I think haircare products to me can be likened to the state of my relationships. They always start out great, everything is all bouncy and shiny. Then, I have a few bad days. Then, next thing I know, every session, every time I try, it’s dull, listless, meh… I’m fighting all the time to get things to be like how they were in the beginning, but it’s just not working… So, I break things off with that product/guy. Then, I find another and the cycle begins all over again.
And, I don’t know, maybe my relationships don’t work because I compare them to shampoo, but recently, I’ve had an epiphany. I keep putting so much pressure on the product to always give me great results, but maybe, just maybe, the problem is me… or rather, in the case of my shampoo, the state of my scalp.
In the U.S. only, the haircare industry is worth $87 billion. That includes cleansers, conditioners, and styling products, but it is only recently that scalp-care is being added to that. In all the haircare ads we’ve every seen, the emphasis on getting gorgeous hair has always been based on what shampoo we use. Which is bizarre, because hair is dead – it’s not made of living cells – whereas our scalp is.
Like the skin on our face, our scalp sheds cells and gets clogged easily with oil, dirt and sweat. And we’re told to just use a clarifying shampoo (or dandruff shampoo if the scalp is flaky), but if you think about it, we don’t just use a facial cleanser and leave it at that. We use toner, serum, moisturizer, scrubs to exfoliate, masks, etc. And here is when I realised: why don’t I start treating my scalp the way I would my face?? With that in mind, I decided to approach it with a good cleanser, moisturizer/serum, scrub and toner.
1. Cleanser & Serum
And thus began my online search for products that focus on the scalp and not the hair. Fortunately, one of my favorite botanical haircare brands, Aveda, seems to have had the same eureka moment as me. In May this year, they introduced the new Pramāsana line, which they call “skincare for your scalp”. This three-step system focuses on exfoliating, cleansing and protecting the scalp. Here’s how you use it:
- The first step involves the Exfoliating Scalp Brush, which unlike a regular hair brush, has soft, looped bristles. You brush in small circular motions all over the scalp prior to cleansing, and I don’t know how the mechanics of this works, but it really doesn’t tangle your hair. Aveda claims this helps to loosen build up and impurities while improving microcirculation.
- Next, you apply Pramāsana Purifying Scalp Cleanser directly onto the scalp. I prefer to apply it in sections all over my scalp while my hair is dry as it’s easier to separate the hair, then I massage it with my fingers to spread it evenly. The instructions don’t say how long to leave it in, but I figure since magic needs time to happen, I’ll leave it on for as long as it takes for my shower water to heat up. The active ingredient is plant-derived salicylic acid, which we all know is a great skin exfoliant.
- After your regular shampoo and conditioner process, the final step is the leave-in product – Pramāsana Protective Scalp Concentrate. It’s like a serum for your scalp and contains seaweed extract to control sebum, a probiotic lactobacillus to maintain the natural protective barrier of your scalp, and tamanu oil, which is a great moisturizer, antioxidant, and helps heal damaged skin. The dropper applicator doesn’t let you apply too much, which is good as your hair could look greasy if you’re too heavy-handed with it. I always blow dry my hair after and it absorbs right in.
I normally wash my hair every two days but I have to admit, I’ll just skip a step or two when I’m feeling lazy. Some users have complained it makes their hair greasy, but that doesn’t happen to me at all. I think the application process is important. Like any other skincare product, you don’t just apply it and let it sit there. You need to massage it into your skin so it is fully absorbed. The first couple of times I tried it, I didn’t really notice much difference. After using it a while, though, I feel the dry spots on my scalp that usually start itching the day after a hair wash don’t happen anymore.
2. Salt Scrub
Another product I’ve introduced into my scalp-care routine is Christophe Robin’s Cleansing Purifying Scrub with Sea Salt. This is a really curious product. When you scoop it out of the container it looks just like an oil-based body scrub, and my first thought was how the hell do I get this all over my scalp? Surprisingly, after rubbing it into my wet scalp, it lathered up into a rich, thick foam. And boy, does this baby clean like a shampoo on steroids! My scalp really feels refreshed and clean after and I love the perfumed smell. The next day after using this, my hair is usually nice and bouncy.
Some people seem to find getting it onto the scalp tricky as it’s rather gloopy, so here’s how I do it – I scoop some into my palm, mix it a little and apply it to the top half of my head. After it’s nicely lathered, I repeat the process to the bottom back of my head. It gives such a rich lather you may be tempted to work it through your strands, however it can be rather drying, so stick to the scalp area and use a conditioner on your hair ends after. This scrub is intended for sensitive or oily scalps, but I think it will suit most scalp types.
3. Toner aka Tea Rinse
Saving the best for last, is a unique treatment you probably don’t hear much about – a tea rinse! I’ve used vinegar-based rinses before, but I had never tried a tea rinse before until the lovely girls at Belle Bar Organic offered to send me a customized sample. I’ve mentioned Belle Bar Organic before in a previous post here, where I reviewed their face mask/scrub. They are a family-owned, small business based in Brooklyn and they create amazing all-natural skin and haircare products.
So, why a tea rinse and how does it work for hair? Well, tea rinses have historically been used to help treat scalp issues, enhance hair color, and address a variety of other hair issues. For example, black tea has been touted to enhance brunette color tones, reduce hair loss (because of the caffeine), and thicken and strengthen the hair, while green tea is said to be good for fighting dandruff and stimulating hair growth.
My customized Belle Bar Organic Scalp Balancing Tea Rinse doesn’t have actual tea leaves in it and is more of a herbal concoction. Here’s what it contains and what it does:
Lavender – balance oil production
Cassia – promotes healthy scalp
Rosemary – relieves itchy scalp
Calendula – healing
Now, I can’t tell you exactly why, but this does amazing things to my hair. I steep about a teabagful in my little teapot then when it’s cool enough, bring it into the shower with me. After shampooing, I’ll pour it all over my head. Tea rinses are astringent and my hair is dyed so I’ll condition the ends after, making sure not to wash off the tea rinse from my scalp.
I love the result! It thickens my hair and gives it so much BODY, which lasts days not hours. I have really thin hair that has zero volume, and I normally wash my hair every other day as it gets flat and greasy quickly. Especially since I use face oils (I guess they travel up into my hairline). With this tea rinse, though, I feel I can stretch one more day of not shampooing. I don’t like to use dry shampoo as I feel it makes my follicles clogged, so this treatment works well for me. I plan to try different tea rinse concoctions to see the effect. Check out all the ingredients at Belle Bar Organic here.
Unlike the skin on my face, I can’t really see the condition of my scalp and how treating it like skin has been helping. I’ll have to go by time alone to see if my hair does get stronger and thicker. But with more and more haircare brands creating new products that focus on the scalp, I feel I may be onto something! Now, if only relationships were so easy to deal with… Watch this space…