” etc. Rather, they should be talking about scalp and follicle health first. Healthy hair starts at the scalp and follicles. Healthy scalp and follicles are what matters most when it comes to our bodies’ ability to produce healthy hair.

Most of us, whether male or female – learn hair and scalp care from our parents maybe with some input from friends. Often, that is: Rub shampoo into your hair, then rinse. Maybe a second lather of shampoo, then another rinse. Then maybe a little conditioner for a minute or two. And done.

While those early teachings might be somewhat helpful, they are not descriptive enough and if misunderstood, could even lead to poor scalp health. All of Collective Laboratories’ products were developed based on scientific research and formulated with carefully curated ingredients. The CL philosophy is about how our products work in conjunction with healthy scalp and hair maintenance – ie our Regimen.

CL Regimen | The Right Hair & Scalp Wellness Routine

Step One: Shampoo – Detoxifying

Choosing the right shampoo doesn’t need to be difficult. As a rule of thumb, mild shampoo, free of sulfates and parabens, is the way to go. It is not always true that the most expensive shampoo is the best shampoo. Find a shampoo without harmful parabens and sulfates, with fewer chemicals in general, and preferably one with a mild scent – or maybe unscented. We think ours is the best there is.

Showering with water that is too hot can damage or dry your scalp. Use warm or lukewarm water, wet your hair and scalp thoroughly, and then squeeze a small amount of shampoo into your hand. Many people see the next step as “washing our hair” – but we at CL think it’s better described as “cleansing our scalp and hair.” Lather the shampoo into your scalp first, using your fingers to gently massage the scalp (up to a minute or so) which helps to stimulate important blood circulation to the follicles.

If you have long hair, gently massage the shampoo through your strands. Too much friction applied to your strands could damage the cuticle which protects the hair shaft.

After massaging the suds and lather across your scalp and down your strands, then it’s time to rinse. With lukewarm or warm water, rinse your scalp and hair completely. To avoid any irritation from leftover soap residue, it is important to rinse for longer than you normally would. Take a full minute, and make sure that your scalp and hair are thoroughly rinsed of all residue.

If you have very oily hair or if your scalp and hair were especially dirty, then you can apply shampoo again in the same way, and then rinse again in the same way.

How often should we shampoo? It is a myth that we should not shampoo often. As long as we are using a good shampoo – as described above – many of us would benefit from washing our hair daily. The scalp can produce large amounts of sebum and oil, which can block pores and follicles, challenging healthy hair growth. Scalp hygiene should be no different from hygiene across other parts of our bodies. The main rule of thumb? Keep it clean.

Certain African-American or tight, curly hair types offer an exception to the rule above. Afro-textured hair is the natural hair texture of certain populations in Africa, the African diaspora, Oceania and in some parts of South and Southeast Asia. For these hair types, it is best to shampoo once every week or two, using shampoo as described above. BUT, it is advisable to still rinse your hair and scalp in water, maybe adding a small amount of conditioner, every couple of days.

Step Two: Conditioning – Fortifying

After shampooing and rinsing, now is the time for conditioner. Take a small, nickel or quarter size amount in your hand, rub your hands together to distribute the product, then gently apply to your hair only. It is important to avoid touching the conditioner to your scalp if possible – so it is best to just lightly smooth the conditioner over your strands. If you have short hair, that means gently gliding over the top and around your head – *not* massaging the conditioner into your scalp. If you have longer hair, this means the same, but you’ll also continue massaging the conditioner through to the end of your strands. After a minute or so, thoroughly rinse all of the conditioner from your strands. Then rinse again. Your scalp is far more sensitive than you might think, and even a small amount of conditioner residue could cause unwanted irritation – and ultimately block follicles and pores.

Step Three: Apple Cider Vinegar Rinsing – Balancing / Clarifying

For many, your in-shower hair regimen may start with shampoo and end with conditioner. Occasionally, you might want to consider one extra step. Apple cider vinegar (ACV) can be very good for the scalp and strands.

Apple cider vinegar is known for having high levels of acidity. At the same time, dry, frizzy hair tends to have a high pH balance. This is a matter of basic chemistry. The acetic acid found in ACV can help lower the pH balance in your hair, making it stronger, shinier, and overall healthier.

The high acid levels in ACV also serve to kill harmful bacteria and prevent them from multiplying. The removal of certain bacteria in your hair and on your scalp can significantly improve overall scalp health. It can even have a positive impact on your follicles, ultimately boosting hair growth.

An ACV hair rinse can help solve tangles and frizziness, bring life, body, and shine back to your hair. ACV hair rinse can also decrease oily residue, mitigate dandruff, and unclog and activate hair follicles.

An ACV rinse is one of the most powerful scalp and hair care products you can make in your own home. The steps are simple:

  • Mix two or three tablespoons of apple cider vinegar with about a quart of water.
  • Shampoo and condition your hair as per usual.
  • Pour the ACV and water mixture over your hair, disbursing it evenly and massaging it into your scalp.
  • Let the mixture sit in your hair for two or three minutes.
  • Rinse it out thoroughly with warm water.

Doing this every day would be too much acidity. Start with two days per week and go to three, maximum, for best results.

If you had an itchy scalp, dandruff, Seborrheic dermatitis, or psoriasis, this rinse may also help to address those issues – naturally.

A note about dandruff

Dandruff can be caused by many factors: irritation from an allergen or ingredient, allergies, stress, or bacterial buildup. While it does not always go hand in hand with hair thinning or loss, it can definitely be an indicator of a compromised scalp. Many dandruff shampoos on the market can be effective at treating the underlying symptom, but not the cause. Often, those shampoos contain sulfates, parabens, and even harsh detergents which can strip the scalp of natural oils and nutrients. Applying an ACV rinse a few times a week as described above can be extremely effective. If that is not enough, try this:

Take two regular Aspirin tablets (important: use actual aspirin – not acetaminophen or ibuprofen) and crush them up. Add this powder to a single dose of your shampoo and mix thoroughly into your hands before applying the shampoo as described in step one, massaging it into your scalp, and leaving it in for 2-3 minutes.

Aspirin’s key ingredient is salicylic acid – and if that sounds familiar to you, it might be because you’ve used a face product like face wash or lotion to fight acne. Salicylic acid is one of the most common acne-fighting active ingredients used today, but did you know that it’s also in aspirin?

Salicylic acid has anti-inflammatory properties. For that reason, you’ll find it in a lot of dandruff shampoos. You’ll even find it in many prescription-strength medications that are used to treat seborrheic dermatitis and dandruff.

With our recommendation, however, you can use aspirin instead to get a higher, more concentrated version of this compound – without the nasty ingredients that are in many common dandruff shampoos.

For additional dandruff-fighting remedies you can make by yourself check out this article.

Step Four: Out of the shower (and serum application)

As you get out of the shower, towel dry your hair. For some, your scalp and hair care may stop right here. It shouldn’t.

If you are experiencing thinning hair, or if you want to add real volume to your hair while boosting follicle output, this is the step where you should consider adding a leave-in serum.

Our Activating Serum is packed with DHT blockers which fight hair loss. And all of the ingredients work together to stimulate blood flow to follicles, balance pH and sebum levels on the scalp, and fortify hair shafts – promoting healthy hair growth. Our formulation is designed to fight hair loss and also promote growth. Here’s some more information about the science behind our serum.

Step Five: Towel Drying – Massage

Do we really need a section about something as straightforward as towel drying? Yes. When towel drying, please be gentle. Research has shown that drying a wet head of hair vigorously with a towel can cause hair to become brittle and fragile – especially when sandwiching long hair between folded sections of the towel and rubbing, pulling or twisting the strands. Split-ends can result, as well as stripping the hair shaft and cuticle of beneficial nutrients.

Simply cover your head and hair with your towel, and very gently massage your scalp and strands, being careful not to pull or scrape. Check out our YouTube channel for detailed video instructions.

Step Six: Blow Drying

Whether or not you’ve just applied our Activating Serum, we highly recommend that you use a hair dryer to rough dry your scalp after every shower. A damp scalp can invite more bacteria and challenge your follicles as they are working to produce hair.

If a hairdryer is set to either “medium” or “cold” (avoid the “hot” setting), held 6-12 inches away from your head, and if you move the hairdryer with one hand while styling & fluffing your hair with the other, you will not damage your hair.

It’s not as important to dry the rest of your hair – the scalp is most important.

Optional Step Seven: Styling products

If you are using styling products, that’s fine — but just be sure to NEVER touch any styling product to your scalp. Be very careful when applying any gel, spray, or mousse, and stop long before you get close to the roots of your hair. Very few hair products are designed with your scalp health in mind, and they can irritate the skin on your scalp, clog follicles and pores, and even create an allergic reaction.

Optional Step Eight: Dry shampoo

Dry shampoos are a very convenient option when you don’t have time or access to a shower. Unfortunately, that convenience comes with some significant drawbacks. Dry shampoo is not the most healthy option for your scalp, and it can damage your hair, too.

Additionally, dry shampoo often contains talc, a powdery substance that has been linked to certain cancers. You don’t want that absorbing into your scalp and skin if you can avoid it.

Our Activating Serum has been specifically designed to provide many benefits to your hair, in addition to regulating your scalp’s oil levels and maintaining overall hair health. This hair serum dry shampoo substitute doesn’t strip away the oil from your hair like many of our other remedies here do; instead, it balances it out, working with your hair’s natural oil to create an optimal environment.

You can use our serum on a dry scalp on non-shampoo days as a safe and healthy alternative to dry shampoo. Just apply to your dry scalp, massage the serum into your scalp, and lightly blow-dry while ‘styling’ your hair with your free hand, and you’ll see an instant lift to your hair. Most importantly your scalp will feel refreshed and oil-free.

Nutrition

With countless blogs and resources telling us what not to eat, we are happy to bring you a list of foods you could and should be eating to stimulate hair growth. Hair strands are made of protein cells called keratin, which can be nourished with natural vitamins and minerals found in food. Click here where we’ll give you several food recommendations that you can feel good about piling on your plate.

Shedding cycle

Although shedding strands of hair might cause you to panic, it’s actually completely natural. Just like other parts of the body like the skin and nails, hair grows and sheds in cycles, and it happens to us all. Whether you’ve got long, short, thick, thin, frizzy, or fine hair, you’re bound to notice strands shedding from time to time – and it’s good to know why this happens. So before we wrap up, let’s briefly dive into the hair shedding cycle.

The Three Stages of The Hair Shedding Cycle

There are three stages of the hair shedding cycle, and each individual hair goes through the growth cycle at its own pace (meaning not all hairs remain in one phase and then move on to the next together). Each hair grows independently through the cycle. That’s why shedding is seemingly sporadic, and also why it’s natural to lose about 80-100 hairs every day. Because shedding strands is a natural part of the hair growth cycle, it can be impacted by natural factors like nutrition, genetics, and age. Even changes in seasons and weather can affect hair growth (it grows faster in the summer than in winter). Let’s break down each stage:

Stage 1: Anagen a.k.a. Growth Phase
This active growth phase of the hair cycle can last from 2-6 years. During this time, cells in the hair roots divide to grow new strands. Hair that is fully keratinized and stopped growing is called a club hair, which is no longer in the Anagen phase and eventually gets pushed through the follicle. During the anagen phase, hair can grow about half an inch per month. The length of the active growth phase is different for everyone and can be stimulated or shortened by genetics, age, and diet. Eating a diet rich in protein, fruits, and vegetables will help enhance the growth during this stage.

Stage 2: Catagen a.k.a. Transitional Phase
The smallest percentage of strands (3%) is in the transitional phase at any one time. During this time, hair growth stops because the outer section of the root shrinks to allow club hairs to form. The catagen phase is the shortest, lasting only 2-3 weeks.

Stage 3: Telogen a.k.a. Resting Phase
While the resting phase only accounts for about 6-8% of our hair, these follicles are completely and totally in hibernation. The hair follicle is dormant to allow the club hair to finish forming. The Telogen phase lasts for about 3 months, during which 25-100 Telogen hairs shed daily. This is usually when the most shedding occurs and can be a reason you happen to notice more hairs falling around you than usual.

Like the strands on your scalp, the hair growth cycle is unique to each individual. While promoting anagen growth is the key to regrowth, you will always have some hairs in the telogen phase that fall out naturally.

Conclusion – A Regimen Summary

There is certainly no “one-size-fits-all” when it comes to a scalp and hair care regimen, but we hope that this article has helped to clarify how important it is to keep a consistent regimen in order to attain and maintain optimal hair and scalp health. As you can see above, it’s the scalp — and the regimen — that is all-important. In order to produce healthy, strong, shiny, and vibrant hair, your scalp and follicles need to have proper care, hygiene, blood flow, and nutrition.

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Revive | The Right Hair & Scalp Wellness Routine – Part II

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Can Hard Water Cause Hair Loss?

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