Question: when was the last time you gave your scalp some seriously TLC? We’re talking treating it to a soothing massage, a deep cleanse, or refraining from piling it with heavy products. Unless you are seriously diligent when it comes to hair care, you’re probably one of the droves of women who draws a blank at the aforementioned question, as most of us are guilty of overlooking the need for consistent scalp care. And we get it. Our scalps are mostly unseen, and unlike our crowning glory, it will never be shiny, glossy and full of lustre, so it’s not hard to see why most of us may subconsciously feel that it’s upkeep is futile. But it’s worth reminding ourselves that a healthy scalp is the foundation to hair growth. During the winter months, those of us with curly, coily hair types in particular are susceptible to dry scalps so we caught up with Anabel Kingsley, Trichologist at Philip Kingsley, the leading authority in hair and scalp health, to find out the most effective ways to combat this.
Why does the scalp appear to be more dry during the winter months?
People tend to get flaky, itchy scalps in the winter more than any other time of year. This is probably in part due to higher stress levels. Stress can send hormones into disarray – and this in turn can negatively impact the scalp. It is also because we usually wash our hair less often in the colder months – and this can lead to a build-up of dead skin cells (i.e. flakes) on the scalp – and subsequent itching. Another factor to consider is diet. Certain foods that we seem to eat more of in winter can increase skin cell turnover and therefore flaking on the scalp in susceptible individuals. These include full fat diary products, such as cheese and cream and very sugary and spicy foods and champagne.
What particular scalp challenges does those with African/Caribbean hair textures seem to experience?
Afro-Caribbean hair is the most vulnerable to damage of all hair textures because of its unique structure and specific processing, styling and grooming needs. It’s vital to use a specialised and ultra-hydrating conditioner. Look for products labelled “moisturizing”, “re-moisturizing”, “emollient”, “deep conditioning”, “elasticizing”, “penetrative” and/or “intensive”. It’s also best to avoid heavy, oily types of styling products.
Women with African/Caribbean hair texture tend to use oils to moisturise the scalp and try to combat dryness. Is this an effective method?
The hair shaft of Afro-Caribbean hair is flat with a twisted structure and a thin diameter. Where these “twists” (i.e. curls) occur, there is a narrowing in the width of the hair, making these areas weaker. This is one of the reasons why Afro-Caribbean hair breaks so easily. Because Afro-Caribbean hair is curly, it tangles easily. Trying to detangle it can worsen hair breakage, so be as gentle as possible. Apply a detangling spray to towel-dried hair and, using a wide-tooth comb, start at the ends and gradually work up to the roots. Curly hair doesn’t reflect light as easily as straight hair, and often lacks shine. Use smoothing, conditioning creams to close the cuticle and encourage light reflection. Afro hair is the most delicate of hair textures and has a greater tendency to tangle and break. This means that those with this hair texture should be especially gentle when brushing, and use a nourishing detangling spray beforehand, such as PK Daily Damage Defence Extreme.
There are twists in the shaft of each hair which make it very prone to breaking. And it’s porous and very prone to tangling so you need ingredients that will impart a lot of moisture and aid the detangling process. Ingredients such as cocoa butter and natural oils are the ones to seek out.
How can we replace the moisture that we lose during the winter to our hair and scalp?
To restore moisture to the hair shaft, use a weekly intensive pre-shampoo conditioning treatment like the Philip Kingsley Elasticizer, I recommend using our Elasticizer Extreme, which is specifically formulated for afro hair and very porous hair
What foods can we eat to help to promote a healthier scalp?
At least once a day we have someone sitting in our consultation room professing they are eating an incredibly healthy diet. They do not snack and they have fresh fruit for breakfast and salad for lunch with a bit of chicken or fish. While this may be fine for your body, it’s simply not enough for your hair. While hair is incredibly important to us psychologically, physiologically our body could not care less. Any nutrients ingested first go to essential systems, with hair (a non-essential tissue) receiving whatever is left over. To help ensure you are in-taking adequate nutrients for hair growth, eat at least 120g of protein at breakfast and lunch. Hair is made primarily of protein. Energy to form hair cells drops four hours after eating, so if longer than this is left between meals, snack on a nutrient dense carbohydrate, such as fresh fruit or whole grain crackers.