To ensure that our hair remains in top-notch condition, the cosmetic industry has continued to introduce a range of products designed for cleaning, conditioning and styling. In fact, many haircare manufacturers release "brand new" shampoos and conditioners on an annual basis in order to keep the consumer buying from them – all the while keeping the formulation itself just about the same, and just adding a few new 'hero' ingredients – depending on what's hot in the market.
For centuries, the mainstream beauty industry has focused on creating these hair products dismissing the fact that a man's scalp is different than a woman's, and therefore, has different needs. We've seen products specifically designed for scalp issues – dandruff, dry scalps, itchy scalps, oily scalps, etc., but not too many are made with a man's scalp in mind.
So what makes a man's scalp different than a woman's? Why does it matter? Should you care? It's all about cleaning the scalp and making hair gorgeous, is it not?
Not necessarily. Let's have a look:
The Barrier Game: Men's Scalp vs. Women's Scalp
One of the key distinctions between men's and women's scalps lies in their protective barrier – that is, the top-most layer of the skin that protects the layers under it. Men, brace yourselves because it turns out that your scalp's barrier is weaker compared to that of a woman's scalp.
What does this mean? It means that your scalp has lower levels of ceramides, those wonderful fats that play a crucial role in maintaining scalp health. These ceramides act as the guardians of your scalp, preventing the loss of essential proteins.
Now, you might be wondering, "Why should I care about these fats and proteins?" It's all about maintaining a healthy scalp: When your scalp lacks ceramides, it becomes more susceptible to protein loss. This extra shedding of proteins on a man's scalp can lead to a higher propensity for dandruff. Yeah, dandruff... that pesky snowfall of dead skin cells, can be a more frequent visitor to the male scalp. Yum...
Some studies even suggest that a man's scalp is "thinner" although the the jury is out on that one, as this idea cannot be generalized and may be culturally dependent.
So, what's the solution, you ask? Antioxidants are a good option. They come to the rescue by protecting your scalp from oxidative stress and promoting a healthy environment. Men-focused hair products with high antioxidant activity can help combat the dandruff dilemma.
Antioxidants are typically added to cosmetic products in the form of "Tocopherol" (or vitamin E oil – look for this in your product's ingredient list). Other sources of antioxidants include many plant oils like rosemary, parsley and oregano, or even cosmetic butters like cocoa butter and shea butter, which are high in saturated fats and vitamins.
Testosterone: The Culprit Behind the Male Scalp Saga
Testosterone, the superstar hormone of masculinity, plays a significant role in the differences between men's and women's scalps. It's responsible for a multitude of changes in the male body, and guess what? The scalp is no exception.
Weaker and Greasier Scalp: Testosterone can make the male scalp weaker and greasier than its female counterpart. In fact, men's scalps are approximately 1.5 times greasier than women's. This excess grease can pose quite a challenge when it comes to keeping the scalp clean. Ladies, you thought you had oily hair issues? That's another topic altogether, that you may want to learn more about [HERE].
Product Build-Up and Scalp Issues: With the increased greasiness, men often struggle with product build-up and scalp issues, since these natural oils are sticky and can be sneaky, hanging on to pollution, styling product, and making it even more difficult to wash/rinse off the scalp. This accumulating build-up can lead to hair thinning and, in severe cases, hair loss. It's a hairy situation! (wink)
Accelerated Hair Growth: On the flip side, testosterone is like a turbo boost for hair growth. It makes men's hair grow faster, which is great if you're aiming for that lush beard or thick head of hair.
SCALP CONDITIONS AND Oxidative stress
The health of a man's scalp is intricately linked to the growth and retention of his precious locks. When the scalp is subjected to oxidative stress – be it from UV rays, smoking, pollution or a lack of good nutrition – it creates an environment where free radicals* wreak havoc on the hair follicles.
*What are free radicals, you ask? They are unstable and reactive molecules in our bodies. A certain amount of free radicals is a good thing (and normal), as they will fight bacteria and viruses that can cause illnesses, but too many and you have an imbalance. An imbalance of free radicals causes dysbiosis on the scalp's microbiome, or in easier terms, an upset in the natural balance of microorganisms on your scalp.
Research shows that oxidative stress on the scalp can be a result of various factors, from environmental pollutants to poor lifestyle choices. As a consequence, the hair follicles (the little tube-like structures or pores where hair grows and comes out of) become vulnerable, leading to weakened hair and, in severe cases, hair loss. When oxidative stress takes its toll on the scalp, the hair follicles struggle to maintain their vitality, and the hair's natural growth cycle can be disrupted.
Are you following so far?
To help fight oxidative stress, antioxidants play a crucial role in this battle as they neutralize free radicals and protect the hair follicles. Incorporating antioxidant-rich hair products into one's routine can help counter the damaging effects of oxidative stress, ensuring that the scalp remains a conducive environment for healthy hair growth. By understanding the impact of oxidative stress and taking proactive measures to combat it, men can greatly improve their chances of retaining their luscious locks for years to come... hurray!
Tailoring Men's Scalp Care
Understanding these differences in men's scalp is crucial for tailoring the right hair care regimen. Men have unique needs when it comes to scalp health, and it's essential to address them.
Nature-Derived Ingredients ARE A GREAT CHOICE. LOOK FOR SOME OF THESE IN YOUR HAIR PRODUCTS:
Reishi mushroom extract: This natural wonder offers benefits like reducing inflammation, combating dandruff, and soothing an itchy scalp. It's like a superhero for your head.
Allantoin: Derived from the comfrey plant and known for its soothing, conditioning and nourishing properties, allantoin can help alleviate itchiness and irritation on the scalp, providing much-needed relief. (Note: Allantoin is often animal-derived, so look for a plant- or synthetically-derived options as suggested by your hair manufacturer. We use nature-identical, vegan options only).
Tea tree essential oil: Effective in fighting dandruff and maintaining scalp cleanliness, although it can be sensitizing like many essential oils, so using it diluted is always recommended.
Aloe vera: Soothes the scalp, reduces itching, and promotes a healthy environment. Aloe vera comes in many forms – gel, juice, or even in powder form! It's high in electrolytes so some people even drink it instead of those nasty electrolyte drinks ;)
Chamomile extract: Known for its anti-inflammatory properties, it calms scalp irritation. Chamomile 'anything' is wonderful, and many people will make a chamomile oil infusion just to use on the scalp as a pre-poo (or pre-wash) to soothe the scalp.
Lavender essential oil: Can promote relaxation and may assist in reducing stress-related scalp issues. Use sparingly on the scalp and always diluted – never use any essential oil directly on the scalp (watch our Instagram story on that [HERE] and have a little laugh at the same time!). Much like with chamomile, it's quite easy to make lavender oil infusion – more on that in another story.
Peppermint essential oil: Refreshes the scalp, enhances circulation, and supports a clean scalp. We also love using menthol for this purpose – it's so tingly-cious! It can be sensitizing, so never use peppermint essential oil directly on the scalp.
Cocoa extract and cocoa butter: These ingredients, with their high fatty acid components, can assist in moisturizing the scalp and preventing dryness. Cocoa butter is also very high in vitamin E (antioxidant).
Coffee – for its caffeic acid component: Coffee lovers, rejoice! Caffeic acid in coffee can help promote a healthier scalp by enhancing circulation, reducing inflammation and providing antioxidant protection. Coffee has also been suggested as a home remedy to improve with hair growth and prevention of hair loss, yet ongoing studies are inconclusive.
Gentle cleansers: Sulfate-free cleansing ingredients are imperative on a man's scalp. As we discussed, a man's scalp can be oilier and retain more 'dirt and impurities, yet we are lucky that the cosmetic industry has developed wonderful cleansing ingredients that are more naturally derived. We choose to use sodium cocoyl glutamate in our shampoo bars, for example, as it is a fully biodegradable ingredient that packs a cleansing punch while being gentle on the skin (scalp). There are many other gentle cleansers that formulators use, such as decyl glucoside, coco glucoside and cocamidopropyl betaine (you'll see these in your shampoo's ingredient lists), yet it takes an experienced formulator to know how to use and combine them in order to make them gentle on the skin.
These natural ingredients can be excellent choices for maintaining a man's scalp health, addressing issues like dandruff, itching, and promoting a balanced and clean scalp environment.
Needless to say, a product's efficacy will depend on the formulation as a whole, so keep that in mind – we don't suggest taking any of these ingredients on their own and dunking them on your scalp directly, expecting results. But they are good ones to watch for.
So, gentlemen, when you're looking for hair products tailored to your unique scalp needs, keep an eye out for these nature-derived ingredients. They can be your allies in the battle against itchiness, product build-up, and those unwanted dandruff flakes.
In conclusion, here's what you MUST remember:
Men's and women's scalps have their quirks, and understanding these differences is the key to using the right products and maintaining a healthy head of hair.
Notably, sebum production on the scalp is different between men and women, and numerous studies have shown variations in scalp, which affect all of us. In fact, scalp sensitivity is a prevalent issue, with around 40% to 50% of the population in modern society experiencing problems such as itching due to sensitivity!
At OBLOOM, we're committed to providing nature-derived hair care solutions that cater to men's scalp care, as much as women's since we each have unique needs. Your scalp deserves the best, and we're here to make sure it gets just that!
Take a look at the shampoo bar we have created especially for men! It's amazing, and his scalp will love it.