To say scalp care is the new skincare is no understatement. For the past couple years, haircare and skincare brands have been shifting their focus to create hybrid products that aim to keep the hair and scalp healthy. Today, the personal care industry is flooded with such products for good reason — the skin on the top of your head is just as important to take care of as the skin on the rest of your body.
At this point, you’re likely wondering if your shampoo and conditioner routine is enough. The short answer is that it can be, if you are doing it right. Here, we asked the experts to break down the ins and outs of scalp care.
Why Scalp Health Matters
Your scalp health is directly correlated to your hair health. “It’s like the soil in which the plant — or, in this case, your hair — grows,” says Benjamin Paul, MD, a double board certified facial plastic surgeon and surgeon director at HairCareMD in NYC. While the scalp is an extension of the skin on your face, it is thicker and has about 100,000 hair follicles to support.
Through brand research, newly launched hair care brand SundayIISunday found that the scalp ages six times faster than the skin on your face and body. “Given the position on the body, it’s more exposed to direct environmental impacts on a more frequent basis, even with a head full of hair,” brand manager McKenzie Harris explains.
How to Care for the Scalp
As with the rest of your skin, it’s important to start taking care of your scalp sooner than later. After all, it’s far easier to prevent damage than it is to correct it. Instead of fine lines and hyperpigmentation that skincare often address, scalp care is often formulated to treat and prevent concerns like dryness, flaking, product build up, thinning, and even hair loss.
In order for your scalp to function properly, it needs a bit of TLC. Consistently removing debris, dirt, and oil through your scalp stimulation should be part of any haircare routine to maintain the integrity of the hair. Regularly brushing and shampooing is a great start. But how often you do so really depends on the amount of sebum (oil) your scalp produces on a daily basis. Your hair follicles can easily become blocked due to dead skin cells, product buildup, and sebum, which inhibits hair growth.
As far as shampoo goes, Dr. Paul has these recommendations based on a patient’s scalp type:
- Dry Scalp: You may be shampooing too frequently. Try reducing your shampoo routine to two to three times per week and use a scalp serum or oil (more on that below!) to add moisture prior to cleansing.
- Oily Scalp: If you have an oily scalp, you may benefit from washing your hair more often. Find a shampoo that doesn’t claim to be ‘moisturizing’ and use conditioner only on the mid-lengths and ends.
- Sensitive Scalp: The temperature of water you use in the shower will impact your scalp health. Cool or lukewarm water tends to be best, especially when paired with a gentle shampoo.
- Itchy Scalp: If you are dealing with itchiness or discomfort, make an appointment with your dermatologist for an evaluation. It can often be treated with an anti-dandruff shampoo.
But scalp care goes beyond washing. Brushing matters, too. “That old wives tail of brushing your hair and scalp 100 times before you go to bed really works,” says Ted Gibson, celebrity hairdresser, salon owner, and founder of Starring by Ted Gibson. “It helps to distribute your own natural oils throughout your hair and also stimulate the scalp, which I think is one of the most important parts of scalp care.”
Products for Scalp Care
On the product side, there is a new crop on the market — from serums and oils to exfoliants and masks — created specifically with the scalp in mind. “[Customers are] looking for high performance scalp and hair care products that mirror skincare in a wide range of formats and functionalities,” Harris says. Below are a few of our favorite entrants:
Serum: Sunday II Sunday Soothe Me Daily Scalp Serum
To cool and moisturize a dry, itchy scalp, try this scalp serum infused with peppermint oil and ginseng. Apply to wet or dry hair every morning or evening by massaging the lightweight tonic into the scalp with your fingertips (not nails!). It also helps to relieve tension from protective styles like braids. $28, mysunday2sunday.com
Shampoo: Neutrogena Healthy Scalp Shampoo
Neutrogena just came out with a collection of four shampoos that feature different skincare ingredients to target different scalp types. Clarify & Shine, for example, uses pink grapefruit to help balance oil, while Hydro Boost includes hyaluronic acid (HA) for added hydration. They’re all pH-balanced and gentle, so you can use them regularly without drying your hair out. $9, walmart.com
Conditioner: Dove DermaCare Scalp Dryness & Itch Relief Conditioner
Considered a dandruff solution, this conditioner from Dove is light enough to be massaged into your scalp and contains moisturizing ingredients that relieve dryness and itchiness. Dandruff or no dandruff, the formula is sure to soothe a dry scalp. $7, cvs.com
Oil: Leonor Greyl Régénerescence Naturelle
Twice per week, apply this roller-ball formula all over your scalp, massaging it in with your fingertips and letting it sit for 15 minutes before shampooing. The pre-wash treatment contains a blend of oils like borage and mimosa tenuiflora to help strengthen your locks. $40, lenoregreyl-usa.com
Scrub: Kérastase Scrub Apaisant Soothing Scalp Scrub
Good for all hair and scalp types, this scrub contains jojoba oil to nourish, vitamin B5 to strengthen, and sweet orange essential oil for a scentsorial pick-me-up. Use once per week by massaging the granular scrub into your scalp once a week — just like you would a facial exfoliator — and rinsing. Follow with your favorite shampoo and conditioner. $50, kerastase-usa.com
Mask: Jupiter Purifying Mask
Made with detoxifying volcanic ash, this tingly clarifying scalp mask foams up to remove the build up of product and dead skin that can clog the hair follicles. Use once per week before shampooing. $26, hellojupiter.com
In-Salon Treatment: R+Co Super Garden CBD Scalp Soothing Concentrate
R+Co’s in-salon treatment acts as a pre-cleansing step that soothes the scalp while nourishing the hair at the root. Formulated with CBD, witch hazel, peppermint, eucalyptus, and coconut oils, regular use will help balance the scalp. Your hairstylist will apply the serum to your scalp and strands before shampooing and leave it on for five minutes before rinsing. randco.com for salon locations
No matter your hair type, it is important to give your scalp the care and attention it deserves. A healthy mane begins with a healthy scalp. While regular cleansing and brushing often do the trick, it’s important to pay attention to what the skin on the top of your head is trying to tell you, so you can treat it accordingly. If you are unsure of where to start, consult with your hairstylist or dermatologist.
All products featured are independently selected by our editors, however, AEDIT may receive a commission on items purchased through our links.
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