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Your complete guide to scalp care for natural hair

by Shellie Reneé

Dec 2021

Scalp care for natural hair
Scalp care for natural hair

For the longest time, I wore my hair uber short (either in a natural or texturised style). Because I didn’t have but a couple of inches on my head, I honestly never gave my scalp much thought because I was constantly moisturising it (by wetting it almost every day) with water.

Because of that, it was rarely irritated. When I decided to gain some inches, though, that’s when some semi-drama began with my scalp.

I realised that:

  1. I needed to heal my scalp from the years of texturising it (because a texturiser is basically a very mild relaxer)
  2. When I wasn’t constantly “watering” it, it was prone to get really sensitive when it came to product buildup and 3) if I wanted my hair to truly thrive, the foundation of it — my scalp — was going to need me to be way more proactive than I ever imagined.

That’s what we’re going to explore today — seven things that your scalp needs in order for it (and your hair) to remain healthy. While each one requires a bit of time and intention, what I can guarantee you is if you put in the effort, it will pay off. BIG TIME.

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Massage your scalp and use essential oils to strengthen and thicken your hair

When you think about why a massage sounds like a really good idea, what’s the first thing that comes to your mind? I’m willing to bet that it being a great de-stressor tops the list and I would agree.

Yet aside from the fact that massaging your scalp can decrease cortisol levels and reduce anxiety, it also releases muscle tension, increases blood circulation to your hair follicles, can loosen up dandruff flakes and even thicken your hair over time.

The key is, whether you use your fingers or an actual scalp massager, that you apply a little bit of a warm oil to your scalp as well.

What are the best essential oils for your scalp?

Some great essential oils include lemongrass (it helps to strengthen our hair shaft); lavender (it fights dandruff and promotes relaxation); cedarwood (it helps to reduce hair loss); orange (it relieves dry scalp), and eucalyptus (it soothes an itchy scalp while promoting growth).

Add 3-5 drops of these to a couple of tablespoons of a carrier oil like jojoba (it’s a great moisturiser) or grapeseed (it’s packed with antioxidants), zap it in the microwave for 20 seconds and massage your scalp for 10 minutes. It’s absolutely divine.

Exfoliate your scalp to rid it of build up, dead skin and dandruff

If you use a lot of hair products, you only wash your hair a couple of times a month or you workout a lot, your scalp is going to get buildup. This can lead to clogged hair follicles (which affects hair growth) and a really irritated and itchy scalp.

Something that can keep all of this from being too much of an issue is scalp exfoliation. It’s a smart thing to do on wash day. You can do this by either putting a couple of teaspoons of sea salt or baking soda into your shampoo (the granules in both will help to remove dead skin cells, dandruff flakes and buildup) or you can make your own scalp exfoliant.

One that I really like consists of manuka honey, peppermint oil and apple cider vinegar. You can check it out on My Merry Messy Life’s site here.

Be sure to clarify your scalp

Speaking of product buildup, another way to get rid of it is to clarify your scalp (and hair) from time to time (once, every third or fourth shampoo is good).

It helps to remove excess sebum and anything else that may be hard to get rid of with just “regular” (meaning a sulfate-free which is typically best) shampoo.

Some people do this by washing their hair with a shampoo that contains sulfates (they provide the lathering effect that can get your hair “squeaky clean”) or by going with something like an apple cider rinse (which I personally think is so much better).

Why is apple cider vinegar so good for your scalp?

Aside from all of the vitamins and minerals that are in it, apple cider vinegar also contains alpha-hydroxy acid which is a powerful exfoliant. As a bonus, because it also has moisturising properties, you can rinse your scalp (and hair) with the cider and not worry about if it’s drying out your tresses in the process.

Use an infused oil on your scalp

If there is one thing that I’m a huge fan off, without reservation or apology, it’s applying DIY infused oil to my scalp.

Since I’ve been doing it, my scalp has felt so much better and my hair has become noticeably stronger.

Basically, infused oil is about steeping loose herbs along with a carrier oil in order to create a really concentrated solution that helps to soothe your scalp and feed your hair follicles.

The Lost Herbs is a site that can walk you through how to infuse oils from your own home (check it out here). As far as figuring out which herbs are best for your particular scalp needs, Be Beautiful is one of the main sites that has a pretty comprehensive list. You can check it out here.

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Use warm water while shampooing/conditioning your scalp

If you’re someone who likes the convenience of washing your hair while you’re in the shower, I totally get it.

Aside from the fact that it makes shampooing and conditioning easier, there’s nothing like the feeling of having hot water running down your scalp.

Only, try and go a little less hot. As good as it may feel, hot water can actually dehydrate your scalp which can also lead to itchiness and irritation.

Instead, wash and condition your hair in lukewarm water. Your scalp will be oh so happy that you did; healthier too.

Keep sharp tools (and fingernails) off of your scalp

While it might seem that your scalp can take just about anything, the reality is, when you are constantly scratching (or inadvertently scraping) it with your styling tools or fingernails, that can irritate it to the point where you’ll end up with sores, scabs or you could cause it to become inflamed or infected.

So, definitely handle your combs and brushes with care and use your fingertips instead of your fingernails when you’re trying to get some relief from itchiness, etc.

Lastly, be sure to inspect your scalp

Honestly, this final tip could’ve just as easily been the first one. It’s always a good idea to part your scalp into sections and do a bit of inspecting at least once a month. Look to see if there is redness, sores, flaking, scales, hair thinning or excessive buildup.

If any of this is the case, first try the tips that I already mentioned to see if that eliminates the issue. If it doesn’t, make an appointment to see your doctor or a dermatologist.

Your scalp is just as important as the rest of your body; it’s important that it receives the love, care and proper attention that it needs…too.