We think nothing of putting a lot of effort, time, and money on cuts, highlights, blow dries, buying the latest shampoos conditioners and styling products. Anything to avoid the dreaded bad hair day. Yet as any trichologist or hairdresser will tell you, glossy, shiny, voluminous hair is borne of a healthy scalp and, holistically thinking, a healthy body too. Of course when we look in the mirror, we’re dealing with the superficial and the right styling products are crucial to get our hair behaving and swooshing in all the right ways, but they’re similar to make-up in the way that they enhance what’s already there.
It’s easy to forget that our hair grows out of our scalp, which is an extension of the rest of our skin and therefore it needs handling with care. I got the wake-up call recently, having been on a weekend meditation retreat where the food, though delicious was based on the yogic principle of ‘sattvic’ meaning pure. That means to all intents and purposes, I was on a detox – practically going vegan, having no additives and only natural sugars. By the end of the four days I noticed that my scalp was super tight, flaky and dry. Like our complexion, our scalp is a barometer of our health and lifestyle. After all, the skin (all of it – including the scalp) is one of the major organs through which our body releases toxins and so it’s common for breakouts or dryness to happen when we change our diet. Equally, over indulgence (rich food, chocolate, one too many glasses of wine) can have a similar effect.
This is where a little scalp TLC goes a long way. In Ayurveda (the ancient Indian health system) daily massage with warm, medicinal oils, which includes the scalp, neck and shoulders is recommended to de-stress, soothe the scalp, improve circulation and moisturise. It’s a great experience to have a proper Ayurvedic massage, but it’s possible to do your own DIY version which is instantly calming and soothing to a dry, irritated scalp and generally for all to keep the scalp and hair healthy.
Traditionally in India, pure oils such as sesame, coconut, almond and olive are used as a base often with therapeutic plant and herb infusions added depending on skin and hair type. I use pure organic sesame as it’s recommended for dry skin, coconut oil is known as good for oilier skin types, and jojoba is an excellent all rounder. Whichever you choose, the method is to warm a generous amount of oil (ideally in a bowl over hot water, or simply in your hands) then massage it in from your head using your finger pads in circular movements, moving downwards to your face, neck, shoulders. If you can, leave the oil in for a minimum of ten minutes, then shower off.
It is worth it if you can make the time to do it, but a quicker remedy is to apply a few drops of oil directly to your scalp as you would a moisturiser. Do it sparingly, last thing at night so it doesn’t ruin your ‘do’, and wash your hair in the morning. The new wonder oil on the block is Pure Maracuja Oil, £15.50 aka passion fruit oil (as written about by Shabir and in last month’s Beauty Bible column) is perfect for this because it has a light texture. Plus, as Shabir explains, it’s packed full of nutrients, moisturising and a powerful anti-inflammatory making it particularly soothing for itchy, dry scalp and dandruff.
Aside from oils, scalp lotions and tonics are a great way to heal the scalp, counter the effects of ageing and generally create good conditions for healthy hair growth. With baby fine hair myself, I often go through periods where my hair feels particularly fragile, that it’s shedding more than normal (usually linked to periods of illness or stress). It was during one of those times when I began to use Phylia de M Connect Spray, £47 an easy-to-fit-into-your-daily-routine lotion. It contains Fulvic Acid which acts not only as an anti-inflammatory but also helps supercharge the delivery of nutrients to the hair follicle. Think of it as a very natural, pure fertiliser for your hair. Initially, my scalp felt soothed, and with longer term use I noticed a strengthening of my hair – and although it will always be fine, it feels more resilient and fuller. This was from using the Connect spray alone, but it’s good to know the results can be supercharged by using it with Phylia de M Re-Connect Spray, £60 which has a higher concentration of the actives.
Finally, it’s good to keep in mind the condition of your scalp, not just your hair when choosing a shampoo. So many brands are full of harsh detergents and potentially skin clogging silicones – and in a way are a bit like the equivalent of junk food. They might give an initial boost in feel or shine, but long term might not be so good. Try switching to those with naturally derived detergents, and fewer ingredients. Phylia de M Clean Shampoo for Scalp and Hair, £30 is a great example, especially if you are using Connect and Re-Connect as it contains Fulvic Acid. Or there’s Deciem Stemm High-Amino Shampoo, £25 a hard to beat gentle cleanser which leaves scalp feeling clean yet soothed, and hair noticeably bouncy.