These Are the Absolute Best Products for a Healthy, Happy Scalp
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If we’ve said it once, we’ve said it 1,000 times: The scalp is like the soil from which your hair grows. And even the best dry scalp treatment is only the tip of the iceberg: If the conditions up top your head are unfavorable (too dry, too oily, too itchy, too flaky, too etc…) then you’re going to take a big hit on hair quality and quantity. Poor soil yields poor crops, and the same can be said for unbalanced scalps and hair.
That’s not to say that scalp care is the only thing standing between you and hair loss. Because many things cause hair loss. But scalp care is right up there with having a good diet, quitting smoking, cutting back on drinking, sleeping a lot in terms of growing the best hair your DNA allows.
Our bald brethren, of course, need to take extra care with their scalp: They’re got a heckuva lot more dermal real estate to take care of—the scalp is their calling card! If you’ve got an itchy, peely, or oily scalp, then it’s on full display for the rest of us.
Much of scalp care is centered on the products you use. Or perhaps we should say it this way: Many of your problems might be caused by the products you are currently using, or those which you’re yet to pick up. To help you right any wrongs, we’ll go over the tenets of a great scalp care regimen and pick some of the very best products on the market.
Use a Scalp-Focused Shampoo (Or Two)
Shampoos are notorious for drying out the hair (hence the need for the conditioner after each wash), but they’re also terrific at flushing away buildup and grime from the scalp—and the best shampoos do so with targeted ingredients for different scalp scenarios.
A detox shampoo is like a deep clean. A new start. It’s probably too intense to use every other day, so sub it in once a week, or after a really intense sweat. It’s important to follow with a deeply nourishing conditioner, and even a scalp balancing treatment, in case the detox is too good at its job. People with especially oily hair will really appreciate this type of shampoo.
A balancing shampoo is also great for oily hair and scalps, in that it pulls away excess oil but leaves enough in its wake for the scalp and hair to stay hydrated. It’s a better pick for an every-other-day or twice-weekly shampoo, so it’ll get more mileage than a detox option (not that mileage indicates superiority).
An anti-dandruff shampoo might not necessarily have the familiar active ingredients (like pyrithione zinc or ketoconazole)—but the ones that do have these ingredients are terrific treatments for existing flakes, itching, and potential buildups. Some anti-dandruff shampoos are preventative in nature (and are more like detox + balance shampoos); they will indicate this with their ingredients (like sage extract, which creates scalp harmony but doesn’t necessarily treat active dandruff). Use this product as needed—once a month for assurance against flaking, or whenever you start to notice itching or flaking. The ones with active ingredients can be a little too drying if used as your routine, regular shampoo when it’s not otherwise necessary.
A stimulating shampoo will use ingredients like biotin or saw palmetto to invigorate hair growth on the scalp, and will likely incorporate other ingredients to preserve scalp balance. On their own, these are not effective means of preventing hair loss, but are rather a terrific supplement for a proactive hair retention regimen.
Add a Targeted Scalp Treatment to Your Regimen
There is a big gray area in the naming of scalp treatment products: You’ll see scalp masks, serums, creams, oils, and more. And some are simply called “treatments.” Just think of this entire category as “treatments”, then, but know that each one requires some different kind of frequency based on its aim. It is your responsibility to follow the brand’s instructions for optimal effects. We suggest having a couple in your arsenal, since some can keep your scalp hydrated and balanced regularly while others bring the muscle for more targeted, heavy-duty tasks.
Scalp hydrators: Some creams, serums, and masks will focus on hydration. Some can be used daily (many creams and serums), while others are incorporated once weekly (typically masks). They aren’t just for people with routinely dry scalps, either; we can all use a little hydration, especially after a wash. Some nourishing treatments also promise to fuel the follicles and fortify hair growth.
Scalp clarifiers: These treatments focus on toning oil production and sometimes even gentle chemical exfoliation, to rid of dead skin and keep pores clear for optimal follicle growth.
Scalp balancers: These can also be clarifying, but specifically, this category refers to treatments that soothe and calm the scalp. They might target bacterial and fungal threats, which in turn prevents itching, inflammation, and flaking.
Exfoliate the Scalp Once a Week
Exfoliating the scalp lifts away dead skin cells and allows follicles to grow unencumbered. They can prevent sebum buildup and clogged pores alike. Some scalp treatments, serums, masks and such have chemical exfoliants in their formulas (salicylic acid and lactic acid are common ones), but you can also get your exfoliation from a palm-held scalp scrubber device or a viscous scalp exfoliant. It’s a matter of preference which method you prefer.
Shield Your Scalp from the Sun
You can think of your scalp as an extension of your face, at least when it comes to sun protection. Use SPF face moisturizers or face sunscreens if you’ve got a bald dome or recessed hairline. However, hairlines, bald spots, and cowlicks might be easier to protect with an SPF powder, while buzz cuts and thinning or fine hair could benefit from an SPF spray. (A hat covers your bases of course.)
In crafting your skincare routine, knowing your skin type is the first, most essential step you need to take.…