Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Scalp: The Hair of the Hair

One of the most anticipated benefits and for some, the sole purpose of “going natural,” is the potential for length retention. There are community groups, Tumblr blogs, and even T-shirts created to assist in tracking and obsessing over retaining length. The desire to eliminate breakage can be so great, that at times the scalp is neglected.

Cleansing the scalp is essential to growing and maintaining healthy tresses. But even beyond cleansing the scalp, it is important to understand that diet, exercise, stress, and genetics are all related to your scalp’s health. Hair grows out of a follicle, which is the host for the production and growth stimulation for hair. If the follicle is not receiving proper nutrients from the body, the potential for it to produce hair can be hindered.

“The scalp is like soil; if the scalp is not healthy, the hair won’t be healthy,” said Dr. Kari Williams, a trichologist (a dermatologist who deals with the health of the hair and scalp). “Hair is the barometer of health. Because the epidermis is the largest organ of the body, its cells replicate the fastest. Observing your hair, skin, and nails can give you an idea of the body’s condition as your diet, exercise, and stress levels fluctuate.” The healthier your lifestyle, the more your scalp can function at its highest efficiency. After acknowledging the overall care for the body, maintenance can be addressed.

Ensuring that your scalp is cleansed is important to sustaining growth. Although the convenience of wearing protective styles for weeks and months on end requires less manipulation, it is important to regularly cleanse the scalp from excessive sebum, debris, and product build up. Like other areas of your skin, it has to breathe in order to function properly. There are multiple methods of cleansing the scalp outside of using shampoo. Many women identify shampoo as a product with sulfates, but not all shampoos contain harsh detergents. With the increased acceptance of kinky, coily, and curly hair, hair care companies are offering formulate sulfate-free shampoos and even co-wash conditioners that have less harsh cleansing ingredients. Apple cider vinegar rinses can indeed cleanse the scalp, and the acidity in ACV helps to keep the cuticle healthy, Williams said. “The pH of the scalp needs to be regulated and cleansing will ensure that.” 

The scalp produces its own sebum (an oily skin moisturizer secreted by the sebaceous glands), so oiling or greasing the scalp is not necessary. Having an oily or dry scalp is a dysfunction of the sebaceous glands. If your scalp is dry, you should first pinpoint why, Willams said. Sometimes it may be the result of climate change. Essential oils like jojoba oil and coconut oil are great ways to lubricate the scalp. If your scalp is oily, jojoba helps to regulate the scalp and should be applied after the washing process. Dandruff can be caused by a number of factors: reaction to ingredients in a product, eating, and also a change in climate. For some, consuming sugar and saturated fats increases the yeast production of the scalp, which attributes to itching. Incorporate a shampoo that either contains coal tar or salicylic acid for those with seborrheic dermatisis, so that the scalp is properly relieved of dry or oily flakes, Williams said. Ultimately, whether your scalp is normal, dry, or oily, having a nutritious diet and cleansing regularly will assist in proper scalp maintenance — which can then help to ensure that your follicles are a nurturing foundation for growth. Like anything in life, it is important to start at the source of a problem prior to addressing the symptoms. Get to the root.

There are vast reasons for going natural, whether it be the desire for longer hair, big hair, or to be more health conscious. The choice is yours. Nevertheless, when you begin with properly caring for your body, everything else will be more attainable.

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