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With the dawn of dry shampoo, apparently millennials in particular are washing their hair less and less often, with Herbal Essences this year reporting that 25 per cent are stringing it out for up to four days between washes. Combine infrequent washing and product build-up with the ravages of pollution, sweat and day-to-day dirt and your scalp tends to be the first to suffer, whether it’s lank roots, itchiness or the dreaded dandruff (or a lovely trio of all of these issues). This week we felt the need for a good spring scalp clean and condition- read on to see how we got on with scalp treatments, from trichologist developed soothers to vegan scalp masks.
The promise: “Helps balance sebum levels to maintain the purity of the scalp at the root of the hair, while helping protect the scalp from aggressors such as pollution and other free radicals.”
We give it: 8/10
Review: “Have you ever looked at your scalp close-up? On a microscopic zoomed-in level? Let me tell you, even if your scalp is clean as a whistle, it ain’t pretty, but add in dead skin, city grime and the fact that many women are washing their hair less thanks to dry shampoo, and you’ve got a hot mess on your head right there, let me tell you. I discovered this when Director of Nottingham’s Aveda Urban Therapy Jack Cunningham took an incredibly close-up photo of my head with a tiny tiny camera after not having washed it for three days. The shame."
“This was all part of an intro to Aveda’s new Pramasana™ Scalp Care range, which takes in a salon-based Scalp Facial treatment, plus an exfoliating scalp brush, cleanser and concentrate to be used at home. I’m focusing on the Protective Scalp Concentrate here, which looks and feels very much like a skincare serum.”
“The idea is to spread it over your scalp in sections, avoiding touching the pipette on the head to limit the spread of bacteria. If you’re concerned about added grease, you’ll be relieved to know that this is lightweight and pleasantly cooling, and the plant based antioxidants and lactobacillus within the formula are intended to strengthen and protect the skin barrier in the fact of free radicals and external damage. The concentrate won’t do anything for your hair style wise, but a final scalp examination post-treatment did reveal a much smoother, pinker scalp, clear of dead skin and other crud. I noticed less dandruff and itchiness over the next few days, and possibly a little less oil buildup, but as with the skincare, I think that any improvements in scalp health will come in time. If pollution and the like is a worry, however, it’s a nice addition to your routine if you can afford it.”
We give it: 9/10
The promise: “Kérastase Specifique Masque Hydra-Apaisant is an intense scalp treatment that smoothes and hydrates the scalp. Ideal for all hair types and caring for sensitised scalps.”
Review: “The idea of adding a hair mask to my hair washing routine just to treat my scalp seems unnecessary and a bit of a faff. What a little treat lies within this tub of deliciousness though - and yes, you should treat your scalp separately to your hair - who knew!?”
“I occasionally suffer from an itchy scalp in the heat, probably because I don't pay half as much attention to my haircare as I do my skin. Applying this mask to wet hair and massaging it in, this treatment leaves the scalp feeling calm and nourished. There is a slight cooling and tingling sensation when applied, but luckily I found this more soothing than irritating. The intense treatment completely softened my fine hair, ridding it of any excess oil, plus pesky hot weather scalp itchiness was a distant memory. Its only downfall, besides the price point, is having it in a pot- I’d much prefer a tube for easy shower use.”
The promise: "An energising, rehydrating toner that absorbs excess oil and promotes a healthy scalp."
We give it: 7/10
Review: “Scalps aren’t really easy to care for without ruining your hair, but Philip Kingsley is the gold standard in haircare so I knew I was in safe hands with this treatment. It’s a water-based toner designed to soothe the scalp, rehydrate, and stimulate blood supply to encourage hair growth, while absorbing excess oil and protecting from bacterial overgrowth. Quite a promise. Fragrance-free so perfect for sensitive skins, it does also contain witch hazel and menthol as well as anti-inflammatory sodium salicylate - but does it do anything? It feels refreshing, and certainly doesn’t mess up your hair (you apply it directly to scalp when hair is damp, styling as normal) but it didn’t reduce the itching I sometimes suffer with right away. I’d use this more as an ongoing or preventative treatment to encourage better hair, but personally prefer the Flaky/Itchy Scalp Toner in the same range for problem-solving scalp issues!”
We give it: 8/10
The promise: “Soothes itchy scalps, treats dandruff, prevents hair loss and increases hair growth”
Review: "It’s been awhile since I paid any attention to my scalp. Usually my hair hogs the limelight, leaving little time for the rest of the ecosystem to get a look in. So, I was pleased to be able to try this Head & Hair Heal Masque from Swedish brand Maria Nila with hopes of some at-home “hair hygge” (not a thing…yet). But did it deliver? First up, when I opened this tub of luscious looking cream, the fragrance transported me to the hairdresser and the “extended” head massage treatment – a layer of moisture that one hopes will turn back the clock on all the hair dye that’s just been applied. It’s a reassuring smell to me, even if it’s just a temporary fix. The packaging doesn’t say how much to apply, so I went for a large strawberry sized amount (I have hair just above shoulder length), applying it to my roots, giving my scalp a bit of a massage in the process, then I left it for 10-15 as suggested by the Swedes. The ingredients are anti-inflammatory, promising to soothe itchy scalps, treat dandruff, prevent hair loss and increase hair growth. I can’t comment on the last two, but the creamy concoction was very pleasurable to use and left my hair feeling very soft and nourished with it’s Aloe Vera. I can only hope it had the same effect on my scalp and hair growth!"
The promise: “Detox your scalp from impurities that block the roots with pomegranate enzymes and natural castor oil beads to exfoliate the scalp and shift dry skin to create the perfect environment for hair growth.”
We give it: 8/10
Review: “Recommended for ‘Hair with product build-up in need of a detox,’ I was the perfect tester for this particular scalp treatment after a recent cold had put a dampener on my weekly hair washing plans. In the past, that level of 7-day long greasiness can be tricky to shift with just my hydrating shampoo and conditioner, (apologies if you’re eating btw), often resulting in multiple lathers before I feel squeaky clean. I was skeptical at first, (out of sheer laziness to be honest at the prospect of integrating another step into my in-shower regime), but it actually scrubbed up pretty impressively in my opinion.
“Containing natural castor oil and white willow bark extract to act as natural anti-bacterials and pomegranate fruit enzymes for a more intense exfoliation, it provided a more targeted clean than my usual bottle of shampoo. And that’s what I particularly liked about it - its scalp specificity. I didn’t feel the expected ‘cooling sensation’ as claimed, but it was deliciously satisfying to massage in. Finer hair types may find it a bit heavy, but it rinsed out of my thicker hair type quite easily and felt like it had nicely prepped my scalp for whatever I put on top afterwards - a bit like an extension of my skincare routine. Leaving my roots noticeably bouncier and softer, removing product and pollution build-up and clearing the way for smoother and healthier hair growth, I’d definitely use it again.”
The promise: "A nourishing blend of 5 super oils to improve the condition of and strengthen your hair from within and keep scalp healthy"
We give it: 8/10
Review: "I felt a bit sorry for my scalp as I was applying this oil to my dry hair and scalp, not because of what I was putting on it but that I had waited so long to give it any TLC. Considering it gets blasted with a hairdryer daily, it is probably crying out for a bit of love. I liked the gentle citrus smell of this natural oil (a good job since I walked around the house with it in my hair for five hours – overnight is recommended but half an hour would also do the job)."
"It seeped into my forehead a little which I didn’t mind as it contains only natural oils including grapefruit oil - grapefruit is a natural cleanser and prevents product build-up, says the brand. They also say that the castor oil has anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties which makes it beneficial against folliculitis, dandruff and scalp infections and the ricinoleic acid which helps balance scalp pH replenishing the scalp natural oils and undoing some of the damage of harsh chemicals."
"They also tell me the virgin olive oil acts as a natural SPF (factor 10), but I’m not sure I would want to go out in the sun with an oily scalp, although I guess you could apply a bit to your parting."
"After two rounds of shampoo, it washed out easily and my hair didn’t feel weighed down. Most noticeably my scalp had lost the concerning pinkness that I had noticed. It’s quite pricey – I reckon you’d get about five full-head treatments out of one bottle, but a 30ml travel size is also available for £8 if you want to try it out. I’ll definitely be buying this again."
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