7 min read

Scalp Care 101 For Thick, Healthy & Glossy Hair

A beautiful young woman with very long ginger hair getting blown horizontally over to the left side of the screen

Make yourself comfortable, pour some sass in your glass, and let’s talk about all things scalp care. Dry, flaky bits snowing around your person 24/7, pesky product buildup gunking up the follicles, brittle, sad-hanging, willows-be-jealous strands of thin, exhausted hair, a graveyard on your hairbrush, and a desire. Nay! A dream of jealousy-inducing lush hair! It’s time to reset your haircare routine, return to the roots (lame done-a-thousand-times pun, totally intended), and give your scalp some love.


Just as plant growth depends on healthy soil, the health of our hair begins at our scalp, which is why so many of us invest in reviving the foundations of our lackluster strands. But “What does a healthy scalp look like, and where do I begin with a scalp care routine?” you ask, with a single eyebrow arched in interest. 

Healthy scalp & microbiome

The scalp has its very own microbiome, which means it is home to a varied ecosystem of fungal and bacterial species that influence the condition of our hair. Keeping this microscopic ecosystem balanced is essential to keeping everything running smoothly. Like the skin microbiome, it is the first line of defense against irritation, infection, and toxins that can affect our hair's health and appearance. Therefore, keeping our scalp happy with a balanced microbiome is essential to help our mane stay (or get) lustrous and full.


Signs of a healthy scalp include an absence of:

  • Excess oil
  • Dry flakes
  • Redness
  • Dead skin cell build-up
  • Scabs
  • Dryness
a colorful microscopic depiction of a microbiome with all sorts of coexisting organisms, big and small

Why does the scalp become damaged?

Just as a healthy scalp depends upon a balanced microbiome, a damaged scalp is often caused by an imbalance in our symbiotic micro-universe. The overgrowth of particular microorganisms can unsettle the balance, inducing disruptions in the skin barrier function and leading to dermatological scalp disorders—often characterized by excessive sebum buildup, dryness, damage, and irritation—which can impede hair growth.


Some causes of this imbalance are more manageable than others. Intrinsic factors like sex, age, and genetics can influence the profile of bacteria and fungi in the scalp microbiome, and these are pretty much rolls of the dice where you can get cleaned out or win the genetic lottery. Einstein said that God doesn’t play dice, but nature sure loves her roulette table. In this area, you’re pretty much stuck working with what you got, making that lemonade as you go.


On the other hand, you can control environmental factors like pollution, UV, hair products, treatments, and habits to maintain proper moisture, pH, and sebum content for a balanced microbiome, creating the right environment for optimal hair growth and health.

A fun redheaded woman with her hair teased up high, covering her face with both palms

Long gone are the times of Samson, whose hair had never seen a harsh chemical (he had his own set of problems though, yikes). We can do a few simple things to keep the microbiome happy in contemporary times, not poking the bear any more than necessary with uncalled-for procedures and chemicals. In most situations, the body knows what to do once we stop interfering. It is intelligent and, once allowed to recover, tends to revert to homeostasis - a fancy way to say balance.   

Common scalp issues & solutions

Some biggies to look out for are:

Scalp Stripping

Though many of us struggle with excess sebum on the scalp, it has a job to do and is there for a reason, so avoid completely stripping the scalp of all its natural oils. Softening and protective, these oils act as the scalp’s defense against scalp barrier damage, meaning the scalp microbiome can become imbalanced once stripped. The common cause is the use of harsh shampoos that can inhibit the growth of certain microorganisms. Have you ever noticed that the more frequently you wash your hair, the faster it gets greasy? This situation is a perfect example of the scalp trying to get into homeostasis. The more protective oil we strip, the more the scalp tries to compensate to protect itself.


An easy way to mitigate this issue is to avoid the regular use of shampoos that contain sulfates. Sulfates are potent surfactants (ingredients that can attract oil & water from surfaces) that can effectively remove dirt and debris, but they don’t discriminate (how kind of them) and also break down naturally produced healthy oils from the hair and scalp. If overused, they can leave the scalp stripped of moisture, potentially leading to a deterioration of scalp health.

Solution: If you wash your hair daily, find a gentle natural shampoo and use it sparingly. 

rich and fluffy sopa bubbles gliding down a peach-colored surface

Scalp Buildup

Since cave women chewed on mammoth chops with the side of snails (yes, this is scientifically accurate) and discussed the topic around the roaring central fire, the age-old question remains: How often should we wash our hair? Overcleaning and using harsh shampoos can upset the balance of the scalp microbiome, and going long periods without washing can lead to a buildup of harmful stimuli.  

Excess shampooing causes problems due to surfactant-induced extraction of beneficial lipid components. However, allowing too much sebum accumulation can create the overgrowth of a yeast fungus, Malassezia. It loves fatty acids found in sebum, sets up shop all delighted, overgrows, and disrupts the scalp microbiome. Yet, higher wash frequencies help remove dirt residues caused by sebum excretion, hair products, and airborne pollution that fuel the scalp’s microbes’ metabolic activity.

Simple solution: Use sulfate-free shampoos and gentle, natural scalp scrubs to help bust buildup while keeping the scalp’s natural oils intact. Balance.

Sun Damage

Despite your scalp being covered by hair, it is still susceptible to UV irritation and damage, which can alter the hair shaft structure. Exposure to UV rays has also been associated with types of alopecia and hair thinning, and can also lead to solar keratosis - patches of red, dry, flaky, irritated skin on the scalp. Use a scalp UV protector to avoid burning when spending a long time in the sun. Scourging your scalp can lead to moisture loss and peeling, offsetting the scalp microbiome.

Simple solution: Bring a sun hat when you know you’ll need one. 

a woman reading a book with a big sun hat, on a white blanket with a wicker picnic basket full of fruit, on a sandy beach, wearing a bathing suit top and a skirt

Why taking care of your scalp will lead to healthier hair

When balanced and in good health, the scalp microbiome is a beneficial ecosystem of living bacteria that can defend and repair the scalp. It also provides a better environment for hair to retain moisture and control oxidative stress (free radical damage to the body’s cells). While the body has defense mechanisms against free radicals, these can decrease with age. 


Lipids, proteins, and DNA can get progressively more damaged, breaking the scalp’s protective barrier. Reinforcing the barrier can improve its function, suppressing conditions like dandruff and seborrhoeic dermatitis. Restoring epidermal function improves dandruff and restores scalp homeostasis, promoting healthier hair. We may all have come here for different reasons, but strong, glossy, thick hair conveys health and prosperity.


How to improve scalp health

While the visible effects of poor scalp health are apparent through dandruff, flaking, and grease, we need to consider the health primarily, even if we did arrive at it through aesthetic concerns.


Just as there are different skin types, there are different scalp types, and you may need to tailor scalp routines to your needs, but here are three methods to get you started with fast & easy scalp care that will suit most people:

Scalp Massaging

Massaging your scalp regularly can condition it, helping to exfoliate and prevent flaking. It’s a convenient and affordable way to start promoting scalp health and can be done by just using your fingers or an affordable scalp massage tool, or electric scalp massaging devices if you would like to take it up a notch. The massage must be done gently and on dry hair rather than wet hair to prevent breakage.


Regularly massaging the scalp can improve hair thickness by inducing stretching forces to dermal papilla cells, the cells located at the bottom of the hair follicles that play a vital role in the hair growth cycle. Massaging the scalp can also stimulate increased blood flow, which strengthens the hair follicles by ensuring they receive an enhanced supply of oxygen and nutrients, creating a better microenvironment for hair growth.


Scalp Oiling

Using essential oils is a great way to replenish, nourish, and protect the dry, dehydrated skin of the scalp. It is an ancient method that has seen a great revival in the last few years on social media. Plenty of hair-conscious consumers choose coconut and rosemary oil to promote hair growth. Oiling can also help restore the vitamins and minerals stripped away during hair washing. Many oils are rich in fatty acids that bond to the proteins in your hair and seal the cuticle to lock in moisture and deliver conditioning compounds to the hair follicle. They also have anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, and antioxidant properties to help effectively treat scalp conditions.


If you suffer from greasy hair and excess sebum buildup, scalp oiling can be an off-putting prospect, but plenty of natural essential oils are beneficial to the scalp. Rosemary oil has antifungal properties and can help with excess oil and the buildup of dead skin, peppermint oil can balance your scalp's pH to regulate sebum production, while olive oil can help regenerate hair follicles and seal the scalp’s moisture. Plus, they all smell gorgeous and will spoil you silly.


Whatever your scalp type, oiling is an excellent treatment. Just make sure to dilute pure essential oils with carrier oils or neutral oils to avoid any adverse reactions, as they are quite concentrated and intense.

Scalp Treatments

The haircare market is becoming inundated with innovative scalp care products that are not just reserved for those with scalp conditions. From masks and serums to scrubs and toners, brands are becoming hyper-aware of the scalp as the bedrock of hair health, and there is now a growing market for scalp treatments.


The hair bulb, the active site for hair growth at the base of each follicle, is where cells responsible for forming hair fibers reside. Using treatments with active ingredients and micronutrients can enhance the hair’s cellular mechanisms for a healthier scalp and hair.



So, are we - with all our science, modern blessings, and hair products - no closer to the answer than our cave sisters? We believe balance is always a work in progress. You and you alone can assess the validity of each scalp care method to support the healthiest, glossiest, most lustrous head of hair you can grow.


We hope that, armed with this information, you can start making better decisions and choices for your scalp health and make your dream of wrapping it like Rapunzel come true. Enjoy any hairstyle trend or classic haircut you prefer, and remember—“healthy” never goes out of style. 

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