One item that seems to come up a lot when transitioning to our natural hair is scalp issues. It’s true washing your hair with conditioner, a cowash, or a low poo is really great for your hair - but sometimes it just isn’t enough or just right for your scalp.
How your scalp behaves (whether it's dry, oily, etc.) is mostly genetic but we can help it with good hair care techniques and products. If you feel like there are many people who can cowash for years on end with the odd ACV rinse… there are just as many who need that clarifying shampoo more than monthly. So how can you try to maintain the balance of keeping your hair AND your scalp happy?
The scalp in my opinion is a bit more important than your hair. Why? Well if your scalp isn't happy it will affect your hair and not in a good way. My first words of advice are to never ignore your scalp. Don’t try and push out your wash day just because you read that it should only be weekly. If your scalp is itchy, has build up, bumps, pimples or is too oily it needs assistance! Our scalp is a lot like the skin on our face in that the pores can get blocked and need to be cleansed and exfoliated.
If you suspect your scalp issues may not be caused by your routine or your products, it is important to consult a medical professional.
How to Wash Your Scalp
When using the gentle cleansers (such as low poos and cowashes) you need to add a bit more friction from your finger pads or a scalp brush. There’s a fine line between scrubbing and aggravating, so use your common sense and work in small sections by gently moving side to side and in circles. Your hair doesn’t need much scrubbing. Squeezing the cleanser gently through the lengths will do the trick of cleaning your actual hair. When you are rinsing your cleanser or your conditioner, gently scrub your scalp all over to encourage most of the product off your scalp.
If you find it tiring or not effective to use your finger pads, this scalp brush does a lot of the work quite effectively with less effort.
Caring for Your Scalp Between Wash Days
In between wash days you can also get your finger pads going again and massage your scalp. This encourages blood flow to keep the hair follicles happy and helps remove any dry or dead skin. Plus it just feels nice to give yourself a bit of care!
The day of or the night before washday is the perfect time to give yourself a scalp massage with oil. You can use your fingers or this great massaging tool from Righteous Roots. Add a bit of oil to your mid shaft to the ends if you have dry hair to give it some lubrication and flexibility. If you have oily hair already, try a massage with a bit of pure aloe vera gel (instead of the oils) as it has moisture along with antimicrobial/antifungal properties.
How to Prevent Scalp Issues
I mentioned above that if you are doing the Curly Girl / Hair Method and your scalp is unhappy, make sure you are washing on a regular basis. There is no rule that you need to leave it for a full week. If increasing the number of washdays doesn’t help, your next step is to consider something stronger than what you are using. If it’s a cowash (conditioning wash), go to a low poo (a shampoo with very gentle cleansers), and if it’s low poo up that to a clarifying shampoo (a shampoo with stronger cleansers). If you have hard water, make sure your clarifier has a chelating ingredient like the Malibu C Hard Water Wellness Shampoo, which is both clarifying and chelating. You decide how often to wash your hair and with what. Don’t feel pressured by what others do.
At times it can be the ingredients that can cause scalp issues. Typical culprits are preservatives and fragrances. If you suspect this is the issue or you have sensitivities from other personal products - or even food allergies - look towards brands that would be less likely to cause issues like Innersense, Jessicurl, Ecoslay, Frize Frize and My Soigne. Some of these brands offer fragrance-free options or are scented only with essential oils and their ingredients, not artificial fragrances.
There are quite a few products on the market now that exfoliate and/or "detox" the scalp. If your hair is fragile and your scalp is sensitive, I would stick with your finger pads or a scalp brush, but if you feel you can handle or need more, the True Enlightenment Scalp Scrub from Innersense has salt and clay. The Wash & Scrub Detox Pro-Biotic clarifying scrub from Curlsmith has perlite (volcanic rock), which is a bit gentler.
If None of This Helps...
If you have always had “some scalp issues” even before switching to the Curly Girl / Curly Hair Method, these suggestions may help them... but may not.
The most important thing is to actually know what you are dealing with. In these cases you need to see a GP or - even better - a Dermatologist to get an actual diagnosis. Dermatologists are not just about the skin on your body – they are trained in Trichology and understand scalp issues and hair loss. You may need to use the medicated shampoo or creams they prescribe along with your curl-friendly products. Red bumps, scaly or itchy scalps can be so many different things and it’s important to get on them before they affect your hair. Hair loss can result from scalp issues but it can also be from something internal (thyroid, hormones, iron levels, etc.) so in all cases err on the side of caution and get a medical opinion.
In summary, never ignore your scalp and make sure the care of it is a regular part of your routine!