Is there a future in probiotic and microbiome scalp care?
We’ve established in previous blogs that a balanced microbiome (the eco-system of micro-organisms that live on our skin, in our gut and our scalp) is the key to the health of that habitat. We know about gut bacteria that help in digestion and a good tummy environment. We know about organisms on our skin that modulate flare ups including acne and inflammation, and slow down ageing processes. But the study of good bacteria and microbes in the microbiome on the scalp which determine a plethora of problems like dandruff, excess dryness or oiliness, itching and flaking, as well as impacting hair fall and hair loss, is fairly new and exciting discoveries are being made every day in this area.
A Unique Environment
First of all, it has become clear that the scalp microbiome is unique. At any point, the number of hairs growing from our scalp are in excess of 100,000. The skin here is thicker and much more prone to a separate set of microbes, pathogens and other organisms because of the humid environment, the presence of a high number of sweat glands and lipids and the production of sebum which is a natural process. If this environment gets off-balance, if the good microbes get outnumbered by the bad, they can’t fight against attacks from outside like pollution or from inside like stress or hormones. This is when we begin to notice our hair looking thinner or duller, our scalp flaking or an unseemly oiliness through the hair. Some research actually concludes that the bad bacteria’s proliferation on the scalp can cause our gut to be compromised!
Disruptions to the Scalp Microbiome
Pollution, stress and other external factors can cause an imbalance in this delicate environment. The presence of a certain type of yeast and fungus causes dandruff build-up.
Our lifestyle choices and habits also add to the disruption of the natural balance of the scalp microbiome. Unwashed hair, over use of products, too much washing, heat styling, bad nutrition and shampoos with harmful ingredients can all add to the imbalance.
Washing our hair regularly gets rid of excess oil and dirt, environmental grime, pollutants and also product build up clogging hair follicles, all of which affect the scalp’s health by altering the microbiome. On the other hand, over washing can strip the hair of important natural cleansing agents like hyaluronic acid and bacteria that keep the pH balance at the right level, even sometimes impacting normal hair growth.
It is also important to use the right formulations of products to wash and condition your hair and scalp. Most regular shampoos with sulphates, alcohols and fragrances remove grime, but also remove natural oils that protect the scalp microbiome.
How to maintain a Healthy, Shiny and Clean Scalp
If a balanced scalp microbiome is the key to healthy hair and scalps, what products should you use to ensure this? It’s simple. Your doctor prescribes probiotics when you have gut issues. Guess what? Probiotics are great for the scalp microbiome too! And the good news is, skincare brands like Just Human are now adding them into hair and skin products, providing a gentler cleansing and astringent action to modulate the microbiome rather than ravage it. These products work with your scalp’s unique environment rather than against it.
What are probiotics exactly? They are substances that introduce good bacteria into the ecosystem, helping to correct the imbalance caused by the factors mentioned above, as well as other things like stress or bad eating habits which impact our bodies from the inside out.
And to complement probiotics, research has also shown that prebiotics, which feed good bacteria and post-biotics which introduce the by-products of good bacteria, are also now being used to make personal care products do their jobs more effectively without causing any side effects.
The Future of Scalp Care
A clean, balanced scalp which is the source of healthier hair is within reach. The science has advanced tremendously and responsible brands are using these gentler and more beneficial methods to revitalise the hair and scalp and neutralize toxic factors to help us with hair problems that plague so many of us, from dandruff and itchiness to more serious issues like alopecia and psoriasis. Some research has even connected probiotic use with increasing hair counts and hair thickness. The future is bright – as long as we treat our scalp microbiome with the care it deserves.