Here’s How To Keep Your Scalp Healthy for Hair Growth

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Written by Annie Walton-Doyle

Updated: March 9, 2024

It’s not the most glamorous of beauty tasks, but there’s no denying that taking care of your scalp is important. Think of it this way. If your hair is a beautiful plant, your scalp is the soil from which it grows. By feeding the soil, you see the benefits in the plant. If you’re looking to grow your hair, or just want to make sure it’s looking its healthy best, you have to consider your scalp care routine.

But if you’re still wondering how hair growth works and how best to take care of your scalp, wonder no longer. We’ve got all the answers you need for a definitive scalp care 101 course.

The scalp is where your hair grows

Hair Health
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Your scalp refers to the skin covering your head, excluding the facial skin. But because it’s typically covered by your hair, it can be oddly easy to forget about. The scalp is the hair production center and is covered in individual hair follicles. These follicles each produce an individual hair. 

Keeping these follicles healthy is the key to healthy hair growth. Characteristics of a healthy scalp include “clean, hydrated skin and good blood circulation, balanced oil production, and the absence of inflammation, itching and flaking,” per Health.com

How does hair grow?

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Hair is made up of keratin combined with dead skin cells. As per the National Library of Medicine: “Hair forms by rapid division and differentiation of stem cells, forming keratinocytes that migrate, flatten, and die, forming keratinized cells. The final hair product exposed on the skin’s surface will be composed entirely of keratin. The growth of the hair follicle is cyclical.”

Hair growth happens in three stages: anagen (the active growth phase of hair which lasts 3–10 years) catagen (the transition phase where hair stops growing and lasts 2–3 weeks) and telogen (the resting phase where hair falls out and lasts 3–4 months).

At any given time, the majority of your hair is in the anagen phase, while around 1% is in the catagen phase, and 9% is in the telogen phase, per Healthline. Supporting your hair during its anagen phase is the best way to maximize hair health, and thus, hair growth.

Hair growth starts beneath the surface of the skin or scalp. This means by the time you can see your hair, the strand has already been formed. Therefore, looking after the scalp is the only way to impact the hair at the beginning of its lifespan.

What can cause an unhealthy scalp?

Underlying health conditions, like poor circulation and tissue damage, can impact the condition of your scalp. But there are also outside factors that can cause problems to your scalp, too. High cortisol levels due to stress or certain vitamin deficiencies can all have a negative impact on the health of your hair follicles, as per DAZED.

On top of this, an excessive build-up of dead skin, sebum, hair products, or dandruff can cause blockages in the hair follicle. If a follicle is blocked, it can end up stopping hair production, slowing down or even halting hair growth.

What are the signs of an unhealthy scalp?

Alongside a lack of hair growth, there are some major signs to watch out for that could point to problems with your scalp. You may notice an excess of dandruff of flaky skin, visible around the roots of your hair.

You may also notice discomfort, such as itchiness or pain to the touch. If you can see or feel any open wounds, or discharge from your scalp, that’s also something you want to investigate further, likely with a healthcare professional.

Can your scalp impact hair loss?

Losing around 100 to 150 hairs per day is a natural part of your hair’s growth cycle. However, if you are worried you’re losing more, there are some other factors that could be coming into play. It’s now believed that both COVID and stress can be linked to excessive hair loss, which could help to explain why the problem has become more prevalent in recent years.

Furthermore, another National Library of Medicine study shows that an unhealthy scalp can also be linked to thinning hair, hair breakage, reduced shine, and rough hair texture. So even if you’re not currently struggling with hair loss or looking to speed up your hair growth, you still need to be taking care of your scalp if you want your hair to look its best.

What’s the best scalp care routine?

The best scalp care routines are catered to your specific scalp skin types and needs. For example, a dry or sensitive scalp type will have different needs than an oily one. However, there is some advice for a healthy scalp that can be applied across the board.

You want to avoid overwashing your hair, which can dry out the scalp and lead to flaking or overcompensation via the overproduction of oil. You should use a gentle shampoo, and preferably avoid sulfates, which can be irritating to the scalp. To make sure you’re properly cleaning your scalp, and not just your hair, you can dispense your shampoo into a hair dye applicator bottle, and use the pointed nozzle to get your cleansing product right down into the scalp.

On top of this more intense shampooing regimen, you may also want to look into specific scalp treatments. A cream-based scalp mask or oil treatment can offer some TLC to a stressed-out scalp. Apply before shampooing, and allow the product to soak in for several minutes before shampooing it out.

After washing your hair, you want to try to avoid putting too much product near the scalp. The buildup of product can cause major issues for both scalp health and hair growth. Try to keep your leave-in treatments towards the mid-lengths and ends of your hair to avoid overloading the scalp.

What are the best scalp care products?

There are certain ingredients to avoid in your hair products if you want to maintain a healthier scalp for hair growth. Sulfates and parabens can dry out the scalp, leading to irritation and inflammation. 

Looking for gentle hydration in your products is a great way to look after your scalp and grow your hair. There are many wonderful dedicated treatments on the market that can provide your scalp with the support it needs to keep hair growing long and strong.

If you have a particular scalp issue, look for products designed to combat it. Dandruff or eczema can be treated effectively with the right routine. You should also consider extra scalp protection if you swim or spend a lot of time in the sun.

How else can you maintain a healthy scalp?

If you’re noticing an uptick in hair loss, or are concerned that the condition of your scalp is affecting your hair, acting sooner rather than later is essential. Once hair is lost, it can be extremely difficult to get it back, so prevention is better than cure in this instance.

Massage can be a wonderful way to take care of your scalp. Try to avoid overwashing your hair, but when you do, take the time to properly work your shampoo into the scalp. This can help ensure a deeper cleanse. 

If you want to go the extra mile, it could be worth investing in a scalp massager. These strange, spiky-looking plastic devices are specifically designed to work in hair products and apply gentle pressure to the scalp. This pressure can help to stimulate blood flow, which helps promote hair growth.

How else can you help your hair grow?

Eating a healthy diet containing the right vitamins and minerals can massively help to boost your hair growth. Focus on high protein, zinc and iron to really make the most out of your hair. Fatty fish, leafy greens, avocados, and sweet potatoes are all extremely hair-friendly foods, while oysters are an incredible source of zinc, and red meat a powerful source of both protein and iron.

On top of this, if you have a deficiency in iron, zinc, or vitamin D, it can be worth looking into a supplement. You can opt either for a vitamin from the health food store or look into supplements specifically designed by haircare brands. The Ouai supplement has zinc, vitamin B, and vitamin D, all with a direct focus on boosting hair growth.

You can also take care of your scalp by protecting it from the sun. Sun damage can cause pain and flakiness, and excessive UV rays will also dry out your hair. You should wear a hat if you’re in direct sunlight.

Exercise is another wonderful and natural way to promote hair growth. Anything that gets your blood pumping is key, as this helps improve circulation in the scalp. This will help maintain healthy follicles, and healthy follicles are what produce healthy (and faster-growing) hair.


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