When it comes to hair health, we often think about the state of our strands, but not always the scalp it grows from. But the scalp and its follicles are the foundation for healthy growth and balanced hair, so it’s important to pay it just as much mind.
Wondering how to improve scalp health? Ahead, learn 10 healthy scalp tips to incorporate into your routine.
Why a healthy scalp matters
Like all skin, a healthy scalp can be an indicator of health overall, so it’s good to keep an eye on it.
As part of your skin, your scalp is also crucial as a first line of defense in preventing pathogens and toxins from entering your body.
It’s easy to forget about your skin on the top of your head where it’s hard to see. But the health of your scalp goes a long way in determining the health of your hair. If your hair is looking greasy or you’re noticing dandruff, it’s actually your scalp that’s out of balance.
Much the way that soil health will impact the nutrients that end up in crops, your scalp is also foundational for healthy hair growth and gloss. If you want to maintain hair health, encourage hair growth, or improve texture, taking care of your scalp is a vital component of that. Equally, if you are bald or have hair loss, thin hair, or have a hairstyle with your scalp more plainly in view, you may find yourself wanting to keep it visibly healthy.
Bonus Tip: If you’re wanting to learn how to fix thin hair, it’s important to examine your scalp as this could be the root cause of your concern.
Factors that affect scalp health
The skin on your scalp is similar to the skin on your body, but it has 5 layers instead of 3. It’s also the site of around 100,000 hair follicles, each of which corresponds to a hair on your head. These follicles reach deep into the scalp and produce sebum, or oil, that helps keep your scalp microbiome moisturized and protected.
So what does a balanced scalp look like? A scalp that’s in balance will be free of dandruff, itchiness, excessive hair fall, redness, irritation, dryness, greasiness, sun damage, tenderness, odor, and breakouts. If you start to notice excessive dandruff, premature hair loss, hair shedding, or hair that’s rougher or less shiny than usual, poor scalp health could be the cause.
Your scalp health can change with stress and time. A study published in the Journal of Cosmetics, Dermatological Sciences and Application found a significant reduction of scalp sebum in women in the 40s age range versus the 20s. This same study linked a reduction of sebum secretion in women as they age to changes in estrogen levels and other hormones. Stressful events like childbirth can also cause a change in scalp health due to telogen effluvium, a type of hair shedding. In the leadup to major life changes like childbirth or menopause, it’s always a good idea to be proactive about hair health to mitigate any related issues.
10 tips for a healthy scalp
Just like skincare, scalp care is important to encourage healthier hair. Some healthy scalp tips to follow include:
1. Wash less
One of the most helpful tips for a healthy scalp is washing less. If you tend to have an oily scalp and oily hair type, you might think that washing it more regularly will help balance the sebum and oil production. However, overwashing can strip too much sebum from your scalp, which impacts your scalp’s protective microbiome. If this scalp microbiome becomes disrupted, it can result in dandruff, dermatitis, and psoriasis. It’s best to think of washing as more of an at-home spa treatment every few days at most instead of a daily practice. Dry shampoo or a homemade powder made of gentle ingredients like arrowroot can help absorb any grease in between shampoos.
2. Use warm, filtered water
Like washing too often, using water that’s too hot can also strip your scalp. If you’re uncomfortable in a shower that’s anything less than hot-hot, try working up to a cooler temperature throughout your shower and saving the coolest water for your shampoo.
If your home has hard water, or water that contains a higher concentration of minerals like magnesium and calcium, this is generally considered harder on your scalp, as buildup and drying can occur. If you notice that your hair and scalp never get very clean, this could be a sign that you’re dealing with hard water. Installing a shower head filter can help limit harsh chlorine and other contaminants from coming into contact with your scalp.
3. Use gentle products
Be mindful of every hair product you use, most importantly your shampoo and conditioner. We all love a good lather, but it’s best to steer clear of drying sulfates, a common substance
used to create foam in hair and skin products. Avoid shampoos that use Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS), a degreasing chemical that can impair that natural protective barrier on your skin. By disrupting your scalp’s microbiome, harsh sulfates can also increase trans-epidermal water loss, causing a dry scalp that’s vulnerable to irritants. Always opt for mild skin and hair care products that don’t strip away your natural moisture and throw off your natural pH.
4. Rinse well
In addition to using gentle ingredients, you’ll also want to be sure and thoroughly rinse away shampoo. Even slight traces left on your skin can cause irritation, and if your scalp is sensitive, you could be in for some flare-ups. Try to strike that balance between keeping your shower short and making sure you get all the product out. One way to do that is to keep your head out from under the faucet while you soap up and clean the rest of your body,
5. Exfoliate if needed
If your follicles are clogged, it can create unwanted buildup, acne, or a funky scalp. The pores on your head need regular exfoliation, just like exfoliating dead skin cells and buildup on your skin. While scrubbing with anything too abrasive could create micro-tears in your skin, disrupt your pH, and be harsh on your follicles, a chemical exfoliant with ingredients like Salicylic Acid can help give you a good reset.
6. Use a scalp massager
Don't forget to include massaging into your scalp care. Massaging your scalp using a gentle silicone massager, or just your fingers, can be an effective way to promote blood circulation to your scalp, helping to encourage the flow of blood to any starved follicles. Working in sections, massage in gentle circular motions throughout your scalp. You can do this scalp massage on dry hair before your shower.
7. Comb and brush gently
That being said, while you do want to stimulate circulation in your scalp, you don’t want to brush too hard, or you could dislodge hairs from your scalp. Wet hair is weak hair, so instead of combing right when you get out of the shower, comb using a wide-toothed comb while your conditioner is in to give it extra lubrication, or wait until hair is dry to brush through. Holding your hair at the shaft, start combing from the bottom to remove any tangles without stressing the scalp.
8. Wash your brush
When was the last time you cleaned your hairbrush? Just like the towel you use to dry your face, hairbrushes need to be cleaned regularly if you want to avoid delivering bacteria and buildup to your scalp that can clog follicles and create irritation.
9. Avoid inflammation
Inflammation can cause numerous problems for your scalp that can range from itching to hair shed. Your scalp is super vulnerable, so you want to keep it calm and soothed as much as possible. Avoid inflammatory foods like sugar, refined carbs, and greasy foods, opting for a diet rich in whole plant foods to support inner harmony.
10. Avoid stress
Stress can wreak havoc throughout your body, including your scalp.
High levels of cortisol signal your body to slow down certain processes that are less vital to survival, such as hair growth.In order to counter the insults of cortisol on your scalp, try supplementing with an adaptogen to help your body resist that stress.
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Foods and nutrients for healthy scalp growth
If you’re looking to support your scalp and hair health from within, certain nutrients will be key. Healthy sebum levels are essential for your scalp’s biome, helping to maintain the proper pH and protect against UV damage, bacteria, and fungus.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3s and other healthy fats help support balanced sebum levels on your scalp. These healthy fatty acids could stimulate circulation in the scalp and reduce inflammation that could be associated with hair loss. A 2015 study found that women with female pattern hair loss who took a supplement containing Omega-3, Omega-5, and antioxidants for 6 months showed an increase in hair density and a decrease in hair loss.
Because oxidative stress from an accumulation of free radicals in your body has also been linked to scalp issues and hair loss, eating a diet rich in plenty of antioxidants is also a good idea, since these nutrients help counteract free radical activity. Nature provides antioxidants most plentifully in produce, so be sure to get plenty of fruits and vegetables.
In addition to healthy fats and antioxidants in your diet, a supplement for hair could also help address scalp issues or be preventative. SuperHair® is a clinical strength hair supplement that promotes healthier, thicker, stronger hair 4 ways.* 10 bioavailable vitamins make up a comprehensive multivitamin to address the nutritional deficiencies that inhibit the growth of healthy hair.* Adaptogenic herbs for hair growth, like Ashwagandha, help balance stress hormones that can contribute to thinning and hair loss.* Botanicals like Saw Palmetto support healthy hair follicles and promote thickness, and micronutrients promote hair strength and smooth texture.* Check out our blog to discover some other vitamins for thicker hair.
You’re going to experience changes in your body as you go through life, and that goes for your scalp, too. If you want to protect your scalp ahead of physical stress, hormonal changes, and gaps in your diet, it’s always good to follow these healthy scalp habits. Be gentle to your scalp,
use mild products that are pH-balanced, and avoid stripping away your natural oils with too much washing or water that’s overly hot. Stimulate your scalp with a gentle massage, and support your diet with healthy fats and hair vitamins to create a healthy scalp environment.
Looking to incorporate supplements into your scalp and hair care? Check out Moon Juice’s SuperHair® hair supplements for healthier, thicker, and stronger strands.
- Guo EL, Katta R. Diet and hair loss: effects of nutrient deficiency and supplement use. Dermatol Pract Concept. 2017 Jan 31;7(1):1-10. doi: 10.5826/dpc.0701a01. PMID: 28243487; PMCID: PMC5315033.
- Kim, S., Kim, S.N., An, S., Yeon, J.H., Wang, X.M., Li, L., Lai, W., Liang, H., Gao, X.H., Liu, W., Park, W.S. and Na, Y. (2017) Ageing-Related Features of Hair and Scalp in Chinese Women by Clinical Evaluation Study. Journal of Cosmetics, Dermatological Sciences and Applications, 7, 245-257. https://doi.org/10.4236/jcdsa.2017.73023
- Le Floc'h C, Cheniti A, Connétable S, Piccardi N, Vincenzi C, Tosti A. Effect of a nutritional supplement on hair loss in women. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2015 Mar;14(1):76-82. doi: 10.1111/jocd.12127. Epub 2015 Jan 8. PMID: 25573272.
- Mayo Clinic, Folliculitis
- Polak-Witka K, Rudnicka L, Blume-Peytavi U, Vogt A. The role of the microbiome in scalp hair follicle biology and disease. Exp Dermatol. 2020 Mar;29(3):286-294. doi: 10.1111/exd.13935. Epub 2019 May 15. PMID: 30974503.
- Saxena, R., Mittal, P., Clavaud, C. et al. Longitudinal study of the scalp microbiome suggests coconut oil to enrich healthy scalp commensals. Sci Rep 11, 7220 (2021).
- Tajran J, Gosman AA. Anatomy, Head and Neck, Scalp. [Updated 2022 Jul 25]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK551565/
- Trueb, R.M., The impact of oxidative stress on hair. International Journal of Cosmetic Science, 2015, 37 (Suppl. 2), 25–30. Available from: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/ics.12286