Getting to the Root of Scalp and Hair Health
Getting to the Root of Scalp and Hair Health

"Your scalp has a microbiome, like your gut health. You want to endure the end goal for the scalp is to get the scalp to homeostasis where the scalp microbiome is balanced." 

- Helen Reavey

As a board-certified trichologist and celebrity hairstylist working worldwide from salon to runway, Helen Reavey is an expert on all things hair health and scalp wellness from the inside out. This week, she talks with Elizabeth about the importance of skincare for your scalp, some scalp health myths and how to really have a balanced happy head, and how the scalp affects overall hair wellness. Helen discusses launching Act + Acre and how the brand is committed to bring true innovation to the hair category. Lastly, Helen shares a few of her favorite practices for mindfulness and health that allow her to show up as the best version of herself.

Try Act + Acre for yourself here and use code purelyelizabeth15 for 15% off.



    Elizabeth Stein 00:00
    Hi everyone. I'm Elizabeth Stein, founder and CEO of purely Elizabeth. And this is live purely with Elizabeth, featuring candid conversations about how to thrive on your wellness journey. This week's guest is Helen Reavey, Founder and Creative Director of Act + Acre. As a celebrity hairstylist and board certified trichologist, Helen has always been passionate about clean haircare that works, and has spent years examining the scalp and hair to be able to diagnose and recommend treatments for all conditions. Having worked worldwide from salon to runway Act + Acre was born to get to the root of these conditions, with clinically tested, plant-based, cold-pressed products that focus on the scalp. In this episode, Helen shares all about the importance of skincare for your scalp, how the scalp affects overall hair wellness, and what we can be doing to nourish our scalps best. She talks about her entrepreneurial journey from working runway shows to launching the brand in Vogue and bringing true innovation to the hair category. Lastly, we talked about Helen's mindfulness practices that allow her to show up as the best version of herself. Keep listening to learn all about Helen and Act + Acre. And if you'd love to try her products, which I'm a huge fan of head on over to and use code purelyelizabeth15 at checkout. Enjoy. Helen, welcome to the podcast. I'm so excited for our conversation right before we got recording, we were talking about you living in Mexico. And so it's possible we might veer off of a brand and product and start talking about Mexico for a bit.

    Helen Reavey 01:46
    Absolutely. And I'd be very happy with that. I could talk about Mexico all day long. But thank you for having me, Elizabeth.

    Elizabeth Stein 01:53
    Wonderful. So would love to start with your personal journey. And really what inspired you to start Act + Acre?

    Helen Reavey 02:01
    Yeah, so it's kind of, I'd say probably started around 20 years ago, which gives away my years a little bit. But I started I trained to become a hairstylist because that was something that after college, I just realized that I it's so funny how it comes around 360 now, because now I'm actually running my business. I gone to college to a study business, and then realized a when I finished college that that wasn't the route I wanted to go, I wanted to do something more creative. And hair was that creative outlet for me. And I went on to train to be a hairstylist. And so I worked in salon for over 10 years before I moved to New York.

    Elizabeth Stein 02:45
    And where were you living at the time?

    Helen Reavey 02:47
    I was in Dublin, okay, in Ireland, and then had one opportunity to do hair at a fashion show in New York. And that was January 2013. So it's actually just hitting 10 years, and I've lived in New York, but yeah, moved to New York. And for this one job, not realizing you know, okay, you don't have any other work or any other opportunities that I've had. But I just was very kind of much that kind of, that's my personality anyway, I'm ready to get off and go anywhere, try something new. So moved to New York, and everything just kind of like, fell into place. It's just the magical city and just met the right people and got signed with my agency and everything kind of just fell into place from there. Obviously, with a lot of hard work and I'm making it sound very easy. There's a lot of hustling at the beginning. That got me into the world of fashion. So I start working for fashion weeks around the world, doing editorial networking with several young red carpet. And so yeah, having that hairstyling background, I've got to see a lot of scalps over time. And realize, you know, kind of the people who are treating the ends of the hair so much, we're using a lot of products to style the hair, get it into a certain shape, and then a movement come in with clean, a skincare and you know, if you have beautiful skin care and you're looking after your skin, you won't actually have to do a huge amount of makeup to make yourself look good. And so I always kind of like studied the scalp. I was very lucky in hair college to have a trichologist as my teacher. And I know that's become a kind of more common term over the last few months, maybe six months, but I'm actually.

    Elizabeth Stein
    I haven’t heard of it actually.

    Helen Reavey 04:12
    You've never heard of it. No, sorry. Yeah. So I actually decided to become a trichologist when the idea of Act + Acre came because I wanted to study the scalp concerns and hair loss because that was something very important something that I kind of took an interest in, you know, with my clients even in fashion, even with celebrities you know, all starting with that scalp side recommending things for them to use, because, you know, we see it across the board per scalp health. Also, because people are miseducated on how to take care of their scalp and how important that is for hair growth, hair shine, just having your good hair days more often than really is dying to hide the scalp looks and how you're taking care of it. So trichologist is someone who bridges that gap between your hairstylist and your dermatologist. And we study the scalp from a scalp con conditions like a dandruff psoriasis, seborrheic dermatitis, and then all the kind of like hair restoration hair loss. So that's kind of it in a nutshell.

    Elizabeth Stein 05:46
    So cool. So it's interesting actually, I was just reading Pinterest top predicts 2023 trends. I don't know if you've seen it. But scalp health is one of their top trends prediction.

    Helen Reavey 06:02
    Oh that's amazing.

    Elizabeth Stein 06:03
    I guess, the most pinned or you know, Google, not Google, but search terms on Pinterest.

    Helen Reavey 06:10
    That's amazing. Because we started this journey seven years ago, and no one was talking about that, because I, you know, I'd obviously been introduced to scalp a very long, like 20 years ago, when I started hairstyling and that was kind of like an area of interest and focus for me. I realized when I wanted to start a brand and actually it's a funny story, because it all started at Paris Fashion Week, when I was leading a show and my husband flew in he was supporting me. He's like, you know, this my first major show styling myself. And I said to him, I'll you know, the girls have been from New York to London to Milan to Paris, there's their last kind of like week of shows, their scalps are red raw, there's a lot of, you know, dry skin, a lot of issues going on here, they're very sensitive to touch. You also noticed because of the product loading product build up and not taking care of their scalp. It's also on the hair. So then when you're trying to make the hair perform in a certain way take a certain shape. It's underperforming, and you have to then load it with more products to make it perform. So kind of like, yeah, and I've said this to him, I wish I could give them something or do something on them right now to like break down all the products to save the scalp. And that's actually what our first product was a scalp detox. So that light bulb moment went off for him because I never really thought of starting my own business. And he was like, what that's a thing and he thought about it for a few days. And then I was still in Paris, he flew back to New York to work. And he told me, he said, I've thought about this and I really think there's something in beauty, I'm going to start a brand. And I'm going to leave my job. And we're going to do this.

    Elizabeth Stein 07:52
    Wow. So from that moment, what was the next step to launching? And what was the timeframe?

    Helen Reavey 07:59
    Yeah. So we took two years of development. And because with our product, so we knew at the beginning, we didn't want to just be another product on the market. So obviously, scalp was going to be our differentiator, our unique selling point, and to really focus on scalp care and scalp health and how important that was going to be for longevity and hair wellness. We also knew that, you know, sustainability was, you know, really kind of like fashionable at that moment. You know, I just thought you know, where it used to be and nice to have, it was certainly a have to have all new brands. And it was up to us to really ensure that the product, and the packaging was sustainably sourced and sustainable. But then we were chatting together and chatting with our team and our chemist and were like, we also want like high, high products gets made because we understand that when we put these active ingredients in certain oils and things like that, I even understand not being a chemist that, you know, we put them into this here, it's heated up to a certain temperature to blend the ingredients together, right. And they walked us through this whole process and what's on them. But then they're evaporating or they're losing their efficacy during this process. And so this is how we kind of started this conversation about, you know, how can we do this differently? How can we be more sustainable from the very beginning not just from the packaging, not just this afterthought? On like, how do we do something that is sustainable for the ingredients going in so that they have, you know, a better process, they're more nutrient dense, but also we're using much less energy and that's where coal process patent came in. And we coal process method which is hyperbaric chamber cold air and pressure to blend ingredients together with a typically, you would use heat because it's much easier to blend them together, it takes less time, and so forth. So yeah, we developed this process and we use it for all our products. And that for us was like we use 90% less energy. So yeah, looking back to like, how you can be from supply chain more sustainable to actually the creation of your products and how you're using the ingredients and then obviously, packaging and other areas of the business.

    Elizabeth Stein 09:34
    That's amazing. So you launch the business and initially, what would you say was like that big moment? Because, as you said, there wasn't a lot of conversation about scalp health. So was that, what was that like for you?

    Helen Reavey 10:45
    It actually was pretty tough at the beginning, because people just weren't there just yet. And I remember someone, like, I can't remember exactly what was the talk, or someone said to me or read it somewhere. But it was said, If you build it, they will come. You know, and people didn't yet know why it was important, and why you would need to take care of your scalp. And thankfully, you know, TikTok, Instagram, all these platforms where you can provide this education to mastermind to people, you know, was available to us. So it really was just us, hitting them over the head, hitting people over the head constantly with this education. And talking about scalp health why it's so important. Myself, being a trichologist, like really giving the science and the background to why it's so important having that kind of expert advice, so that people would trust in us as well. Showing the before and afters we have this incredible camera. And at the beginning, we didn't know how to use this or like this is pretty gross. But now TikTok love it, Instagram, love those kind of like gross before and afters. So it was a lot of just education stepping into, you know, what we believed in. And, you know, it'd be very easy for us to just halfway through that first year go, right, we're just, we're just going to be a haircare brand. Because that would have been so much easier, there's less education, we don't have to talk, you know, to the consumer as much they understand what a leave in conditioner is. But we everything that we created was new. And it was also exciting, though, as well. So that was was, you know, people were really into their skincare routines, that kind of the natural evolution was scalp and hair. So it was perfect timing in a way. But it took us you know quite a while and a lot of effort to really kind of educate people on why they need our products, why they need to take care of their scalp, and you know, also, this isn't a quick fix, you're not going to see this immediately. So trust in us that taking care of yourself is going to give you better long, long term effect. So for the first year, you know, you don't have a lot of those kind of reviews, testimonials, because you do need people using this for a long period of time. But now see, we've been four years into it and it's been amazing. And the results are incredible. People are loving the product. And we're seeing like real results because people are giving it the time.

    Elizabeth Stein 13:11
    That's so exciting. Well, I would love for you to share a little bit on the education. And maybe first like what would people be super surprised to learn about their scalp and scalp health

    Helen Reavey 13:23
    And surprised that your scalp ages six times faster than your face? That's always, you know, a crazy stat that we share with people, and they're always very surprised by it. And you know, obviously we can't like your face see, you can see anything you can't see yourself easy unless you're going under under a microscope and see that but how that kind of relates to your hair is when your scalp ages and loses the ability to hold moisture and you need moisture to keep the hair in its thickest kind of healthiest condition. Also to keep the scalp and it certainly you need moisture for growth and keeping the scalp in a good kind of like phase so that it doesn't cause certain issues that happen over time like dandruff, psoriasis, seborrhis dermatitis and things like that.

    Elizabeth Stein 14:11
    Oh, that's crazy. I definitely did not know that. So give us some other must need to know on why our scalp health is important. And then and then how your products help work with that.

    Helen Reavey 14:28
    So where do I start? Um I suppose you lose 100 hairs every day. So the hair has a cycle. And that 100 hairs fall out and then it goes into the new hair then goes into a resting phase. So you're waiting another 100 days for that new hair to grow. So it's thinking of like the hair in this cycle so that 100 hairs have fallen out that day. They've now gone into the rest phase. So in that 100 day period, what are you gonna do for that new hair coming in? You want to ensure that your scalp is properly exfoliated using a chemical exfoliant, not a scalp scrub, because you've seen a lot of those on the markets and as a trichologist, I'm like stay away. They don't actually provide anything good for the scalp. So you want to use a chemical exfoliant, treat your scalp like you treat your face. You'd never use like a physical exfoliant on your face. So use a chemical exfoliant something similar to ensure that the scalp is balanced. You also want to ensure that the products that you're using are not stripping scalp. So things like our scalp and your perfect list. There's chemical exfoliant with salicylic acid, and salicylic acid, as you know, on the skin, it removes skin very gently. But what's incredible about it and why it works so well for scalp conditions is it has antifungal properties in it. So it's taking the bad bacteria away, but it's not disrupting the good bacteria. So your scalp has a microbiome, like your gut health. Exactly. You want to ensure like the end goal for the scalp is get the scalp to homeostasis, where the scalp is balanced microbiome was balanced. And that's straight taking care of your scalp but also with the right products do a lot of debunking as well. You know on like people think that it's it's harmful to wash your hair every day. Yeah, it's harmful to blow dry your hair and put heat onto but the harm isn't done while washing your hair. And it's harmful and to put dry shampoo in it for days on days in between. So the best option is definitely as a trichologist to any scalp concerns, you need to clean your hair daily. If you're suffering from hair loss, you need to clean that daily. And the reason why is because when we sweat or natural sebum, there are lipids and not that feed off the bacteria. And then if you have hair loss issues, you want to make sure that when that hair has fallen like and again like that resting phase, that it's clean, so that nutrients are been able to be delivered to the hair follicle blood flow to the hair follicle as well. Now if you have menopausal hair loss or a female or male baldness pattern, then the reason why you want to make sure that the scalp was clean because it DSj comes out in the oil. And that's what miniaturizes the hair follicle. Sorry, I'm getting deep on that.

    Elizabeth Stein 17:19
    No, this is great.

    Helen Reavey 17:20
    This is the top rows are keep the scalp clean and exfoliated. But don't go too rigorous you're not going to exfoliate it every single day, using nice oils that have you know antifungal properties and stimulating properties and soothing properties and lowlands to ensure that the scalp is hydrated, hydrated and clean and not stripping those and all our products are formulated and written that way so that they're nutrient dense because of the cold process formula. So they're delivering to the hair follicle. They're soothing on the scalp, they gently remove without these harsh chemicals or ingredients within it. And then taking care of the scalp so that the nutrients are being delivered for that healthy hair growth. We want to ensure that the scalp just is in place so that when the hair comes through, it has the best environment to grow. Also nutrition and this is the one you will love and we're very into nutrition is as important as what you put on your body for yourself as well. You want to make sure that you're getting all the right nutrients. If there's one mineral that's low, it goes like you will see it in your hair loss or the hair will start to send a low, you'll notice it straight away in your nails, your skin, and your hair. But the nutrients, minerals so important because that deficit, it goes to protect all the other organs in your body and your hair is the last because it's not considered an essential a part of the body.

    Elizabeth Stein 18:49
    Is there a particular nutrient, vitamin, etc. that is most essential for hair.

    Helen Reavey 18:56
    I would say no, there are multiple but for me number one is iron. And it's a one that most humans are lacking in or deficient in in some way. And you also need you know the right amount protein because this is there protein, protein amino acids, you need biotin to break the protein down into amino acids to come out through your hair. So I saw one of those minerals are slightly off in that 100 days when that hair is going into that new growth cycle, then you will that's how you start to notice hair thinning or you know just a little weaker in certain areas as well.

    Elizabeth Stein 19:30
    Do you supplement with anything in particular for your hair?

    Helen Reavey 19:34
    I actually use oxygenated hair vitamins, but I also supplement with an iron supplement as well when I am low. But I do recommend I don't recommend people take in supplements like 365 days of the year. We recommend three to six months with ours and you take a break and then if you feel like you needed to go back on it again. A lot of our products and a lot of things that we develop as well. We're like this is for this moment in time time where you know you're having issues and we're going to help you through we're like very problem solution oriented. And then we do have our like our daily kind of like capsules and conditioner and stuff. But overall, our treatments are focused around a period of time. We don't, we don't want to use it for forever

    Elizabeth Stein 20:18
    Right? So for the for the let's kind of break it down into two different sections like one your everyday items and then your treatment items. And first, maybe starting with treatment, what would you say, one, are kind of the problems that most people come to you for looking for that solution? Is it hair thinning,hair loss, dandruff, etc.

    Helen Reavey 20:40
    At the moment it's kind of 50/50 with oily roots and dandruff. So scalp concerns or scalp conditions, whether that be overproduction of oil dandruff dries out. Now a lot of people don't know the difference between them all, so I'm kind of going to bucket them into one kind of category of scalp conditions. And then hair loss, being the other 50%. So we do see it across like it's a very even split our interest. And sometimes people are, you know, kind of like dabbling in both. So you have scalp conditions and hair loss, which can also lead to that, you know, and so yeah, those are the two main ones. And when it comes to providing the right products, we do have system set up, we also have a hair quiz, or a scalp quiz. So we'll have like, oily scalp system, this is what you need to for, it is what you need if you have a dry scalp, but also if you have dandruff, this is what we recommend for you. And also we recommend you cleanse your hair this many times. So giving them all the education, not just these are your products and how you use them, but also this is the frequency, you do need to wash your hair more often. This is why I'm providing all those solutions to people. But our top two treatments for the scalp conditions would be scalp renew, and scalp detox. Those are pretty scalp treatments, we put them in before the shower. And then for hair loss, we have our hair vitamins, our stem cell scalp serum and our dermaroller. So those would be the kind of products that I would set or the kind of programs that I would set people on whenever they're suffering from those two as as a starting point.

    Elizabeth Stein 22:15
    And then for those who just want to be using everyday kind of maintenance or once you get to that maintenance, what would you say are the products that you know if someone who's new to the brand should be starting with and to be in their everyday repor or maybe not every day but their weekly repertoire?

    Helen Reavey 22:30
    I would do the scalp the scalp detox that was kind of like our hero, or baby or sorry, that was our baby our hero product that's what we launched with because it really is our one product that does everything so it's an oil treatment that breaks down product build up it balances a scalp, it has nutrients within it to help feed the hair follicle but also stimulate hair growth which the basil effects right but it's just so soothing on the scalp. That's where I would start with everyone but again it really that's for someone with zero scalp issues no hair loss, I would just say start with this our essentials which is scalp detox, hair cleanser, and conditioner.

    Elizabeth Stein 23:13
    Awesome. I have them in my bathroom. I love it. I'm a big fan. I would love to hear a little bit more about some of your like product development process and whether that is you know how you go through innovation or sourcing ingredients kind of the behind the scenes on all of that.

    Helen Reavey 23:32
    Yes, I love this question because I didn't get asked this quite a lot and especially as new founders as well and you know we did make it very hard for ourselves because we're not only cold process which means that we cannot copy anybody we cannot white label anything everything has to be from scratch for us, which was which puts on a lot more time but that's all I'm also very proud of because you know we are so innovative when it comes to our product development everything is new on the market you've never seen it before. And also then the second thing being scalp, this was never a thing either. But you can apply similar kind of rules from the skin to the scalp. So when I started innovating you know products and thinking of new products I'm always thinking about the skin, what ingredients are doing what for the skin because we can almost always apply those to the scalp you know, thinking of like what active ingredients so take stem cekks out there for example, either Swiss Apple Stem Cell I've never seen it been used in anything before and it's also typically with haircare products that don't put a lot of active ingredients into it because it's very expensive as well but when you're talking about scalp health and treatment showbiz you really need this to work it's you know, a lot of them aren't turns off products so we want them to you know, stay on stay on the scalp. The active ingredients to you know, be working on the scalp, providing either relief or helping stimulate a blood flow and to help stimulate the hair growth hormone as well. So stem cells, either Swiss Apple Stem cells that help rejuvenate the skin cells on your scalp prolong the lifecycle of the hair follicle. And stem cells being old tonight, stem cells, Apple Stem cells are incredible for creating helping with the collagen production, which helps with the hair growth hormones. So all these incredible, we are innovating, we're looking to what ingredients are on the market that never been used before that will help with all these different solutions.

    Elizabeth Stein 25:37
    Where do you look for those ingredients? Is that something that you're just like, constantly researching or going and visiting, going to Mexico and just getting inspired by

    Helen Reavey 25:48
    I mean, yes, I've been on farms in Mexico getting inspired. And you know, my I came this last time, I'll bring all these crazy ideas. And he's like, what, or have you been gettin this. But yeah, it's constantly researching constantly thinking of new ideas, just being creative. You know, it's like, because I'll sit in the last my camera, I like thought why does that not work? You know, I tell me why it doesn't work because I don't understand. You know, like, for example, when you're going to be in coughing, you need to use a proper delivery system to go to the scalp. You can't just use it like this, you know. So it's called saying learning and evading, we have a dedicated chemist that works for Act + Acre that's also very important that that is our person who understands our brand or ethos like, how we search for ingredients. He's always researching as well. There are different forums, there are different, you know, seminars or different, you know, conferences that you can go to, that are constantly bringing new ideas and new ingredients. Yeah.

    Elizabeth Stein 26:49
    So cool. Are there any top offenders that people should be on the lookout, if you know the products that they might have at home right now that are maybe scalp helping or just even in their regular shampoos and conditioners that you're like, oh my god, absolutely. Make sure you stay away from XY and Z.

    Helen Reavey 27:09
    Yes, a first would be silicone. And I'm not saying totally avoid silicone, sometimes they're necessary or you know, they're nice, they're nice to have, but just not in your everyday products. Or, for example, because they're in every conditioner, we don't use any silicone. So that's a thing that's been very hard to formulate to create products that have this nice silky feel, because silicones act like a plastic coating on the hair. So they actually block moisture from getting in, they look amazing at the beginning, as I said they can, you know, serve a purpose sometimes if you want your hair to look beautiful and shiny and silky, but prolonged period of time it builds up on the hair, it's very hard to break down. So maybe you know, only using it first once an occasion or once in a while when you feel like your hair actually, you know, you need it for a blow dry or something like that, you know, so avoid that. Sulfates have been around for a long time, you know, know sulfates that's kind of like a normal and that everyone but also very heavily fragrance products, you notice all our products are not free fragrance, very subtle, and most of our treatments don't have any fragrance at all. And so it's really the theme for that. And, you know, trying to avoid as many things as possible, but also understanding that, you know, some some things are necessary as well. And so maybe, you know, doing that little bit of research to understand, okay, if this is used at this level, it's okay or, you know, making sure that you're not using certain ingredients or certain levels, but definitely silicones sulfates will be your top ones. Yeah, and fragrance.

    Elizabeth Stein 28:53
    Okay great, great ones to take away. Curious to hear your personal night and morning routines.

    Helen Reavey 29:03
    Oh, yes. So in the morning..

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