How many times have you heard that you should only put conditioner on the bottom half of your hair? It's a tip that hairstylists often give to those of us with finer hair, and it's one that I used to follow religiously. A few years ago, however, I noticed that my hair was getting thinner and finer. Every time I talked to a hairstylist, I asked him or her what could be causing my hair problems -- and I heard answers that ranged from hormones to pollution.
It wasn't until six months ago when a stylist said my scalp felt incredibly tight and dry that something clicked. I hadn't thought about -- let alone moisturized -- my scalp in years. He suggested I use a moisturizing, botanical-based conditioner to give myself a scalp massage every time I shampoo. I've followed his advice ever since, and my scalp and hair problems are gone.
"Taking care of your scalp is just as important as taking care of your hair," says New York City dermatologist Francesca Fusco, MD. "A good analogy for the hair and the scalp is a tree growing out of the ground. If you keep the soil (your scalp) well nourished and moisturized, then the tree (your hair) will be healthier, stronger, and more beautiful."
Unfortunately, many hair habits -- from heat styling to using the wrong kind of brush -- can damage your scalp and lead to hair problems. See the nine most common scalp-care mistakes and how to fix them now.
YOU'RE USING THE WRONG SHAMPOO AND CONDITIONER
Your scalp is more delicate than you might think. "If you have a really expensive silk blouse, you're not going to just throw it in the washing machine with Tide," says Fusco. She recommends looking for shampoos and conditioners with botanical ingredients, like sunflower oil, aloe vera, and vitamin B5, which are gentle and very nourishing.
If you've been having hair problems and you think your scalp is to blame, look for a shampoo and conditioner that are formulated for both your hair and your scalp -- it should say so on the bottle. Fusco likes Clear Scalp & Hair Therapy Nourishing Shampoo, $5.99, and Clear Scalp & Hair Therapy Nourishing Conditioner, $5.99. "I encourage people to stick with one brand," she says. "The shampoo and conditioner are designed to work together.
YOU'RE NOT CONDITIONING YOUR SCALP
If you're only conditioning the bottom half of your hair (like I was), you're probably drying out your scalp. About two weeks after I started using conditioner all over, I noticed that my hair looked healthier, and my scalp felt better. Three months later my hair was noticeably thicker.
Even if your scalp is oily, you should still condition it. Celebrity stylist Harry Josh suggests John Frieda Root Awakening Conditioner, $6.49, which contains peppermint and eucalyptus extracts to moisturize your scalp while balancing oil production.
YOU'RE NOT MASSAGING YOUR SCALP
Using the right shampoo is important for your scalp, but how you apply it is equally significant. It might sound indulgent, but you should take the time to give yourself a scalp massage every time you wash your hair. "It boosts circulation," says Fusco. "You're removing dead skin cells and excess oils, and it lets the conditioner absorb better." Fusco emphasizes that proper technique is also key: "You should use the balls of your fingers [not your nails] -- don't scratch your scalp."
YOU'RE HEAT STYLING TOO OFTEN
You wouldn't blast your skin with extremely hot air for half an hour, so why do you do it to your scalp? "A lot of the hair tools we use involve excessive heat," says Fusco. "Ideally, you want to hold the blow dryer at least 12 inches from your scalp -- and keep it moving."
In addition to holding the dryer at a safe distance, look for one with a medium or low heat setting. And if you're a flat iron addict, try swapping out your 450-degree tool for one that uses cooler technology. The recently launched Coolway AutoSense Styler, $150, operates at temperatures under 299 degrees and automatically sets itself to the temperature needed to straighten your hair.
YOU'VE GOT THE WRONG BRUSH
Brushing is important because it distributes oils from your scalp and stimulates circulation -- but you don't want to overdo it, and you want to make sure you're using the right brush. Fusco suggests natural, boar bristle brushes. "They're made of keratin, just like your hair," she says. "When you pull on the hair, you get a little bit of give, which will keep the hair from snapping."
If you want to splurge on a brush you'll have forever, opt for the Mason Pearson Sensitive Boar Bristle Brush, $160. For a less-expensive option, try the Sonia Kashuk Bristle Hair Brush, $15.79.
YOU'RE LETTING PRODUCT BUILDUP
When you use root-lifting spray, volumizing products, or even regular old hairspray, odds are you're getting some of it on your scalp. And it's probably sitting there -- clogging your pores -- for longer than you think. Dry shampoo is another product buildup offender. "It's become so popular -- people are using dry shampoo every single day," says New York City salon owner Roy Teeluck. "And then they wonder why their hair isn't growing. It's because their scalp is completely blocked."
Unfortunately, shampooing might not be enough to get rid of the product buildup. Because most shampoos are designed to leave some of the natural oils in your hair, they also leave behind some of the product. Teeluck suggests a monthly deep clean with a clarifying shampoo (try Neutrogena Anti-Residue Shampoo, $5.99) followed by a scalp treatment to put the moisture back in. He created a skin care-like product called Roy Teeluck Concentre de Collagene, $55, with peptides and botanicals that can be used at home or in his salon.
Fusco says you can also do a weekly treatment with your regular conditioner: "Apply the conditioner to your hair and scalp, wrap your head in a warm towel, and let it soak in for as long as you can." Then rinse and style as usual.
YOUR HAIR DYE IS GETTING ON YOUR SCALP
Whether you're coloring your hair at home or having it done at a salon, the product shouldn't be applied directly to your scalp. "Your scalp shouldn't burn when you color your hair," says Fusco. "It's an indication that there's either a problem with your scalp or the color is touching the skin and staying there for too long." She explains that people with dandruff or psoriasis will often experience burning because they have small cracks in their scalp, which are easily irritated. Ask your colorist to avoid your scalp as much as possible, or to use a barrier gel for added protection.
YOU'RE FORGETTING TO USE SPF
If you have fine hair or a distinct part, then your scalp is going to be susceptible to sunburn -- especially since it's the one spot that even the most diligent SPF-wearers often forget. "The best thing is to wear a hat," says Fusco. "If that's not possible, I tell people to apply sunscreen to a makeup wedge and press it onto their part and hairline." If you're worried about your hair looking greasy, choose an oil-free formula or try a powder version like Brush on Block Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30, $24.95. It's worth making the extra effort, since a burnt scalp can lead to peeling, flaking, and dryness -- not to mention the skin cancer risk.
WHEN TO GET A DOC'S OPINION
If you've noticed that your scalp is especially dry or sensitive, you should discuss it with your dermatologist -- it could be a sign of something more serious. "If you're noticing white flakes and it's itchy all the time, then it's probably dandruff," says Fusco. "[But] if your symptoms are severe, it could be psoriasis." While there's no prescription for dry scalp, a dermatologist can suggest a medical treatment for
Article courtesy of TotalBeauty.com