The Keys to a Healthy Scalp by Trichologist, Dr. Kari Williams

The Keys to a Healthy Scalp

by Trichologist, Dr. Kari Williams

A head full of hair is a sign of health, vitality and youth.  These are all desirable traits, so who wouldn’t want a full head of healthy hair? The quest for healthy, full, shiny hair begins with a healthy scalp. If the scalp is unhealthy then the hair will be unhealthy, or even worse---there will be no hair at all.  On the other hand, if it is properly tended to, your hair will flourish. A healthy, clean scalp is optimal for hair growth.To maintain a healthy scalp we must understand the function of the scalp. The scalp consists of skin cells. These cells are constantly replicating and shedding to produce new cells on the scalp. Like the skin on the rest of our body, this process happens so synchronously and microscopically, it is invisible to the naked eye. It is only when something disrupts this process that scalp problems arise. These problems manifest in the forms of flaking, pimples or bumps on the scalp and severe itching.  Any of these symptoms can be a sign that there is a need to change your diet, hair regimen or there is a medical issue.The scalp produces natural oil called sebum. This slightly acidic substance coats the hair strands and lubricates the scalp. Most scalp disorders are a result of a dysfunction of the sebaceous glands (which produce sebum). The over production of sebum causes large oily flakes and the under production of sebum cause large dry flakes on the scalp. These flakes are skin cells. When the cells on the scalp replicate at an accelerated pace it causes these large flakes to sit on the scalp.  Redness, itching and other forms of inflammation will accompany flaking of the scalp. Hair will not grow long or strong on an inflamed scalp. Therefore, it is important to properly identify scalp disorders so that the proper treatment can be used to alleviate the symptoms and bring the scalp back into balance.To maintain a healthy scalp consider these steps and you will create the perfect environment for your hair to flourish.Don’t Grease the ScalpDon’t use heavy oils, greases and pomades directly on the scalp. I know that it is common practice in black hair care to “grease the scalp.” Unfortunately we put too much emphasis on the scalp and this habit can lead to scalp disorders and worsen current scalp conditions. Concentrating on lubricating the ends of the hair is most important. The oils massaged into the hair will automatically provide light lubrication on the scalp.Choose Gentle ProductsAvoid shampoos and products that have harsh ingredients in them like ammonium and sodium lauryl sulfates. These ingredients strip the hair of moisture and lubrication, leaving the hair and scalp feeling dry. Make sure you are using clarifying shampoos once or twice a month to remove excessive build up on the hair. For regular cleansing of the hair, use moisturizing shampoos and make sure you are deep conditioning and lubricating the hair on a consistent basis. Lastly, be mindful with the use of leave in conditioners. Check the ingredients for proteins. Too much protein on the hair can dry it out and cause it to feel brittle. In addition, these leave-in products can create a residue on the hair that can be mistaken for dandruff.Avoid Aggressive StylingWhen you are experiencing any type of pain or discomfort in your scalp, this is your body’s alarm system warning you to STOP. We have convinced ourselves that beauty is pain, but if you continue to ignore the pain while getting your hair braided, weaved or pulled tightly for a style, then that pain could mean permanent hair loss. So avoid aggressive styling and give your hair and scalp some gentle love and care.Avoid The Use of Extreme HeatBlow dryers, hot combs, flat irons and even hooded dryers can deplete your hair and scalp of much needed moisture. Make sure that you are not abusing the use of these tools by using them excessively. Use blow dryers on low heat settings; do not use hot combs or flat irons at home in between appointments and on dirty hair; and always use a heat protectant on the hair before exposing it to heat.Adopt a Healthy LifestyleA healthy body means healthy hair. Your hair follicles are supported and nourished by the vitamins and nutrients in your blood stream. These nutrients supply the cells in your follicle with the building blocks needed to produce strong healthy hair. If you have nutritional deficiencies your hair will suffer. Hair is an accessory organ and is not necessary to sustain life. Consequently, the body will support vital organs first so that you can keep living. So it is imperative that you have an abundance of the vitamins and minerals you need to maintain good health.If you keep your scalp clean, choose tension free styles, avoid extreme heat, and adopt a healthy lifestyle your scalp will be the perfect environment for your hair to flourish.If you have any questions feel free to contact Dr. Kari at

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