When my boyfriend started picking at the tiny snowflakes nestled in my hair over dinner last month, I knew it was time to do something about the dandruff (or what I thought was dandruff) that had plagued me for years. Having big, curly hair all my life also meant that I was a frustrated owner of a dry scalp: because my hair structure makes it difficult for my scalp’s natural oils to find its way down the hair shaft, I was constantly dealing with dryness and itchiness. My nervous tick of scratching my flaky hair until I’m red in the scalp didn't exactly help. Meanwhile, I was loading up my head with a slew of anti-frizz products that smoothed my curls but left behind so much build-up if I didn't wash them out properly. Cut to the moment when my boyfriend started picking off the white dust adorning my shoulders like a snowy Christmas tree. I've always been hyper-focused on my dry skin, but hadn't paid my hair the same care. (And I’m not alone—on average, Americans spend $89.95 on hair care products annually, while they spend $500 or more on skincare products in just one quarter of the year). But in that moment, I decided enough was enough. It was time I started investing in my scalp the way I do with my skin and exercise routine.
I tried generic dandruff shampoo and even saw a dermatologist years ago, who prescribed me an oil that I never put to good use because of its greasy effects. After trying all the things, I decided to pay a visit to Act + Acre—a natural haircare brand that treats scalp issues—for a studio consultation.
I was weary about trying another scalp product that promised unattainable results. But after seeing Act + Acre Cold Processed Cleanse on health and wellness blogger Melissa Wood’s Instagram (I basically deem everything she says as bible), I was curious about the hype. I met with the founder, celebrity hairstylist Helen Reavey, to (quite literally) take a closer look at my scalp. By using a specially made “scalp microscope” that’s connected to a phone app (not offered to the public), I had a front row seat to the state of my scalp. It turns out, I don’t have dandruff—Reavey explained that my scalp is just dry. Hair care 101: While both dandruff and dry scalp have similar symptoms like flakes and itches, the former condition is the result of excess oil build up and the latter is the result of lack of moisture. However, Reavey’s hair care products treat both, in addition to other conditions like pregnancy hair loss and psoriasis.
My Act + Acre In-Salon Experience
Reavey informed me that my scalp is only moderately dry, which was better than I was expecting. Even though my scalp apparently didn’t look too dry, I expressed my concern of walking around with flaky hair and the new bout of sweat-induced itchiness I'd experience after every workout class.That’s when she suggested Act + Acre's 3-step scalp recovery system. The first step is a scalp treatment she developed called the Cold Processed Scalp Detox. She showed me how to use it during my consult, applying it to my scalp by squeezing the nozzle against my scalp. She started at the back of my head (“Most people forget about that area,” she explained) and worked her way to my hairline. From there, she massaged my head until the oily glob atop atop my head was evenly distributed. The natural detox, which is made from moringa oil, baobab oil, basil leaf, and amaranth oil, is designed to remove the build up of product, stimulate the hair follicle, and provide the essential nutrients for healthy hair protection against pollution and UV damage. All the while, the essential oils are provided to strengthen and add shine to your hair.
Since I’ve been using mostly natural skincare products for the last couple of years, I was relieved to hear that their chemical-free products wouldn't strip my hair of its healthy oils. Plus, it’s not just good for humans—it’s good for the earth, too. “For generations, the hair care industry has been using chemicals to achieve product performance, prioritizing short-term benefits over the long-term health and wellness of your hair...artificial ingredients need to be added because nutrients evaporate during the traditional high-heat production process,” says Reavey. Act + Acre's Cold Process uses 90% less energy and and retains up to 96% more vitamins in the active ingredients by mixing with hyperbaric chambers, ice cold water, and 1200 lbs of pressure. Without the added heat, the formula remains fresh and highly potent, just like the “cold press” juice method does with produce.
After I detoxed my scalp for 20 minutes, Reavey applied the Act + Acre Hair Cleanse shampoo. Packed with nutrient-dense ingredients like ylang-ylang (controls frizz), rosemary (promotes healthy growth), lavender (controls dandruff), and amaranth oil (combats free-radical damage), this Cold Processed product is safe for frequent usage because it doesn’t strip hair of its natural moisture. Then, she began washing my wet hair from root to tip. She pumped, lathered, and repeated for a double cleanse. The first cleanse removes product build-up and pollution while the second cleanse purifies the scalp and hair with nutrients. She finished off my treatment by applying the Cold Processed Hair Conditioner to on the mid-length to ends of my hair. After letting it soak for five minutes, she rinsed out the conditioner and took out the scalp microscope to determine the treatment’s effects. Since my scalp wasn’t too bad to begin with, the before and after pictures weren’t as drastic as I thought they would be. Still, Reavey pointed to specific areas where buildup was noticeably gone from my roots. “It will take around one month of regular usage to see full results from the product, so don’t feel discouraged if you do not see a drastic difference within the first few uses," she notes. "After a month, you should begin to notice that your hair is visibly thicker and healthier." Thankful for the treatment (but also grossed out from seeing my hair up close and personal), I began my 30-day journey to fresher feeling hair.
My 30-Day Experience With Act + Acre
I was advised to wash my hair as I normally would (which is every other night) with the shampoo and conditioner. Usually, I wouldn’t shampoo twice, but since Reavey stressed that this extra step would make all the difference, I adhered to her instructions.
Then, once a week I used the Scalp Detox, which proved to be the most difficult challenge because I had to wait an additional 20 minutes for it to set after applying. I was tempted to jump in the shower after detoxing but I waited until the clock struck twenty past before degreasing my hair. At first, I didn’t notice a difference (patience isn’t my strongest suit). But after two weeks, I definitely experienced less itchiness, less speckled clothing, and less white flakes for my boyfriend to pick out at dinner. After one month, I couldn't believe how thick my hair felt. Every time I brushed it out, I visibly noticed how full and voluminous it looked. I also noticed that my hair was easier to comb through and less tangled than usual. To top it off, I loved how fresh my hair smelled after each use. When I would apply artificial shampoo and conditioner, my hair would smell fruity. Now, smelling like a fresh botanical garden is exactly how I want to start off my days.
Although it took some time getting used to double cleansing my hair, it was worth the extra step. Since I got a full-body allergic reaction years ago from what doctors believed to be from my shampoo and conditioner, I’m usually skeptical about trying new formulas. But, thankfully, after 30-days I didn’t notice any harmful changes on my sensitive skin. It’s difficult to tell whether or not my hair felt “healthier,” but as I continued the three product treatment consistently, I saw a significant decrease in the flakiness I once had. After 30 days, it didn't get rid of my dry scalp completely, but I’m still pleased with the results.
Act + Acre definitely turned me on to their products and taught me how important it is to take the extra time to care for your hair. This year, they plan on launching more products—including a curly hair collection. Meanwhile, I'm just happy my dry scalp is in remission as long as I have a tube of the trusty Scalp Detox by my side.