Curly Girl Method Science: Scalp Health 101 (Including Tips)

Are you struggling with hair growth or even hair length retention? Do you suffer from dandruff or other embarrassing scalp issues? Well, you can't have healthy hair without a healthy scalp! Get all the info you need to know for a healthy scalp and healthy hair growth.

My Beautiful #RedCarpetCurlsRoyalty,

The most important thing to remember when caring for your naturally textured hair is;

You cannot have healthy hair growth or retention without first having a healthy scalp.

This is the golden rule to keep in mind. Your scalp is still skin, and skin is one of the first indicators of health issues. Your skin will show if you are lacking the proper nutrients or moisture. So, if you are struggling with hair growth, or struggling to retain the length you have, you have to stop and take a look at your scalp health.

Here are 10 tips to help with scalp health to ensure flourishing hair days for the rest of your life. I have even included the Scalp Health Facebook Live Session! Every Thursday at 4:30 pm EST we have a live session in the Red Carpet Curls Facebook Group. Every week in this hour-long live session, I teach a topic and answer your questions on that topic. That live is available for you at the bottom of the article. As always, you are invited to join the weekly live sessions exclusive to the Red Carpet Curls Facebook Group.

Scalp Health Tips:

1) Have a regular cleansing schedule for your hair.

Cleansing is one of the most important steps in your regime. As we join curly hair communities on social media, we start to fall into the trap of comparing our journey to the other people we see posting on those sites. We also tend to follow social media influencers who may not be helping us in the specific ways we need. This is how we end up with confusion and people telling us things like, “It’s been 17 days since I’ve washed my hair.”

I am going to beg you right now, please, for the love of all things holy, WASH YOUR DANG HAIR!

Your hair and scalp accumulate build-up from your styling products, as well as the build-up of Sebum (the natural oils your scalp produces to protect and moisturize your hair and scalp). This means you need to cleanse your hair of the build-up.

Cleansing can be:

Cleansing is using some form of cleanser somewhere in your routine. The frequency is up to you. I personally like to use a low-poo once a week and co-wash every 3-days or so. This schedule seems to work for my hair. I also replace the low-poo with a clarifying shampoo twice a month.

Cleansing is vital to keeping your scalp healthy. Most scalp issues such as dandruff or Eczema are a result of that particular fungus spreading. A dirty scalp is a perfect host for fungus and bacteria spreading. The overproduction of sebum in your scalp can make it the perfect palace for dandruff and other fungi to live and spread. Build-up can block hair follicles from receiving the moisture and nutrients they need, which eventually hinders hair growth. Cleansing helps remove all build-up leaving a clean environment for hair to prosper and grow.

Cleansing is the most important step beside deep conditioning for having beautiful, shiny, bouncy hair. No one should be going over two weeks without cleansing their hair once. This is the recipe for dry hair and scalp, flakes, irritations, and even breakage.

To learn more about cleansing check out our in-depth article on the differences between shampoos, by clicking here.

2) Incorporate steam into your regime.

This is a tip that has been the most helpful in my haircare journey. It’s actually one of the most inexpensive as well!

Steam is the process of using moist heat to open the hair follicles and pores of the scalp to allow better absorption of moisture. Overtime the warm moisture from the vapor hydrates the scalp and increases the moisture retention levels of your hair and scalp. This will help your hair keep moisture in the strands for longer periods of time, eventually extending your wash n’ go.

According to, Steam helps lift the hair follicles, thus purifying the scalp of the toxins within. Steam helps increase the collagen production and blood flow of the scalp. The collagen level and increased blood flow result in a healthy naturally shiny scalp while the steam encourages hair growth.

Steam also works to soften the outermost layer of the hair, also known as the cuticle. Once the cuticle is softened, the scales found on the cuticle are lifted, allowing products and moisture (the vapor) to penetrate the hair strand more quickly and effectively.

During the winter months, the air is much drier, there isn’t any moisture in the air. Therefore, the more your hair is exposed to the dry, cold winds the more dehydrated your hair and scalp become. That is often why we see more dandruff during the fall months. That is why I love to utilize my Qredew hair steamer on my scalp to hydrate it, thus preventing my dandruff issues in the winter months.

If you aren’t looking to spend the money on the Qredew, there’s always the steam from your own shower! Let the hot water run, close the bathroom door and allow the steam to fill the room and soften your hair.

3) Scalp Massages

Scalp massages are another great tool for scalp health. Often times, the sebum our scalp produces stays on certain spots of our scalp. This can lead to a greasy feeling in some spots while other spots on your scalp are dry and flake.

Scalp massages are a chance to gently spread your scalp’s sebum around the scalp to properly moisturize and protect it. If you have a really dry and flaky scalp you may need a few drops of oil on your fingertips first, and the massage that oil around for added benefits and to keep the scalp from flaking.

A 2016 study found in An Open Acess Journal, found that consistent scalp massages increased the hair thickness in the subjects who participated. Massaging the scalp increases blood flow which increases the circulation of nutrients to the hair follicles. As a result, the follicles are strengthened, any debris clogging it is removed, and any dry spots on the scalp are moisturized. Therefore, it shows consistent scalp massages increases not only the hair growth but hair thickness as well.

If you have an over-oily scalp, scalp massages can be the cure for this. Using oil can help regulate the production of oil from your scalp. For example, Jojoba oil is the only all-natural oil that can mimic human sebum. Essentially, this means if you use a few drops of this oil for a scalp massage your scalp will be confused. It will recognize the jojoba oil as your own sebum and send a message to the sebaceous glands under your scalp to stop producing oil. Over consistent use, your scalp will stop over-producing sebum. Effectively taking care of your oily roots issue.

Scalp massages can be done every single day. Try 5-10 minutes a day for optimal hair growth. You can break these up into little breaks. For example, I massage my scalp with Thatsthatmagic oil twice a day for five minutes each time.

4) Oils

Oils are such an important part of the Curly Girl Method Journey. Part of the method is removing potentially damaging ingredients from your regime. That includes silicones and waxes because they encase the hair in a film keeping moisture in the hair for longer periods of time. This is why silicones give the illusion of healthier hair.

Not all oils are created equal, there are moisturizing oils and sealing oils. Essentially the difference is their penetration level. Most oils like castor oil or black castor oil are too big on a molecular level to penetrate the strand. Therefore they just sit on top of the hair cuticle creating a seal to keep the moisture in the strands for longer periods of time. Moisturizing oils do not have the power to moisturize but they are able to penetrate the hair strand giving a beautifully shiny effect.

Oils provide the same function as silicones, they keep the moisture locked into the hair for longer periods of time. Oils do build-up over time like any other ingredient and should be shampooed out of hair. If build-up occurs just use a sulfate-free clarifying shampoo to remove it.

Try to choose oils based on the specific benefits they can offer. For example:

  • Jojoba oil is moisturizing for the scalp, but sealing when it comes to the hair.
  • Avocado oil is small enough on a molecular level to penetrate the hair strand past the cuticle, all the way to the middle innermost layer of the hair known as the cuticle. Avocado oil is packed with vitamins A, E, and B-5, minerals, antioxidants, biotin, and essential fatty acids.
  • Grapeseed oil is also small enough to penetrate the hair strand. Grapeseed oil contains a high level of fat that can keep your hair and scalp moisturized for a long time. Grapeseed oil has antibacterial properties that have been proven in a study, making it an essential component to treat a large number of harmful bacteria found in the human body, including the scalp. Also, if your hair follicles are already infected, you can still try grapeseed oil because this will help reduce the extent of the damage.

As I mentioned, I am personally a fan of Thatsthatmagic oil for my hair needs. Oils can be used for more than just scalp massages. They can be used for:

  • Pre-Poo
  • Hot Oil Treatments
  • Oil Rinse
  • Scrunch out the gel cast
  • A few drops into your deep conditioner

Get creative with your choice in oils, you can even do your own blends. Just always remember when using essential oils they must first be diluted with a carrier oil. Essential oils are very strong and can irritate the scalp. Carrier oils dilute its strength and make it safe to use. My favorite carrier oil is Rosehip oil, perfect for keeping the scalp moisturized and healthy.

5) Do not apply products to the scalp

Believe it or not, this is one of those tips I am always repeating yet I always find, when someone comes to me with scalp issues 90% of the time they have ignored the advice I had given in the first place.

No product should be applied to your scalp. You should always apply your products a quarter-inch away from your scalp. The reason you should not apply products to the scalp is that your scalp doesn’t need the products!

Your scalp is the source of all the nutrients your hair needs to grow. Your scalp produces what it needs to stay healthy, sebum. It doesn’t need anything more than water and cleanser to stay healthy.

When applying conditioners (including deep conditioners) or any other stylers, pick up your hair and focus application a quarter inch away. That way the hair is moisturized, but the roots are not weighed down with product build-up.

The only things you can apply to your scalp are:

  • Water
  • Aloe Vera
  • Cleansers such as low poos and cowashes
  • Few drops of oil when used for scalp or other treatments

Basically, the key thing to remember is styling products should never be applied to your scalp. This will help with volume as well!

6) Look out for the itchy M’s

Itchy M’s are often the silent cause of irritated, red, and flaky scalps.

Itchy M’s, also known as, Methylchloroisothiazolinone(MCI ) and Methylisothiazolinone(MI), are preservatives from the family of substances called Isothiozalinones. They are added to cosmetic products to prevent the growth of micro-organisms in the product. Any product on the market that contains water is predisposed to perishing because of microbial growth such as bacteria, yeast, and fungi, causing issues like discoloration, separation/breakdown of the product, and even unpleasant odors. The addition of this preservative extends the shelf-life for in-store and consumer storage. Methylchloroisothiazolinone and Methylisothiazolinone are normally approved for use in rinse-out cosmetic products and some leave-in styling products.

If you have sensitive skin and noticed a major change in your scalp since starting the Curly Girl Method, these two preservatives might be the little buggers that give you the trouble. Itchy M’s normally give curlies problems for one of two reasons; Sensitive skin and the Itchy M was high up on the product label listing.

These preservatives, while not harmful, can result in unnecessary discomfort. To read more about itchy M’s and what to do if they are affecting you, check out our Itchy M’s article, by clicking here. Do not fret! No need to clarifying, simply switch products and deep condition a bit more. If that doesn’t help try using 100% pure aloe vera gel from the leaf as a pre-poo to add moisture back into the hair. If you are looking for an aloe vera pre-poo recipe for more moisture, check out our aloe vera and manuka honey pre-poo mask, by clicking here.

7) Exfoliate your scalp

As we discussed, the scalp is still skin, and like the skin on other parts of your body, the scalp needs to be exfoliated.

Our skin serves to protect our bodies from our environment. Just because we cannot see every single thing our skin protects us from does not mean they do not exist. The purpose of exfoliation is to remove dead skin cells and other causes of build-up such as sebum and products. Scalp exfoliation involves using physical or chemical exfoliants to remove excess skin cells, oil, and dandruff. Many hair experts maintain that regular scalp exfoliation is the key to healthier, shinier hair from the roots to the tips.

If you are experiencing dull or dry hair or even dry and flaky scalp, you might just need to exfoliate. By removing the dead skin cells and build-up you allow your scalp to re-set and can go on to build healthier habits or simply show your hair and scalp a bit more TLC. We have to remember we have subjected our hair to damage for years, for some of us decades. It is going to take time to restore your hair and scalp. Exfoliating the scalp regularly can help expedite hair growth because the scalp is clean and free of debris and other build-ups that can slow or even halt hair growth.

When looking for exfoliants keep it all-natural. There are chemical exfoliants but let’s be honest, the CG Method is about building more natural and healthier habits.

There are many DIY options you can do. My personal favorite is using about 2-3 tablespoons of brown sugar mixed with some olive and avocado oils. Mix together and gently scrub on the scalp for 2-3 minutes and rinse. This will give a very deep clean feeling while the oils work to “moisturize” the scalp and hair giving off a healthy shine.

If you are not really a DIY person there are CGM scalp exfoliation products such as the Rawkyn Scrub Me Down Detoxifying Scalp Scrub with Apple Cider Vinegar & Grapeseed Oils.


Now, I know we already discussed cleansing, but clarifying is a different level of cleansing.

Clarifying your hair is essentially wiping it clean of all products and the sebum your scalp produces. This is done to not only improve scalp conditions but give life back to hair.


A big part of our routine is conditioners. Conditioners are positively charged and drawn to our negatively charged hair. Conditioners add moisture to our hair by depositing the moisture into the hair and sealing it with a thin, invisible, flexible layer left on the cuticle of the hair.

Over time, especially if you choose to co-wash only conditioners will continue to deposit more and more into the hair. The only thing that will be strong enough to remove all this build-up is a sulfate-free clarifying shampoo.

There seems to be a little confusion in the Curly Girl Method world, so, let’s clear it up, shall we? Sulfate-free clarifying shampoos are and have always been strong enough to remove all forms of build-up including silicone build-up. Clarifying shampoos are formulated with anionic surfactants.

Anionic surfactants are a group of very strong cleansers, containing sulfate and sulfate-free options

Low poos such as Not Your Mothers Naturals, Shea Moisture, and other brands ARE NOT strong enough to remove build-up they will simply do a light cleansing and possibly add more build-up to your hair. This leads to itchy scalps and dry/and or greasy, weighed down hair.

Clarifying your hair removes EVERYTHING. Think of it as painting on a fresh canvas, you can completely start over. A clean scalp leads to better curl definition and growth.

For more information on clarifying shampoos, check out our shampoos article, by clicking here.

Please note that the Suave Daily Clarifying Shampoo is NOT an approved Curly Girl Method clarifying shampoo because it clarifies using sulfates. For more information into the science of why it is not okay to use this particular shampoo, please click here.

If you follow the original Curly Girl Method and choose to co-wash only, meaning you do not ever use shampoo, you can use an Apple Cider Vinegar Rinse or a Lemon Rinse to clarify. You can also use Bentonite Clay or Rhassoul Clay to clarify as well.

9) Eat Right and Drink Lots of Water

You are what you eat right? There is truth behind this. You must give your body the proper nutrition if you intend for it to be able to perform its biological processes like hair growth.

The best way to give your body nutrients is through your food. This is why diet is so important. You will find most of the vitamins and minerals your body needs in fresh fruits, and vegetables. A balanced diet ensures your body gets what it needs for optimal hair growth and other biological processes.

According to an article in the Dermatologic Clinics Journal, for hair to grow your body needs

  • Proteins (this includes amino acids because amino acids are protein building blocks)
  • Vitamin B
  • Zinc
  • Vitamin C
  • Omega 3’s also known as essential fatty acids
  • Iron
  • and many others

With a well-balanced diet, you can get all of these vitamins and minerals through your diet. If you get them through your diet, they have a chance to be circulated around the body to the most needed areas. Your hair will be the last place the vitamins reach, but if your body is healthy then so will your hair and scalp.

Your water intake is just as important if not more important than your diet. Your body runs on water. The human body is roughly 60-65% water, and roughly 10-12% of your overall hair is composed of water. That is why you should be drinking AT LEAST 8-10 glasses of water a day. 8 glasses of water a day equates to 64 ounces of water. This is the daily MINIMUM your body needs. Obviously, the more water you drink the better because you are detoxing the body and keeping the hair and skin hydrated.

To calculate the ideal water intake for your body, simply;

  • Take your body weight and divide it by two that will be your body’s ideal water intake for a day by the ounce.

For example, I am currently 150 pounds, this means when i divide 150 by 2 = 75

This means I would need to drink 75 ounces of water a day. If one glass is eight ounces, that means 75oz divided by 8oz = roughly 9 glasses of water a day.

Do the math on your own and start building your water intake. Remember it will not be overnight, I have been working for months and at 6 glasses a day currently. The point is to build to the gold not give up if you don’t reach the goal immediately. You can always “eat” your water as well! Watermelons are over 80 percent water, so are oranges, just find what works for you.

10) Incorporate aloe vera into your routine

Aloe vera is almost always on my top 3 favorite healthy scalp and hair growth tips (the numerical order of this article means nothing, these tips are not ranked).

According to the Journal of Pharmacognosy and Phytochemistry, aloe vera is a powerful detoxifier, antiseptic and tonic. Aloe vera is a useful source of vitamins.

  • Aloe vera gel contains a large range of vitamins even B12, Vitamin A, contains B-Group vitamins, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and folic acids
  • Aloe vera contains important ingredients including 19 of the 20 amino acids needed by the human body and seven of the eight essential ones that cannot be made.

Aloe vera stimulates the production of collagen and elastin that prevents aging of the skin, in this case, your scalp. When applied topically to the skin, aloe ver acts as the best moisturizer (besides water of course) and works to remove dead skin cells and rejuvenate the scalp. Aloe vera serves to hasten the skin repair and hydrate the skin to give a healthy glow.  So, if you are having scalp issues now you know an aloe vera pre-poo will help remove dead skin cells and follow this with an exfoliating treatment your scalp will be the perfect host to healthy hair growth.

I love to use the gel for pre-poos since it’s a thicker consistency. I also use the gel for DIY Deep conditioners. I like to use the juice as a refreshing spray by taking a water bottle, filling half of it with pure water, and the other half with pure 100% aloe vera juice. The aloe works to moisturize the scalp and hair, preventing dandruff. Besides moisturizing the hair the aloe vera works to naturally seal the hair cuticle to give a frizz-free shine.

RCC Facebook Live Session – Scalp Health Tips

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Queen Monroe

Curly Girl Method enthusiast and educator. I have been on my own CGM journey for a bit over three years now. I take a scientific approach to the Curly Girl Method. I believe by learning Trichology (the study of hair and scalp) you can better understand your hair's needs and behaviors. This will help when you need to learn ingredients to read product labels. I research and write each and every article in this site. The information used and referenced on this website come from open access, peer-reviewed journal articles from publications such as the Journal of Cosmetic Science and the International Journal of Trichology.

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About Adrienne Monroe and Red Carpet Curls : In this section you’ll get to meet your guide…me! I’ll tell you more about my Curly Girl Method Journey along with all the resources you can expect to find on this website. You will also find out exactly what makes Red Carpet Curls different from any other Curly Girl Method Website.

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