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The Scalp Microbiome: What Is It And How Can I Balance It Out?

The Scalp Microbiome: What Is It And How Can I Balance It Out?

The Scalp Microbiome: What Is It And How Can I Balance It Out?
7 min read

How Do You Balance The Scalp Microbiome?

Building up a haircare routine that nourishes your natural scalp microbiome can make a huge difference. If you’re not sure how to get started, you’re wondering “what is the scalp microbiome?” or you want to find out how to balance the scalp microbiome, then don’t worry - we’ve got you!

Let’s take it back to skin for a sec. Your microbiome is made up of a community of millions of microbes that live on the surface of your skin, all working together to keep it healthy and balanced. You need the right blend of bacteria to nourish and keep everything in check - think of your hair as a plant, in order to grow it needs the right soil, nourishment and environment. That’s where your microbiome comes in.

Your microbiome is different across your whole body, including your scalp microbiome.It’s important to remember that everyone’s microbiome is completely individual to them. 

Keeping it healthy with the right scalp treatments should be an essential part of your routine to help it to thrive.

What Causes Imbalances In The Scalp Microbiome?

Just like the rest of your body, your scalp has its own unique microbiome. Your genetics, lifestyle, health, environment and hair care routine all play a big part in how yours is balanced. Getting that balance is key to a healthy scalp microbiome, just like most things in life.

Keeping your pH in balance and your scalp nourished is one of the most important things to do for a healthy hair and scalp. Say no to stripping your natural oils but yes to keeping your hair and scalp clean and fresh.

Let’s take a look at some of the causes of an imbalanced scalp microbiome and what you can do to help uplift the natural vibe of your hair and scalp.

Over-washing Hair

Washing your hair too often can throw your scalp microbiome totally out of balance. This strips those all-important natural oils and presses pause on your scalp’s natural microbiome, leaving it open to the wrong type of bacteria.

Using harsh shampoo formulations can cause your scalp microbiome to become imbalanced too, especially if you’re using a shampoo that contains sulfates. Sulfates are a cleansing ingredient that are’s commonly used in to help shampoos foam because it’s cheap to use.

The Unfortunately these ingredients can also deplete your natural microbiome and oils that protect your skin, leaving it irritated, flaky, imbalanced - that’s why we never use them in our shampoos.

Keep your hair and scalp healthy by washing it once a day at the most. Every other day or less is even better. Switching to a sulfate-free shampoo like the Cold Processed Hair Cleanse to be kinder to your scalp microbiome and avoid stripping your natural protective oils. If you haven’t made the swap yet. Check your shampoo labels for ingredients like sodium lauryl sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate, these are the two used most commonly in hair care products.

Build Up Of Products 

While overwashing your hair can leave it stripped, not cleaning your hair enough can also be bad news too. It can leave dirt, oil and bad bacteria multiplying on your scalp and block your hair follicles, which isn’t what you need if you’re trying to grow your hair out. As well as not feeling or looking so good, it can leave your scalp feeling flaky, tight and irritated too.

If you shampoo your hair a few times a week or less then you should make sure that you clean your scalp thoroughly each time, skipping any products that can strip or disrupt your microbiome.  Using dry shampoo or lots of silicones in your routine equals build up. If you find that your hair looks dry and dull or grows slowly then you might want to check out the ingredients in your products and do a deep cleanse.

Using nourishing, caring products such as our award-winning Scalp Detox is the perfect place to start. This gives a thorough pre-cleanse to remove dirt, oils and build up whilst still working with your natural balance. Follow this detox with a gentle shampoo such as the Hair Cleanse, taking the time to massage in, really cleansing your hair and your scalp whilst keeping your microbiome in balance.

Skincare For Your Scalp

Just like the rest of your body, your scalp sometimes needs exfoliation to remove dead skin cells and product build up. This can act as a refresh for your scalp, leaving it looking and feeling super clean. Think about how much better your face and body looks after you exfoliate, you want that for your scalp too right?

Scalp Gua Sha is a self-care superstar, stimulating blood flow to your scalp and gently exfoliatin without adding extra products into your routine. Overloading on products and ingredients isn’t always the best thing for your hair - simple routines and a “less is more” approach are often best.

If you’re worried about damaging your hair while you exfoliate, take it easy to avoid pulling at your hair or being rough on your scalp. It should be gentle and soothing, never painful or uncomfortable. You just want to keep your scalp clean and balanced without spoiling its delicate balance or stripping your oils.

How To Rebalance The Biome

Starting to suspect that your biome is out of balance and you’re wondering how to balance the scalp microbiome? Don’t panic, rebalancing it isn’t out of reach! Using the right products and maintaining the correct routine. Taking the time to nourish, rehydrate and rebalance your microbiome is the secret to achieving great hair and a healthy scalp. 

Here’s how to do it:

Wash Your Hair Gently, On A Regular Basis 

Keeping a simple, consistent hair care routine is one of the best things you can do for the health of your hair and scalp. Plus is saves you time, money and space. 

You don’t need to use hundreds of different products, and you don’t need to wash your hair every single day. Using gentle products with ingredients that nourish and work with your microbiome is the best place to start.

Detox Your Scalp

Give your scalp a little extra TLC once or twice a week to remove product build up and excess sebum while balancing everything out. An oil based detox might sound counter-productive, but it’s a nourishing, soothing scalp microbiome treatment to give your hair and scalp a deep clean whilst adding moisture and rebalancing it’s microscopic ecosystem. Detoxing your scalp weekly is the perfect way to keep everything in harmony hair-wise.

Approach Natural Remedies With Caution

Sometimes “home remedies” and ingredients that are pushed for scalp care are ineffective at best. At their worst  they can be itchy or uncomfortable. 

Press pause on the unnecessary steps, damaging ingredients or home remedies (like lemon juice, baking soda or essential oils) in your routine that may be throwing your balance off. While some of these can help with itchiness or inflammation, in the longer term they won’t help your scalp microbiome and could damage the good bacteria that you need for healthy hair and scalp.

Try Probiotics

Just like your gut microbiome, you can ‘feed’ the good bacteria on your scalp by taking probiotics. There’s growing evidence that oral and topical probiotics can help to improve the skin’s microbiome, with more studies ongoing into acne, rosacea, eczema, psoriasis and seborrheic dermatitis There’s even research in Korea that has indicated that probiotics have the potential to improve male pattern hair loss.

Research has shown that our skin’s natural microbiome is affected by what we eat and drink. Experts have suggested that taking probiotics or eating probiotic-friendly foods (usually fermented foods like yogurt, kimchi, kombucha, kefir, cheese and sauerkraut) can benefit your skin.

Limit Stress Where Possible 

Stress is bad for your overall health and wellbeing, but guess what: it can affect your microbiome too! Our body is a connected ecosystem, and unwanted stress can lead to changes in how it works.

When it comes to skin and scalp, stress can lead to inflammation, flaky skin or dandruff, acne and conditions like seborrheic dermatitis. This could be the cause of ‘stress breakouts’ (we’ve all had them) as ‘bad’ bacteria increases on the skin when you’re under pressure. Everyone manages stress differently, so understanding your triggers, taking time to de-stress and working out how to help rebalance your mind can also help to rebalance your microbiome.

Take A Holistic Approach

Your body, mind and microbiome are all connected together beautifully. Nourishing all three with a balanced diet, plenty of water, a good sleep routine and regular exercise can help your skin, scalp and hair to thrive. Making small changes that benefit your overall holistic health is one of the kindest things you can do for your body and mind.

When your biome is balanced (along with the rest of your wellbeing), you’ll find that common hair problems start to disappear. This will leave your hair feeling stronger, shinier and more in tune with the rest of you. 

Hair Loss: How A Balanced Scalp Microbiome Can Help Hair Growth

If your scalp microbiome is out of balance, it can lead to hair loss and slow down hair growth - exactly the opposite of what most of us are looking for! Think of your scalp as the perfect ‘soil’ for your hair to grow and thrive in and it starts to make a little more sense.

Hair loss or hair that never seems to grow can be worrying, so take a step back and see if it’s your scalp microbiome that’s at the root cause. Sometimes all it takes is being more intentional with your hair care routine to get back on track with thicker, fuller and healthier hair.

Skip Bad Hair Days

A healthy scalp microbiome can mean less bad hair days. You’ve laid the foundations for your hair to thrive and grow, working with your natural balance rather than against it. You’re keeping it clean and fresh, without it being stripped or overproducing oil. This means that your hair stays manageable, shiny and healthy and looks its absolute best. No more battling it out every morning, just balanced hair that does what it needs to.

Ready to scale back your hair care routine and nourish your scalp microbiome? Check out our essential routines for your hair and scalp.

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