As we begin to curate our scalp care routines, we figured there’s no better time than now to get ahead (pun intended) on the facts. So, we reached out to Chelcey Salinger, an International Association of Trichologists-certified expert practising in Australia to help dispel some follicle misconceptions.
If you’re not familiar, a trichologist’s role is to diagnose hair loss and scalp conditions – scaliness, itching, redness and more – and to provide evidence-based treatments. Salinger entered the field after attending the World Trichology Conference in Canada, telling us, “People with hair loss always fear the worst and I enjoy dispelling their fears and being able to really help them.”
Here, Salinger shares her top three tips for a happy scalp.
1. Consider the ph of your shampoo
From skincare-inspired actives to shine-inducing oils, your shampoo and conditioner duo might be packed with hardworking ingredients, but their benefits may not pay off should the formula’s pH (its natural acidity) not match that of your scalp.
“The pH of the scalp is about 5.5,” explains Salinger. “Products that disturb this pH can also influence the balance of microbes on the scalp which, in turn, can cause scaling, itching and the like.
“Ideally, use shampoos that have a pH of about 5.5, or finish off your hair routine with a conditioning rinse that has a pH of about 5.5,” she advises.
While it can be tricky to find the pH of every hair product, some of our favourite pH-balanced formulas include Aveda’s Scalp Benefits™ Balancing Shampoo, Damage Remedy™ Restructuring Shampoo and Rosemary Mint Weightless Conditioner, Living Proof’s Restore Repair Mask and the Sans [ceuticals] pH + Shine Corrector.
2. Dandruff and a dry scalp are two very different things
“A dry scalp and dandruff can look very similar, but their causes are different,” says Salinger. “Dandruff is scaling all over the scalp associated with a particular yeast called Malassezia globosa. Therefore, anti-dandruff shampoos aim to eliminate excessive yeast on the scalp.”
On the other hand, “a dry scalp may be a result of sunburn, a reaction to irritation from hair products, a side effect of the skin condition psoriasis or indicative of nutritional deficiencies.” If you wear tight twists, ponytails and braids for long periods of time, the trichologist notes that this can cause scaling of the scalp, too.
While changing up your hairstyle regularly and opting for pH-balanced products with argan, lavender, rosemary, coconut, neem and peppermint oils will help to nourish a dry scalp, formulas like Sachajuan’s Scalp Shampoo and Conditioner and Aveda’s Scalp Remedy™ Dandruff Solution will be best to treat dandruff.
3. Don’t feel pressured to prolong the time between washes
While some of us layer on the dry shampoo to delay a hair wash by an undisclosable number of days (*raises hand*), the idea that washing your hair more than once a week is ‘bad for you’ is actually a myth, according to Salinger.
Regular hair washing, whenever you feel the need, is totally fine “as long as your shampoo is at the pH of about 5.5,” she notes. As for rinsing-and-repeating? One round of thorough shampooing will cleanse the scalp sufficiently!