There are two key factors standing between you and perfect hair: your genes, and following a healthy haircare regimen. Although being genetically blessed will only get you so far—at a certain age, hormonal changes, taking birth control, and getting pregnant could change the nature of your hair—you can control how you tend to your coif. The products and tools you use, who cuts your hair, your diet—these details are all paramount to your locks’ lifeblood.
Over the past few years, scalp health as a way to keep your hair in tip-top shape has taken center stage. Today, it is a booming sector of haircare, with miles-long waitlists to get into head spas and scalp scrubs, masks, and oils flooding the market. All that begs the question: are you to try one, two, or all of these treatments? How often? Will they overstimulate your scalp down the line—or worse, rob it of precious oils?
To answer all our scalp health-related questions, we chatted with veteran hairstylist Shann Christen. In addition to cutting and styling hair for years on film sets and tending to posh manes at The Beverly Hills Hotel, Christen is also a licensed trichologist who was educated at the prestigious Società Italiana di Tricologia, studying diseases and problems related to the scalp and hair. I recently visited his lush West Los Angeles salon, BioMethod, where we had a frank discussion on the truths and myths of scalp health.
How vital is scalp health?
Let me be clear: the scalp is the most important part of our hair’s life experience. Scalp is skin and is a breathing organ of the body. The more congested our scalp becomes from internal factors or simply not washing it enough, the more deprived your hair will be of vital oxygen that’s required for growth. But under-washing can cause buildup of the body’s natural oils inside the follicle, shattering the hard keratin produced from oxygen and causing the hair to fall out of the scalp, leading to baldness. A congested scalp can also lead to poorly formed hair strands, producing frizz, dryness and split ends—all leading to hair breakage once the hair is outside of the scalp.
What about scalp scrubbers and tools? Are those ok to pair with our shampoo and conditioners?
Aggressive products or action to the scalp (and hair) only damages weakened hair. Those handheld scalp scrubbers are the worst, in my opinion. People think you need to scrub so hard on the scalp, but it is not true. It’s better to massage the scalp during the shampooing process.
So is the old adage “Don’t wash your hair so much or it will fall out” a myth?
This old wives’ tale is false and the source of many women’s hair loss problems. The biology of the body would dictate daily washing—unfortunately, there are a lot of poor-quality, low-grade ingredients used in shampoo. Daily washing with these shampoos will damage and leave hair vulnerable to dryness, frizz, and breakage. Low-grade ingredients are most often harsh, detergent-type agents that strip the hair of vital nutrients; they can also destroy the keratin protein molecule. Try to avoid products that contain ammonium lauryl sulfate, sodium lauryl sulfate, synthetic alcohols, parabens, silicones, propylene, and formaldehyde. Also any chelating synthesis agents involving metal ions are ones I would watch out for: acrylate, polymer, acrylic acid, and arylates.
You mentioned that healthy hair is prone to damage if it’s not washed after a sweaty workout.
Whether we realize it or not, our scalp sweats. When this sweat dries, it leaves behind the lactic acid that is found in sweat. This lactic acid literally eats away at the hair shaft, leading to massive hair breakage and uncontrollable frizz. Unlike sweat, which secretes through the skin, the natural oil of the hair secretes through the follicle. That oil can build up inside the follicle if it’s not cleared daily. And if not washed often, the oil buildup shatters the hard keratin that holds the hair in the scalp. Once shattered, the hair falls out of the scalp without any effort.
It has long been misunderstood that the natural oils in your hair and scalp are somehow the body’s conditioner, but this is not true. That natural oil is a hydrolipidic film that traps dirt, debris, virus, bacteria, pollution, and free radicals of all kinds from penetrating the body. All of that should be washed away. It is highly recommended to wash your hair or at least rinse it out after a workout. If you don’t have time or have to skip a wash or rinse post-workout, here’s a tip: pull the hair up in a higher ponytail to work out, then use a damp cloth and wipe down the back of the neck. If you absolutely cannot wash your hair but once a week, then it is imperative that you use Esterel Phyto Action Équilibrante Shampoo. There’s also the Esterel Phyto Sueur hair mask, which is specifically designed to remove lactic acid and buildup.
What are some tips for those who want to grow out their hair long?
Surface cut your ends to preserve the length, so it starts to accumulate. Wash daily if you can, and focus on hydrating the hair. Longer parts of the hair do not receive trace elements from the body, so replenishment of the trace elements is fundamental in accumulating length. It is vital that longer hair stay elastic because of the heightened wear and tear on the overall body of hair. Sun protection is often overlooked in hair care, but should be considered when trying to push length.
You frequently tout the benefits of using a boar’s hair brush. What is the advantage of these bristles vs. nylon or porcupine?
There is an old misconception that a hundred strokes with a brush will give you healthy, shiny hair. Well, this is specifically true with boar’s hair brushes vs. others. The boar hair bristles effectively remove the natural oils from the hair shaft—but who has time for a hundred strokes? That was a thing when people bathed once a month. The bristles do nothing for cleaning out the follicle, which is where hair loss from not washing occurs. My suggestion is just to shampoo.
I’m seeing a lot of young people dealing with thinning hair, and of course, there’s the classic male pattern balding and female hair loss that occurs as one ages. What are some key facts we need to know?
In the case of male pattern balding, controlling the excessive DHT is an absolute must. DHT forms when testosterone bonds with the 5-Alpha reductase enzyme. The free testosterone that flows through the body also bonds with 5-Alpha, creating this excess DHT. Most available products address this issue by trying to control the free testosterone that leads to side effects. Here at BioMethod, we address this condition by encapsulating the 5-Alpha reductase enzyme, making it invisible to the free testosterone. Through this approach, we are not only highly effective, but we are able to stay all natural. In this case, the sooner you start treatment, the better off you are. Male pattern balding can start at puberty.
Female hair loss, or what should be called anomalous hair loss, really is caused due to stress, diet, medications, lifestyle, hormones, internal body problems, heavy metal poisoning, etc. This is where a proper diagnosis needs to be on point. Again, getting on the issue sooner than later is best.
What’s the best way to stop hair from becoming frizzy?
Hydration is necessary—frizzy hair is usually a sign of dry hair. It typically frizzes because it is absorbing moisture from the air. Remember, hair is hygroscopic—trace elements and a strong amount of healthy interior moisture keeps an equilibrium between the environment and the hair. My BioMethod hair treatments help retain moisture—so stop trying to use your flat iron to control frizz!
Is there a shampoo you like that actually fights thinning hair?
BioMethod makes a shampoo called Energisant, which is the best hair-loss shampoo. Not only does it have a beautiful effect on the hair by hydrating and protecting, but it also has a 5-Alpha blocker in it, protecting against the main causes of anomalous hair loss. But this isn’t all: usually, with hair loss, oil and sweat are a compounded problem on top of it. Energisant is not only cleaning the oil out of the follicle, but it is oil balancing and fortifies and rebuilds the hair shaft. Your hair will become stronger, softer, nourished, and more protected.
What tips do you have for someone who needs volume?
If your hair needs volume, I would first look at your own oil levels. Oil buildup can weigh down the hair and kind of “glue” it to the scalp. Phyto Action Equilibrante is a shampoo treatment to work on this kind of oil-secretion balancing. Too often, stylists will automatically go to a layered haircut to add volume, but this does not always work; fine or thin hair would not respond well to that sort of cut.
After a summer spent in the sun—not to mention at the mercy of flat irons, blow dryers, and color touch-ups—what is the ideal way to heal and repair my hair right now?
Saturate your hair with Minéralisante until it’s completely wet. Do not rinse. Repeat this when your hair is dry and, if available, utilize steam treatment for deeper effects. I also recommend our Shampoo with Fortifiant+ Cleansing Treatment, and leave the lather on for 4-5 minutes. That amount of time sounds scary, but that’s when the magic happens. Then apply SunPotion to prevent the summer sun from drying out the hair and burning up the color.