Why it’s important to exfoliate the scalp

Let’s start by breaking down the anatomy and physiology of the scalp and hair. Your scalp is skin and consists of 3 layers: the epidermis, dermis, and hypodermis. The epidermis is the outermost layer; its function is to provide protection and help regulate moisture. The dermis is the middle layer that contains the hair follicle, sebaceous glands, and nerve endings. The hypodermis is the innermost layer housing veins and arteries.

The hair consists of 2 parts: the hair follicle and shaft. The hair follicle is the living part under the hair shaft where the hair is derived. It starts with the dermal papilla which is responsible for receiving hormonal signals and regulating the hair growth cycle. The matrix surrounds the dermal papillae and contains cells needed for the development of hair parts. Together the dermal papilla and matrix form what is called the hair bulb. The hair bulb makes up the base of the hair and is highly vascularized to nourish healthy hair growth.

Next you have outer root sheath, inner root sheath and hair shaft. The outer root sheath extends from the bulb up to the epidermis. The inner root sheath connects and anchors the hair shaft within the hair follicle. As you head towards the epidermis you have the sebaceous glands which provide protection and lubrication to the hair shaft.

The hair shaft is the non-living part made up of three layers; medulla (inner), cortex (middle), and cuticle (outer). We tend to focus on the cuticle since it provides an important protective function against physical and chemical damage.

Why Exfoliate?

If we want healthy, beautiful hair we have to make sure we have a healthy and balanced scalp.

Exfoliating your scalp can remove oil and dead skin cells and product buildup, increase circulation, and stimulate hair growth. If oil, dead skin cells, and products are left to accumulate on the scalp they can block healthy blood flow and nutrients to the hair follicle, resulting in hair loss, inflammation and itchy/irritated scalp.

There are a few different ways to exfoliate:

Physical exfoliation: There are many hair exfoliating products on the market including salt scrubs and scalp exfoliation brushes however, you can still exfoliate the scalp without purchasing extra products. Washing your hair, scalp massage, and brushing your hair will help keep those hair follicles free and clear.

Chemical exfoliation is exfoliation using - you guessed it - a chemical solution. Remember though, natural and organic compounds are still chemicals! One popular and effective chemical exfoliant is apple cider vinegar. Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) rinses can provide a great chemical exfoliation.

How to exfoliate your scalp:

Physical: To exfoliate your scalp, you want to use the pads of your fingers, in firm circular motions every time you wash your hair. Using a natural bristle brush and brushing your hair from roots to ends before you wash can also loosen any buildup on your scalp, allowing the shampoo to do its job more effectively. Using a brush in between washes can also help redistribute your natural oils, keeping those roots from becoming oily and those ends from becoming super dry!

Chemical: Chemical exfoliants like DIY Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) treatments are to be used as needed - keeping in mind that overuse could cause the hair/scalp to become dry and brittle, or inadvertently alter your hair colour.

To make an apple cider vinegar rinse just mix 1-2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar in 1 cup of cold water. Increase mixture if needed but keep that ratio the same. It’s important to dilute the vinegar (since it is highly acidic) and use cold water to help seal the cuticle and prevent damage. If your hair is on the dryer side, or porous due to chemical processing, use less ACV in the solution. For oilier hair you can work your way up to 2 tbsp of ACV.

Apply the mixture directly to your scalp and massage. Follow with your regular shampoo and conditioning routine.

At The High End hippie, we use a variety of clays in our shampoo bars that help detoxify and gently exfoliate the scalp. By adding these core ingredients that have an exfoliating property, our bars help keep the scalp balanced and hair follicles free and clear of buildup. In the end, you get healthy hair that shines.

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