Beautifully Bald: Expert Tips for Treating and Caring for Your Scalp

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This article first appeared in the Winter 2021 issue of New Beauty. Click here to subscribe

Whether it’s the result of hair loss or a major chop, a bare scalp still needs some TLC. While it might seem like going fully bare is in vogue, trichologist Bridgette Hill of Paul Labrecque Salon says that when talking about a woman’s hair, or the lack of it, we must handle the topic with care and not confuse adopting a buzz cut with female pattern baldness. “True baldness is not a choice for millions of women, so first let’s differentiate between going bald and wearing short hair,”she explains. “Instead of a ‘bald movement,’ I view what’s happening as an embrace of authentic beauty.Most women suffering from hair loss don’t really ‘decide’ to go bald, but more women are choosing to wear shorter, easier-to-care-for cuts.” If you’ve lost it, shaved it or are somewhere in between, we have answers to your questions about maintaining a healthy, happy scalp.

Cause and Effect

“The most common cause of hair loss in women is androgenetic alopecia (AGA) or female pattern hair loss (FPHL),” says Glenn Dale, MD dermatologist Valerie Callender, MD. “It occurs in 50 percent of women post-menopause. Other causes include alopecia areata, telogen effluvium, traction alopecia, and the inflammatory scarring alopecias, lichen plano pilaris (LPP) and central centrifugal cicatricial alopecia (CCCA), which commonly affect African American women and may be triggered by chemical relaxers and straighteners.”

“Patchy hair loss can spread throughout the entire scalp, which may lead to alopecia areata totalis and can cause complete baldness,” says Hill. The triggers, she explains, are largely hormonal. “Genetics, shifts in our diet, medications, stress, the products we use, our styling habits, and our health can disrupt the balance of estrogen, progesterone and testosterone needed for healthy hair growth.”

According to the National Alopecia Areata Foundation, nearly 7 million people in the United States suffer from some form of it. Last year, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley went public with her diagnoses and debuted a new look. She replaced her Senegalese braids with a beautiful, shaven head. “I believe that going public with her hair loss has encouraged other women to embrace their hair loss and do the same,” says Dr. Callender.

Personal Growth

Embracing baldness is truly beautiful, and it’s an emotional journey. There may be a concern, however, that the hair will never come back. For those who want to restore hair growth, Beverly Hills, CA hair restoration specialist Dr. Craig L. Ziering says nonsurgical therapies are a good start. “The mildest course of treatment we can start with is a supplement like Viviscal PRO ($160) or Nutrafol ($79). Other options that can revive the hair follicle include prescription medications, low-level light therapy (LLLT) and topicals in the form of minoxidil and finasteride. While platelet-rich plasma (PRP) has been a popular treatment, we are getting much better results with exosome therapy—stem cell-derived microvesicles that can turn on regenerative mechanisms.”

Even Tone

Like Demi Moore, Natalie Portman and Sanaa Lathan before her, Tiffany Haddish recently took to the shears. The comedian said she decided to go bald in order to count the moles on her scalp. For basic care after the big chop, BosleyMD certified trichologist Gretchen Friese says to treat the skin and on your scalp as an extension of the skin on your face. “Proper cleansing, moisturization and the use of sunscreen are all essential.” According to Dr. Callender, “to maintain even skin tone, women of color should use SPF 30 or higher during and apply a non-hydroquinone product such as Skinbetter Science Even Tone Correcting Serum ($145), SkinMedica Lytera 2.0 ($154) or SkinCeuticals Discoloration Defense ($98) at night.”

Squeaky Clean
“No hair means no brushing, which results in a dead skin cell buildup that needs to be removed with a physical or chemical exfoliant. A gentle scalp scrub is good for circulation, stimulation and oxygenation,” says celebrity hairstylist Philip B. “I also recommend CBD oil for inflammation, redness and lowering stress and stress hormones. It also helps to create a healthy environment for hair growth.”

Close Shave
To achieve an even look, Hill says don’t use a razor, as it can be damaging to the skin. “My suggestion would be to clipper-cut the hair to the shortest hair fiber and repeat for maintenance.” However, if you must shave, Dr. Callender says don’t worry: Shaving does not promote more hair loss. “Shaving the hair on the surface does not affect the hair follicle that lies beneath the skin surface,” she adds.

Full Embrace
Whatever the reason for embracing a hair-free ‘do, Philip B. says don’t cover it up. “Avoid wearing a wig, hair covering or hat all the time. Lack of oxygen, consistent sweating and high temperatures are not great for scalp environment support or reactivation of follicles. Keeping the scalp temperate, exfoliated, hydrated and oxygenated is the best way to support scalp function.”

Crown Affair

Reach for these products to help promote a healthy scalp, soothe skin concerns and stimulate remaining hair follicles.

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Hydrating and nourishing, the avocado, peppermint and eucalyptus oils in Philip B. Peppermint Avocado Scalp Scrub ($75) boost circulation and create an energizing shower experience.

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Sunday II Sunday Soothe Me Daily Scalp Serum ($28) harnesses the power of peppermint oil and the brand’s Alternsis Botanical Complex, which works to calm an itchy scalp in less than 15 minutes.

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For a dose of lipids, peptides and biotin, use lightweight Revitalash Volume Enhancing Foam ($149) once a day to encourage hair regrowth and aid in conditioning of the scalp.

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A supercharged scalp stimulant, GrandeHAIR Hair Enhancing Serum ($65) uses procapil to combat hair follicle aging, ginkgo biloba to encourage scalp health and floral extracts to prevent dandruff.

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