Do You Need A Skincare Routine For Your Scalp?

Skincare routines are common, but what about our scalps? The conversation around scalp care and its impact on hair health is becoming increasingly common. Learn why and what hair-enhancing practices are worthwhile.
Written by India Bottomley
Is this article helpful?6 min read
Do You Need A Skincare Routine For Your Scalp?Thought Catalog | Unsplash

When it comes to skincare routines, most people have it covered. Whether it’s a simple cleanse and moisturize or a complex 10-step routine, our faces have never been as pampered as they are today. But your skin doesn’t stop when it reaches your hairline - so, does your scalp need a skincare routine too? And if so, what should that look like? We’ve spoken to New York-based dermatologists Dr. Marisa Garshick and Dr. Amy Spizuoco and board-certified Head & Neck Surgeon and Facial Plastic Surgeon, Dr. William A. Kennedy to find out everything you need to know about scalp skincare routines - and what a healthy scalp-care routine should look like.

What makes the skin on your scalp different?

Before delving into the merits of having a scalp care routine, let’s start by looking at what makes the skin on your scalp special, and what that means for how you should be taking care of it. While the scalp is an extension of the skin on our bodies, it also acts as a base for thousands of hair follicles and glands. These unique conditions mean that traditional skincare products won’t be the right fit for your scalp.”The weather, stress, age, and scalp-stripping hair products can all trigger irritation and dryness that present as tiny flakes. Hydrating shampoos and conditioners made with humectant ingredients like aloe or glycerin will help the scalp retain its much-needed moisture,” Dr. Spizuoco explains.

What are the benefits of caring for your scalp?

Caring for your scalp offers numerous benefits beyond just looking after your skin. Scalp care promotes hair growth by providing a healthy environment in which your hair follicles will thrive, while also preventing common issues like dandruff and excess oiliness. Massaging your scalp can improve circulation, reducing stress and promoting relaxation. Additionally, scalp care supports overall skin health, protecting against environmental damage and premature aging. Just as aging skin on other parts of your body lose moisture, older scalp hair follicles also lose nutrients and moisture and this causes your hair to lose its luxurious, youthful appearance, Dr. Kennedy tells us.

How many steps should you include in a scalp skincare routine?

Scalp care doesn’t need to be complicated, Dr. Garshick tells us: “In general, at a minimum caring for your scalp should include proper cleansing with a shampoo to remove buildup without drying out the scalp.” But for some people, a more complex routine could be advisable: “Exfoliating can be helpful to get rid of dead skin cells and in other cases, properly nourishing the scalp and moisturizing the scalp may be needed.” Generally speaking, approaching scalp care as you would skincare is advisable, adjusting the steps you include depending on specific concerns or goals. ”Some scalp ingredients can be too harsh to be on facial skin,” Dr. Spizuoco points out, so be sure to use specific products for your face and scalp. Dr. Kennedy says not to forget that scalp care is skin care; and everyones skin care should include a healthy mix of nondrying cleaning exfoliation, moisturizing, and frequent gentle massage to encourage blood flow and hair follicle nutrition

Which steps should be included in a scalp care routine?

Much like skincare, scalp care routines can be adjusted over time as the condition of your skin evolves. Dr. Spizuoco shared her ideal scalp care routine with us:

  • Start with a pre-shampoo treatment: these oils, balms, and butters target specific scalp and hair concerns. They are typically applied 10-15 minutes before you shower to allow them time to get to work on your scalp.

  • Use an exfoliating shampoo: this step is probably the most straightforward to add to your routine simply by switching out your regular shampoo for something kinder to your scalp. To take your scalp cleanse to the next level, look for a shampoo with skincare ingredients such as salicylic acid which helps control the production of sebum which can make your skin and hair appear oily.

  • Give your scalp a massage: use your fingers or a scalp massaging tool to gently massage your skin. Starting at your forehead, massage in small circular motions, and gradually move toward the crown and back of your head. If your hair isn’t too knotted, you can then firmly comb your fingers along your scalp.

  • Keep your scalp soothed & hydrated: apply a spray or leave-in scalp serum to keep the skin on your scalp calm and happy until your next hair wash.

What does an ideal scalp care shelf look like?

Now that we’ve gone over the steps you might want to include, Dr. Garshick talks us through what a great scalp care shelf would look like for most people:

  • Pre-wash Treatment: Biolage Scalp Sync Purifying Concentrate - intended for use before shampooing, this scalp concentrate helps to remove the buildup of excess oil and dead skin cells using glycolic acid and fermented tea extract.

  • Shampoo: “When it comes to shampoo the frequency may vary based on hair and scalp type as those with oily hair may prefer to wash their hair every day or every other day while those with dry scalp or hair may prefer to wash less often.” She recommends Dove Hair Therapy Dry Scalp Care Shampoo: “this sulfate-free shampoo helps to nourish the scalp and minimizes dryness. It is formulated with vitamin B3 which helps to calm the scalp leaving the hair and scalp looking healthy and refreshed.”

  • Scalp treatment: “For scalp treatments, some are meant to be applied before shampooing, while others may be applied to a clean scalp after shampooing and then rinsed out and others left in for a period of time.” One of her recommended treatments is Briogeo Don’t Despair, Repair Conditioner - “This nourishing conditioner, while should be focused on the hair, can help to nourish, soften and smooth the hair while also minimizing the potential for breakage,” she told us. “It incorporates conditioning ingredients such as algae extract, panthenol, and rosehip oil.”

  • Leave In: Lastly, a leave-in product:” Dove Scalp + Hair Therapy Density Boost Serum” is recommended by Dr. Garshick. She explained: “This leave-in serum has been shown to improve overall hair density with 90 days of use while also helping to moisturize the scalp and strengthen the roots. It contains niacinamide, peptides, glycerin, and zinc gluconate which helps to prevent hair shedding and strengthen the hair.”

How frequently should you use a skincare routine for your scalp?

Less is often more when it comes to scalp care, beyond cleansing daily or every other day, a more involved scalp care routine should only be practiced once or twice a week, unless your dermatologist or trichologist has advised otherwise of course. Dr. Garshick told us “In general, exfoliation or deep conditioning treatments may only be needed 1-2 times per week or even just a few times per month depending on the specific treatment that is needed. For those with a very dry scalp, it can help to do a deep conditioning treatment once per week or once every other week, while for those with oily scalp or a lot of dandruff or buildup, using an exfoliating treatment 1-2 times per week can be helpful.”

In brief

Most people already have a scalp care routine of sorts simply by cleansing their hair multiple times a week. And while, in some cases, that may be just enough, sometimes your scalp needs a little TLC too. By adding a few steps to your routine you can keep your scalp healthy, hydrated, and flake-free to help give your hair the best chance at feeling and looking great. While there’s generally no need to add several steps to your everyday scalp care routine, having a more in-depth routine a couple of times each week could help your scalp skin in the long run.

Was this helpful?
INDIA BOTTOMLEYis a contributing writer for AEDIT.

Related Procedures



‘Try on’ aesthetic procedures and instantly visualize possible results with AEDIT and our patented 3D aesthetic simulator.

App QR Code