Shed The Dead (Skin): Part Two
I exfoliated my scalp. Yes, my scalp. I recently wrote a piece on scalp-skin health for a national magazine, which got me thinking how most of us spend lots of time and money exfoliating our aging faces, but few (next to none?) do the same for the scalp…which is also aging skin.
Now I’m not saying you should slather Retin-A on your head. But occasional, gentle dead-skin removal is advisable. Especially post 40, when the natural exfoliating process slows way down—and common sense says skin cell buildup on the scalp could clog follicles and impact hair growth. And, while we may not be thinking about our scalp skin all that much, many of us think a lot about thinning hair.
I got on board with scalp exfoliation in my thirties after a visit to the Philip Kingsley Trichology Clinic in New York City. Heath was about six months old at the time, and I was shedding clumps of hair thanks to out-of-whack post-natal hormones. In addition to oral supplements and topical products, I was prescribed a series of Hair Spa Treatments, a.k.a. heaven on earth. During this treatment, an exfoliating scalp mask is applied to your head and a moisturizing mask to your hair, you're placed under a steam machine to accelerate absorption—and you're blessed (yes, #blessed) with a twenty-minute-long head and neck massage. It's. The. Best. The goal is to dislodge dead skin cells and deep clean the scalp skin, leaving follicles free and clear to get growing. I do believe it helped then, and it continued to help as other kinds of hormonal swings (perimenopausal, as opposed to post-pregnancy) impacted my hair’s health around age 40. Now that we live in Ann Arbor, I can’t get to the clinic regularly (alas), but I do still use the Philip Kingsley Exfoliating Scalp Mask once a month. Applying it at home is nowhere near as blissful as getting the treatment at the clinic, but it helps my scalp skin stay pretty clean and clear.
I squirted the Scalp Cleanser onto my scalp before I got into the shower. Then I stepped under the water, wet just my roots and massaged the cleanser into my scalp. (The water causes the cleanser to foam a bit, making it easier to manipulate.) I then took the Exfoliating Brush and used it to massage the cleanser in for another thirty seconds. The brush (pictured above) doesn’t look like anything special. But it did feel good. Not Hair-Spa-Treatment-at-the-Philip-Kingsley-Clinic good. But still nice. (And don't worry; the bristles on the brush are looped and spaced far apart so they won’t tear your wet hair.) After massaging, I rinsed out the Scalp Cleanser and shampooed and conditioned as usual. I did not notice a huge difference in my skin right after my shower, but the next day, when I used my fingers to rake my hair back into a bun before working out, I noted that my scalp felt quite smooth—and I didn’t get any flakes under my fingernails. Gross, I know, but I'm betting if you take your fingernails and gently rake them over your scalp, especially at your crown and nape, you’ll come away with a few flakes too.
Anyway, the sloughing was not as dramatic as I got post-Baby Foot Booties (a good thing, in this case)—nor did I feel the Aveda Cleanser was as deep-cleaning as the Philip Kingsley Exfoliating or Stimulating Masks. However, unlike the masks, which take twenty minutes to work, the Cleanser is a fairly-low-maintence way to add scalp exfoliating to your regimen a few times a month. Of course, if you're truly a minimalist and refuse to add even one more more product to your shower routine, simply using your fingertips to massage shampoo into your scalp for thirty seconds once a week is better than doing nothing at all. And remember that doing nothing at all could impact the health of future hair growth. And that, I'm assuming, is something for most of us.
If you missed my post on feet exfoliation (Part One of this series), you can read it here.