Ep 55: Skinification of Hair- Dermatologist Explains Haircare Trend
Heard about the skinification of hair? It is a trend that emphasizes integration of active cosmeceutical ingredients in hair and scalp care. This week’s podcast episode focuses on the importance of regular scalp and haircare to achieve natural, beautiful and healthy looking hair. Those with dandruff and oily scalps will benefit from the use of medicated shampoos that contain zinc pyrithione, and salicylic acid. Dr.TWL Dermaceuticals has formulated a home hair spa regime that incorporates all these elements necessary to stabilize the scalp microbiome, strengthen the hair shaft, and give you smooth, shiny, strong, and glossy hair that requires minimal styling products.
Chelsea: Hi guys, and welcome to Dermatologist Talks: Science of Beauty. In this episode, we’re continuing our series on au naturel hair- Essentially hair that is so healthy looking that it doesn’t require the use of styling products. In a previous episode, we shared about the importance of maintaining a healthy hair shaft for beautiful looking hair. Also, we covered the commonest causes of hair shaft damage, how to treat hair fragility, and the importance of embracing your natural hair- whether it’s curly or straight coarse or fine.
If you’ve heard about the trend skinification of hair recently- well this episode is probably of interest to you! The skinification of hair refers to the incorporation of advanced formulations with superior active ingredients for home treatment of the scalp and hair shaft- similar to a cosmeceutical skincare regimens.
Hear from a dermatologist
So here’s a good perspective to start with. Our expert dermatologist Dr. Teo Wan Lin from TWL Specialist Skin & Laser Centre will share her vision of what beautiful hair means and how to achieve it. Hopefully, you can formulate your own concept of beautiful hair as well, with the help of the cosmeceutical haircare range by Dr. TWL Dermaceuticals.
What are your tips for attaining beautiful hair?
Dr. Teo: First of all, we want to make sure that your scalp is healthy. If your scalp is greasy or you have dandruff, that’s gonna affect your hair cycle. Your hair will not grow out healthy.
Chelsea: Oh I see that actually makes sense! I know that Dr.TWL Dermaceuticals has a hair cosmeceutical regimen as part of a haircare ritual – it’s designed to help with scalp conditions too.
Can oily and flaky scalp conditions be treated?
Dr. Teo: It can be effectively treated with medicated shampoos. The over the counter degreasing shampoo from Dr.TWL Dermaceuticals contains Zinc Pyrithione and salicylic acid. This is an effective method of inhibiting excessive fungal growth that can cause seborrheic dermatitis, which is both an oily and a dry scalp condition.
This oily scalp protocol is used to relieve symptoms of scalp sensitivity with a combination of scalp balancing ingredients to help stabilize the scalp microbiome.
Chelsea: That’s certainly good news for many of our listeners who suffer from dandruff and oily scalp. I think many of us are also interested in a sustainable home care regimen for our hair shaft. As we’ve spoken about in a previous episode, when hair is healthy, we can often go sans styling products!
Do you have personal tips on how we can achieve smooth, shiny hair? Preferably with a haircare recommendation that we can adopt right in the comfort of our own homes without visiting a salon?
Dr. Teo: I’m going to share a bit about my personal experience. I have been conditioning my hair for as long as I can remember. From the time I was 11 I stopped using 2-in-1 shampoo. I grew up using this Johnson and Johnson’s 2-in-1 shampoo. However, when I was 12, I started using a hair conditioner separate from my shampoo. This is funny as it was because of an etiquette class I attended that my mom sent me to when I was 11, because I was turning out to be so rowdy. I think she felt that I needed some proper instruction on how to be a lady.
I remember the instructor Miss Ida Ong telling us then that we really needed to have two different products for our scalp. My first shampoo was actually Vidal Sassoon which I think is not on the market anymore. But that was my first exposure, at the tender age of 11, to learning more about the ingredients of shampoos. I remember that it was ammonium lauryl sulfate based, rather than SLS based. That was one of the reasons the instructor then recommended it to us. Because, she said that it would be gentler on our hair shaft. I also started using a conditioner from them. Over the course of many years, I was experimenting with various different types of hair conditioners. Because, I naturally have quite fine hair, and I really wanted more volume.
I worked as a model for a long time when I was in medical school, and the excessive styling does cause your hair to become more fragile. There are certain hairstyles that we use that increase the volume of the hair. One of the most dreadful would be backcombing, that was essentially trying to matt my hair. It was really a nightmare to try to get it out of the matted mess after shoots and shows. So I definitely paid a lot of attention to the health of my hair.
Also it was very important to have as virgin-looking hair as possible when you presented yourself for castings. All of that certainly impacted the way I practice as a dermatologist, in terms of offering advice on hairstyles and haircare. It’s along the line of focusing on having healthy hair and minimal styling on a daily basis. That was something I also bore in mind when I went into the development of cosmeceutical science formulas for the hair shaft. This is an area that is traditionally dominated by the cosmetic industry, and not something that dermatologist’s have spent a lot of time working on. So I felt that there was a void that needed to be addressed.
Chelsea: That’s quite amusing to see how much of an impact one good piece of advice can really have! It’s so interesting to see how that one rule of having a good hair conditioner and shampoo has really shaped the way you practice and even inspired your research in hair cosmeceuticals! With this trend of skinification of hair, I want to find out:
Is there really good research behind active ingredients in haircare cosmeceuticals?
Dr. Teo: Hair shaft cosmeceuticals are actually not very well studied. In fact, there is a clear void of literature on this topic. Because, a lot of this has really just ended up on the work of hairstylists and also researchers for cosmetic haircare brands. From a medical perspective, I felt it was very important to address the problems of hair fragility. Women are very aware that there can be dull or shiny hair.
Chelsea: You’re absolutely right, I mean the hair they showcase in hair commercials always looks healthy, shiny and smooth! I wonder if it’s idealised. But it also looks so groomed and sleek, that I wonder if it’s all just styling products. Then again they do show the model’s head swinging in these commercials that actually shows the hair strands moving so naturally.
Dr. Teo: This perceived sense of smoothness has to do with hair manageability. This is an important cosmetic and functional consideration that dermatologists bear in mind when monitoring the progress of those with hair or scalp problems. Finally, I feel that natural hair does have to have great movement. The best hair stylists will actually create a hairstyle for you that requires minimal styling and maintenance on a daily basis. First of all, it is the healthiest way to get a good haircut. Secondly, hair that moves looks natural and is beautiful. The human perception of beauty, ultimately at its core, is about appreciating what is authentic and truthful. This is consistent with what we already know.
So using this concept, we want to emphasize the fundamental techniques and methods to achieve these outcomes.
How to get shiny hair?
The lack of shine is specifically because of the accumulation of multiple layers of dead keratin. Shine is essentially an optic effect created by light effects hitting the surface of your hair. If you want shiny hair, there are often home remedies that tell you to apply apple cider vinegar rinses to increase your hair shine.
While I think there is some sort of beneficial effect, but when apple cider vinegar gets into your skin, you actually can get some form of dermatitis. Essentially what you’re looking at is the ways to exfoliate the cuticle. Definitely, daily shampooing is going to increase your hair shine. Especially in tropical Singapore where we get sweaty and oily at the end of the day. The benefit is going to have shiny hair as the hair shaft is properly cleansed.
Maintaining the health of the hair shaft
Secondly, you can get shiny hair by ensuring that your cuticle, which is the outermost layer of your hair shaft, is actually healthy. In order to do that, you need to make sure that you regularly distribute the natural sebum you have on your scalp all the way to your ends. This has to be with a paddle brush. I do not recommend using plastic or metal for paddle brushes. Because, these increase static on your hair, and the bristles can actually damage your scalp. It can also be quite painful. The ideal paddle brush for this is actually a wooden paddle brush.
Wooden paddle brush
We use a bamboo wooden paddle brush because it is first of all, sustainable. It’s also naturally antibacterial. It’s bacteriostatic because it inhibits the growth of bacteria and fungi. This is very important in a tool that you use daily on your scalp. It also absorbs sebum well, which you are trying to redistribute from your scalp onto the bristles. It then naturally distributes it to the rest of your hair. At the same time, the brushing effect detangles the hair and increases hair shine as well. It’s also a form of scalp massage that can increase blood circulation which is beneficial for your scalp.
Chelsea: I’ve never really put much thought into how the comb I use can affect how my hair looks. It’s always been a tool that I kind of use pretty sparingly, just because I have relatively short hair. It’s really good to know that a good brush really does make all the difference. Well what about combs, do we not need that at all? I feel like when I get out of the shower, my hair is extra matted. Whenever I do use a brush, I find myself tugging and pulling just to get the tangles out.
Do I need to use a comb?
Dr. Teo: Smoothness has a lot to do with manageability. You definitely need to comb your hair. There are actually two steps to combing your hair. First, is with using a wide-tooth comb which I always use in the shower. A lot of beauty websites tell you you should not comb your hair when it’s wet. Frankly, what they really mean is do not brush your hair when it’s wet. However, you should definitely comb it with a wide-tooth detangling comb, when it’s wet. For that I use a carbon comb.
Detangle with a comb
That actually helps to smoothen out any tangles before it gets dry. As by that time your hair is dry and is in a tangle, then it’s going to be very difficult to detangle it without causing hair breakage. This is the same reason why hair stylists actually comb through and cut your hair when it’s wet because it’s much easier for them to detangle it.
The second thing is to use the paddle brush when it is dry. A lot of styling can actually be omitted if you have a good paddle brush. And you follow through with the steps of grooming. Hair dryers have evolved in the last decade or so. Many of them don’t have excessive heat, and even have ionic technology that releases ions so that you supposedly have less static on the hair and is less frizzy.
Chelsea: I see, well I definitely have to start incorporating these tips into my haircare routine. For now, I do the bare minimum. I don’t even brush my hair before I dry it. Now that you mention it, it is a lot harder to get the tangles out after. I was looking at the haircare ritual by Dr.TWL Dermaceuticals and I found the conditioner really unique in terms of its formulation. I haven’t actually come across a hair conditioner that promises to thicken your hair shaft. I’m kind of curious as to how this is possible?
How does the Hair Thickening Mask thicken the hair shaft?
Dr. Teo: The Hair Thickening Mask is a conditioner which I use, and it’s my prescription for au naturel hair. It is actually formulated with hydrolyzed wheat proteins rather than traditional silicones. These form the bulk of all commercial hair conditioners, which is what makes hair appear unnaturally flat and lacking movement. Hydrolyzed wheat protein, first of all, mimics the natural feel and behavior of the keratin that makes up your hair shaft.
Secondly, it also helps to increase the growth phase of the hair, the anagen phase, because it contains Camellia Sinensis.
It is also important to incorporate natural oils such as safflower oil, which we use in our LipiShine serum, as well as sea buckthorn oil which makes up the LipiSilk serum. These are antioxidant oils derived from plants that have been evidenced to repair the hair shaft. This is done by restoring its natural physical, chemical properties.
Chelsea: Lots of cultures do actually incorporate the use of hair oils. I know that my Indian friends regularly use coconut oil to maintain their long tresses. So I do know that there are many benefits of these plant oils, especially for hair. I’ve always been a little bit intimidated by hair oils. Because while I do want shiny hair, I don’t want it to look or feel oily. How about hot oil treatments? I have heard a lot about it and I’ve always wondered how I could do it myself at home?
Hot oil treatments at home
Dr. Teo: How I use hot oil treatments is like this. I actually use a biological gel cap, the Cutiscool CMC gel cap. For this, just by using a microwave oven, or using the mask bar system that we have, is heated up very quickly in the comfort of your own home, and which you wear over wet hair that has these oils, applied onto it after shampoo. You can wear it for 15 minutes or leave it on for even longer and then subsequently you rinse it off. This is one method that I do on a bi-monthly basis that can help to achieve shiny hair, improve hair elasticity, and it also reduces the risk of hair fragility and can repair hair breakage.
Choosing the right hair elastics
We also should touch on grooming, in terms of the type of hair elastics that you use to tie your hair. Living in Singapore where it’s very warm and humid all throughout the year, I think for a lot of women who have medium to long hair, it is very impractical not to tie up your hair at all. You may have heard it said that it is sometimes bad to have your hair tied up all the time because of traction. The pressure that exerts on your scalp can lead to something called traction alopecia. This is a type of hair loss that we see in ballerinas. Or in certain sports where they are wearing helmets and their hair is always tightly pulled back. The pressure and the pulling force can cause a form of scarring hair loss where the hair follicles over time stop growing hair.
Hair ties for sports
For me especially, I have been a fencer for over two decades. We do wear a face mask or helmet in the sport. For me, hair management is very important, and I’ve always been very conscious of that. Because, the wrong elastics can cause your hair to break, and slip out in the middle of a fencing match. All these are not just uncomfortable, but also very inconvenient. On a practical day to day basis, when we do any sports, we definitely need to tie up our hair because we sweat. If not, it can cause a type of eczema at the nape of the neck caused by the friction from the hair ties used, and the sweat. Especially, if you have a history of atopy like I do.
Chelsea: Yes, when doing sport, how the hair is tied up – whether its too loose or too thin, too high or too low, really does make a difference in comfort levels and can affect your exercise too. I actually do know that there are certain brands of hair elastics that would not tangle and tug at my hair. So I have stuck to buying these brands for the longest time. But the problem is after a while they all disintegrate. I also feel that it’s environmentally unfriendly to be buying and throwing away elastics so frequently.
Dermatologist recommended hair elastics
Dr. Teo: The material of the elastic matters. Let me share the two main types of hair elastics that I use. For the day to day elastic, I use one which is called the Smart Spiral. That’s made from thermal sensitive polyurethane which basically conforms to the natural wave, shape and texture of your hair. It grips on to it in a way that offers maximum friction so that it doesn’t slip off, which is very important when you’re doing sports. I had it happen to me once in the past when my regular elastic slipped off when I was riding and needless to say, that was incredibly inconvenient.
These Smart Spirals are engineered in such a way that it actually stretches with the natural movement and texture of your hair. Also because of the angle at which it is designed, it leaves no mark on your hair, is crease-less, there are no snags. This is probably a universal problem that those with long hair can relate to. Elastics that just have fabric on the outside always end up snagging and pulling out bits of your hair. This is not a problem with polyurethane spirals. Additionally, the Smart spirals have a polymer coating that enables it to resist slipping off, with maximum hold and minimal tension.
Chelsea: I mean I’ve definitely gone through so many hair elastics because of that reason. Every time I pull it out, it feels like it’s tearing out a chunk of my hair. It’s always a game of wincing and yanking to get it out!
The importance of a good hair tie for sensitive scalp
Dr. Teo: For me, I find it incredibly important that whatever hair tie I use doesn’t tug on my scalp. I do have quite a sensitive scalp in the sense that if my hairstyle is too tight, I do feel very uncomfortable. It is the design of such a hair ring that will minimize discomfort with a higher, tighter ponytail hairstyle. The key here is not that you can’t have your hair done up in a sleek ponytail, which I think is a beautiful hairstyle to have, but it’s more what is the kind of elastic that you’re using to hold your hair.
The other thing of course we find troublesome is a lot of these hair elastics, especially the usual ones made of rubber or with an elastic material coated with fabric, is that over time it stretches and then you eventually have to throw the rubberband away, or it breaks. The great thing about these smart spirals is that they are incredibly strong, and they can be shrunk. This is very important for women who are struggling with hair loss because they find sometimes that the ponytail gets thinner and thinner. They can be re-shrunk, just by using a hairdryer to apply heat for a minute.
Silicone elastic hair ties
The other type of hair elastic that I use that’s really for more formal occasions or when I want to look a little bit more glam, is actually a simple black silicon-coated hair tie. So the benefit of that is that it is very sleek-looking, and blends in with the natural color of your hair -whatever color that you have. It is available in black, transparent, and in brown color. Besides being non-slip, the silicon coating does not cause hair damage. This occurs with your traditional elastics that can sometimes snag and break your hairs. I think all women have had that experience. For example, whenever you remove your hair tie, you see a clump of hair falling out.
This Smart Elastics range is made from silicone. Silicone itself is actually environmentally more sustainable than plastics because it’s engineered from silica from the sand. It’s also far more durable than plastic, and is non toxic to oceans and the environment. As an interesting anecdote, my elastics have always over a period of time ended up being broken because of repeated use, but I’ve never actually broken any one of these elastics. The only time was when my dog actually found it and he chewed it to bits. So, just a warning if you have a pet at home, you might want to keep it away from your pets.
Chelsea: That’s too cute! I mean I never really thought that there could be better elastics, I’ve always just gone with the simple black ones they sell at the stores. So I definitely need to invest in some better ones that don’t try to yank my whole head of hair out when i’m untying my hair!
How to give your ponytail more volume
Dr. Teo: I feel that these are important characteristics of hair ties you should use, especially if you are struggling with hair fall. I think a lot of women want to volumize their hair, and have a voluminous ponytail. The Smart Ponytail utilizes a folding mechanism to volumize the ponytial. There is something perennial in wearing your hair in a ponytail. I do also love a loose braid, as I feel that it’s useful to keep the hair out of tangles in humid weather. It is a very chic way to just jazz up your hairstyle for a night out, or even a nice dinner date in.
Chelsea: I have naturally fine hair, so volumizing my ponytail is something I’m always looking out for!
Well today we’ve learnt important tips from a dermatologist on how to get shiny, smooth, manageable hair – including a dermatologist recommended haircare routine, and even how to choose the right material for your hair ties! Dr. TWL Biomaterials has a range of hair elastics suited for those with thinning hair and sensitive scalps- in order to minimise tension on the scalp and avoid hair breakage. If you are interested in developing or starting a haircare routine at home do check out the full haircare ritual with featuring products by Dr. TWL Dermaceuticals, a cosmeceutical skincare and haircare brand from Singapore.
Dr. Teo is also the author of Haircare Bible: Dermatologists Tips on Haircare and Hair Loss, which is available on amazon books, Apple books, as well as Google.
We’ve certainly discovered quite a lot about haircare in today’s podcast episode! You may follow Dr. Teo on Instagram at @drteowanlin for the latest podcast updates, and make sure to check out our website at www.scienceofbeauty.net for the full episode transcript.