Cleansing the scalp: the steps

René Furterer, the father of the founder of CLAUDERER, used to say: "Healthy hair grows on a healthy scalp".

This common-sense credo was revolutionary in the early 50s, a post-war era marked by the rise of perming techniques, colouring products and other chemical hair manipulations. In short, aesthetics were paramount.

Beautiful hair starts with a healthy scalp.

What are the signs that your scalp needs a detox?

Your excessively oily scalp ? Is it sensitive? Or is it dry? Do you have dandruff ? Dander?

And your hair just isn't in the best shape despite all the care you think you're giving it. You've tried changing your hair routine, you've tried various 'hair detox' products, or care products designed, in theory, to deep cleanse the scalp, but you're still not getting the results you're looking for. What's the problem?

Why does the scalp need deep cleansing?

We don't always know it, but the skin is an organ in its own right, like the heart, lungs or kidneys. The main role of the skin (which includes the scalp) is to act as a barrier between the outside environment (sun, cold, pollution, microbes, viruses, etc.) and the inside of our body. To fulfil this barrier role, the skin is constantly renewing itself without us even realising it. 

It must also maintain a slightly acidic hydrogen potential (pH). This pH is around 5.5 (neutral pH = 7), whereas the inside of our body operates with a pH of around 7.5, which is slightly basic rather than acidic.

Our skin is therefore fundamentally different from the rest of our body in that its acidity enables it to provide a real barrier to microbial aggression.

What about the scalp? The scalp differs from the skin on the rest of the body and face in that it has a high concentration of sebaceous glands. These glands are associated with each hair follicle and secrete sebum, an oily substance which, when everything is going well, flows outwards from the hair follicles to protect the hair (film-forming effect) and the surface of the scalp (hydrolipidic film).

However, some of this sebum can stagnate inside the hair follicles, leading to an accumulation of residue. that prevent exchanges from taking place normally.

Remove these excess dead cells The very principle of scalp detoxification is to reduce the risk of hair follicles being damaged, which hinders optimum nutrition for hair follicles and therefore hair growth.

Exfoliate the scalp or use a hair scrub?

Here again, there is a tendency to confuse these two types of hair care, even though the aim is to thoroughly cleanse the scalp to durably eliminate impurities (excess sebum, skin particles and other residues linked to pollution, etc...) thanks to adapted care products. The idea is to go further than a simple shampoo to cleanse the scalp.

Exfoliation refers to a 'chemical' process that involves applying a substance to dissolve impurities, which are then removed by rinsing or shampooing. Of course, this 'chemical' process can be carried out using totally natural products such as certain vegetable oils (olive oil, for example).

Scrubbing refers to a "mechanical" action: the scalp is massaged with products containing "scratching" particles to eliminate the most superficial layers of the scalp. Of course, this mechanical action will eliminate the dandruff immediately, skin flakes and others crusts on the surface of the scalp. If the massage is too violent or badly done, this mechanical action will also disrupt the hydrolipidic film. If the scrub is too vigorous, it will accelerate the desquamation of the scalp and therefore weaken the "barrier" role we expect of our scalp. That's why, at Clauderer, we're fairly cautious about using scalp scrubs.

How can I have a healthy scalp?

Before starting a scalp detox, check that your hair care routine (shampoo, mask, oil, etc.) and your styling habits don't damage your scalp. There's no point in detoxifying your scalp if your daily routine has the opposite effect!

1. Start with non-aggressive brushing :

We tend to downplay the importance of brushing, but it can be very hard on the scalp. So don't use forceful brushing strokes that pull on the hair and skin of the scalp, preferring a horn comb or boar bristle brush.

2. Be careful when untangling :

Detangling your hair with your fingers or a wide-tooth comb will be the least aggressive, and above all, start with the ends and work your way up the length of your hair. No plastic combs or brushes either!  

3. Avoid over-treating your hair :

Minimise the use of aggressive chemicals and heating tools as much as possible. Be thrifty: there's no point in having an accumulation of hair products! As with the face, it's better to use few hair products, but the right ones!

4. Choose a sulphate-free shampoo :

Many shampoos contain sulphates, which can dry out the scalp and upset its natural pH balance. And remember that the role of a shampoo is to wash the hair but not the scalp, so minimise contact between shampoo and scalp as much as possible!

How do you remove dead skin from the scalp?

When everything is going well, the dead skin on the surface of the scalp (like skin) is constantly falling off (the skin renews itself) without us noticing. Sometimes an imbalance may occur and, rather than falling off, this dead skin sticks to the scalp.

In this case, you can exfoliate your scalp to cleanse it thoroughly.

There are many many of grandma's recipes to cleanse the scalp, the most common being a combination of water + cider vinegar and Marseille soap + bicarbonate of soda.

The lightest (water + cider vinegar) is prepared by mixing 1 part cider vinegar with 4 parts water.

The strongest (Marseille soap + bicarbonate) consists of a cup of liquid Marseille soap to which you add a tablespoon of bicarbonate of soda.

Both solutions are then applied directly to the scalp. Then massage the scalp (without rubbing) and leave on for 5 to 15 minutes, like a mask, before rinsing thoroughly with cold (ideally) or lukewarm water.

Of course, these "homemade" recipes are not nearly as effective at removing impurities from the scalp over the long term as a complex, specially formulated natural product such as the Clauderer milks.

How do you remove scabs from the scalp?

Normally, the same routine as for removing dead skin build-up works perfectly well (exfoliating hair care with a combination of water + cider vinegar or Marseille soap + bicarbonate).

However, some people prefer to exfoliate their skin. Most 'commercial' scrubs used plastic microbeads (polyethylene) to perform the 'scrubbing' function. These were highly polluting (they passed from the shower into the sewers and were too fine to be filtered, ending up in the sea), and have been banned since 2018. These polyethylene microbeads have been replaced by crushed rock particles or plants (such as bamboo). While this reduces pollution, it does not protect the skin (they tend to 'scratch' the scalp).

For a softer natural hair care, prefer a sea salt scrub which will melt on contact with your skin and guarantee a less aggressive scrub. The most common recipe combines salt (1 tablespoon) + olive oil (2 tablespoons) + lemon juice (1/2 tablespoon).

Here too, the results obtained with this homemade mixture will be largely disappointing compared with the regular use of a product with a very complete action (Clauderer Milk).

Jean-François Cabos

Jean-François Cabos is the creator of a unique hair care method based on the research he coordinated, which led to the publication of the book "Cheveux, Racines de Vie" with Hélène Clauderer by Robert Laffont (Collection "Réponses/ Santé").

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