Skin Care

Is a Scalp Care Routine Actually Vital? This is What Specialists Say

I’ve been within the skincare trade for over 30 years now, so I’ve positively seen my fair proportion of traits come and go. A few of them had benefit, however as a rule, they didn’t stay as much as the thrill and so they turned out to be simply one other passing fad.

The most recent development to come back about—which might be fueled at the least partly by social media—is all about scalp care. Skincare manufacturers are launching scalp-specific merchandise and persons are sharing their private scalp care routines on Instagram and Tik Tok. However is a scalp care routine actually crucial? Is that this simply one other short-lived development or is there actual worth to this?

On this publish, I’ll share my ideas on this matter. I’ll additionally talk about frequent scalp points and reply continuously requested questions with the assistance of two superb specialists. The primary is board-certified dermatologist Dr. Laura Speck, and the second is NYC trichologist, hair well being professional, and host of Hair Like Hers Podcast, Shab Reslan.

First, Is the Pores and skin on the Scalp Any Completely different From the Pores and skin on the Face?

From a physiological standpoint, the pores and skin on the scalp is thicker than the pores and skin on the remainder of the physique. It has quite a lot of blood vessels and capillaries that connect with and provide hair follicles. It additionally has quite a lot of sebaceous glands. Actually, it’s one of the vital closely populated sebaceous gland areas on the entire physique, which explains why most peoples’ hair will get significantly greasy after it’s not washed for some time.

Despite the fact that scalp pores and skin is thicker than the pores and skin on different areas of the physique, it’s very delicate. Because of this, it could be extra susceptible to points than facial pores and skin. Take it from Reslan, who says, “because of the present nature of the setting and our way of life habits, our scalps require extra consideration than ever. Correct scalp care is usually neglected by many individuals because the focus is principally on the aesthetic of the hair itself. On account of an increase in hair thinning and hair loss points, the main target is now shifting to the scalp and the significance of sustaining a wholesome scalp microbiome, particularly for girls. Because the scalp is an extension of our facial pores and skin, it equally has a pH degree, moisture ranges, and cells that profit from exfoliation and regeneration.” 

What Are Among the Most Widespread Scalp Considerations?


In accordance with Speck, one of the vital frequent issues (and the problem she sees probably the most in her personal sufferers) is dandruff. “The medical time period for that’s seborrheic dermatitis,” she says. “For adults, it sometimes begins within the late-20s and might ebb and circulate over time.” 

Dandruff occurs when the pores and skin undergoes fast keratinization (that is when pores and skin cells reproduce too shortly). As a result of they’re replicating so quick, they’re not capable of harden and change into flat and protecting. The end result? The pores and skin isn’t tight and compressed, so it flakes off simply.

The reason for dandruff has been recognized for over 50 years. It’s brought on by a fungus referred to as malassezia furfur. This fungus feeds on extra sebum on the scalp after which secretes free fatty acids and different byproducts. It’s these free fatty acids that inflame and compromise the pores and skin on the scalp. In different phrases, it’s not essentially the fungus itself, however its byproducts.

To deal with dandruff, antifungal brokers like selenium oxide and zinc pyrithione are used. These brokers assist cease the overgrowth of the dandruff-causing fungi. For extra extreme instances of dandruff, there are prescription choices as properly. Should you suppose you’ve dandruff, Speck says it is best to use an anti-dandruff shampoo 2-3 instances per week. “The secret is, that you just need to therapeutic massage it via the scalp and let it sit for 2-5 minutes earlier than rinsing it out. Observe with the shampoo and conditioner of your alternative for the size of your hair. If that isn’t chopping it, go to your dermatologist who can consider the reason for your flaking and provide you with a prescription if wanted.” 


Right here’s an attention-grabbing reality for you—many instances, when persons are experiencing scalp flakiness, they’re not experiencing dandruff in any respect. As a substitute, they’re experiencing some form of irritation, whether or not that’s some sort of dermatitis and even low-grade psoriasis. That’s why I all the time advocate consulting a dermatologist to get a prognosis. They’ve the educated eye and data required to find out the distinction between dandruff and dermatitis. And truly, for those who attempt to deal with dermatitis or psoriatic pores and skin with dandruff shampoos, you would possibly make issues worse!


One other attention-grabbing reality in regards to the scalp is that the pores and skin doesn’t change very a lot with age, other than pores and skin thickness and dryness. In one study, researchers discovered that scalp thickness elevated, and the power of the pores and skin to remain hydrated decreased with age. Which means transepidermal water loss, and subsequent pores and skin dryness and dehydration, are more likely to enhance with age.

On this occasion, hydrating scalp merchandise would possibly turn out to be useful. You may strive utilizing merchandise that include humectants. These are substances that assist the pores and skin protect and retain moisture. They’re helpful for dehydrated pores and skin, particularly for those who’re shampooing too typically and stripping your pores and skin of moisture (however extra on that in a bit).

What Form of Scalp Care Merchandise Are Out There, and Are They Vital?

Whereas there’s no scarcity of scalp care merchandise that declare to deal with virtually each problem and concern, I imagine they are often boiled down to a few major classes. There are scalp serums, scalp oils, and scalp exfoliators (or scalp scrubs). Let’s do a deep dive into every sort of product and talk about whether or not or not they will present any actual profit for the pores and skin on the scalp!

Scalp Serums

Similar to face serums, scalp serums are marketed as focused therapies to enhance the state of the pores and skin (and hair). Whereas it is a comparatively new product class, I believe they are often useful when you have dry pores and skin and so they include the correct substances. Once more, search for humectants. These will assist replenish moisture and preserve your scalp hydrated.

You may also search for scalp serums which are labeled as “microbiome-friendly” or one thing to that impact. We’re simply starting to study in regards to the significance of the microbiome, however what we do know is that it’s vital to maintain it balanced. I  would additionally search for scalp serums with substances that assist cut back or regulate oil since that may assist preserve dandruff-causing fungi in verify.

Scalp Serums and Hair Loss

Some scalp serums declare to scale back or reverse hair loss, however I’m not bought on that. Actually, I might warning in opposition to utilizing any of those in your at-home scalp care routine. That’s as a result of there are numerous causes for hair loss, and usually talking, a scalp serum gained’t handle the basis causes. That’s until it comprises an ingredient referred to as minoxidil, which is the one accepted ingredient in the USA and Canada to assist regrow hair. If something, most of them are in all probability serving to to scale back breakage, which could be helpful, however they gained’t essentially goal hair loss straight.

“If you might be experiencing hair loss or signs resembling an itchy or flaky scalp, see a dermatologist to have them diagnose the trigger,” Speck says. “They are going to information you thru what routine can be most helpful for you.” 

Scalp Oils

Scalp oils are simply that—plant oils used to nourish, moisturize, or deal with the scalp in a roundabout way. Personally, I believe scalp oils could be helpful since they moisturize the hair and forestall breakage as new hair enters the expansion cycle. This may be particularly useful for individuals who have curly, coily, and textured hair because it reduces breakage and retains fragile hair lubricated.

Scalp oils are additionally helpful for anybody who has a dry scalp or is experiencing transepidermal water loss. They will present a barrier between the pores and skin and the air and assist cut back flaking and irritancy. Nonetheless, similar to once you’re coping with the pores and skin in your face, you would want to hydrate your scalp first after which put oil on afterward. (Ensure you know the difference between dry and dehydrated skin.)

Once more, for those who’re susceptible to dandruff or have another scalp situation, I wouldn’t advocate utilizing oils. Should you do, it may imbalance your microbiome even additional, exacerbating the problem. I might additionally keep away from scalp oils for those who’re susceptible to scalp odor. They may probably make it worse.

Scalp Exfoliants

Exfoliating merchandise are a preferred a part of many at-home scalp care routines. The concept is that the pores and skin on the scalp requires common exfoliation, similar to the remainder of the pores and skin. Like all different exfoliants, they are often cut up into two classes—bodily and chemical.

Bodily Exfoliants

The most well-liked scalp exfoliants appear to be salt or sugar-based scrubs. I’m not a giant fan of those for a few causes. The primary is that it’s tough for these tiny particles to get previous strands of hair. Actually, a lot of them by no means make it to the scalp in any respect. So, they will’t roll throughout the pores and skin and slough away useless cells like they’re alleged to.

The second cause is that each salt and sugar dissolve in water. This implies they’ll dissolve quickly on moist hair. Once more, this implies they won’t slough away useless cells as successfully as some folks suppose.

Chemical Exfoliants

Lately, although, there’s been a rise in chemical exfoliants for the scalp. Whereas I believe these could be helpful, they need to be used sparingly. In spite of everything, the scalp is a fragile space. You don’t need to over-exfoliate it or expose it to too many energetic substances. “Low concentrations of exfoliating acids are secure for the scalp and shouldn’t be used day by day however as a substitute used as supplemental weekly therapies very similar to your facial exfoliant,” Reslan says. “The 2 hottest exfoliating acids and secure percentages for the scalp getting used in the present day are salicylic (round 2%) and glycolic (round 7%).” 

Should you do use chemical exfoliants in your scalp, ensure you’re defending it from the solar. Should you’re not defending new, susceptible cells, you might incur harm. Over time, solar harm may result in an elevated propensity for irregular cells. I all the time advocate dusting an SPF-infused powder alongside your hairline, searching for shade, and sporting a hat once you’re exterior.

How Usually Ought to I Actually Be Utilizing Shampoo?

A giant a part of any scalp care routine is shampooing. Nonetheless, with all of the speak of “coaching” your scalp and the “no-shampoo” motion, many individuals are confused about how continuously they need to be cleansing their hair and scalp.

In accordance with Speck, “the perfect interval to clean most hair sorts is each 2-3 days. Kind of continuously can result in over or underproduction of oil. That being mentioned, somebody with advantageous straight hair would err on the extra frequent aspect (ex: each 2 days), whereas African American hair is extra fragile and must be washed solely as soon as each 1-2 weeks.” 

The Ultimate Shampooing Technique

The way in which you shampoo additionally issues. In accordance with Reslan, “The largest mistake folks make when washing their hair is just not sufficiently cleaning the scalp and leaving product and/or sebum (pure oil) residue behind. That is why scalp care merchandise are important in sustaining a wholesome and balanced scalp setting that may develop wholesome and robust hair with none interruptions or hindrances.”  

That’s why she recommends shampooing twice. “I like to recommend two shampoos each time you wash your hair,” she says. “You must focus the shampoo in your roots and therapeutic massage gently in round motions to actually assist take away build-up. I like to recommend solely working the shampoo down your ends for those who use styling merchandise repeatedly.”

Reslan says folks typically overlook the nape of the neck and the edges of the top above the ears. That explains why it’s frequent to seek out flaking and irritation in these areas. “Should you shampoo your hair sometimes, it may be tougher to sufficiently cleanse your scalp because of the enhance in product and sebum build-up,” she says. You actually must be your personal decide and be certain that everytime you’re washing your hair, you’re eradicating all of the build-up, and your hair isn’t left feeling waxy or wanting greasy because it dries.” 

What’s the Verdict?

For my part, scalp care merchandise, and a scalp care routine, aren’t completely crucial. And truly, I might argue that most individuals don’t must do a lot to care for his or her scalps, other than utilizing shampoo and conditioner. Nonetheless, for those who’re experiencing dryness otherwise you’re inquisitive about testing out this ever-expanding product class, go for it! There are quite a lot of attention-grabbing merchandise on the market, and it is best to check them out for those who’re curious. On the finish of the day, in the event that they make a distinction for you, that’s nice!

As Reslan places it, “our scalp is an extension of our face and simply as distinctive for every particular person. Similar to we deal with the pores and skin on our face, our scalp deserves to be washed, exfoliated, nourished, and moisturized utilizing a topical.” 

Should you’re experiencing a diagnosable scalp concern, although, I like to recommend skipping the scalp care merchandise and consulting a health care provider. Even when it’s a situation that doesn’t require treatment, you may relaxation assured understanding an expert has checked it out. It’s all the time higher to be secure than sorry!

Subsequent, could hair conditioner be causing your back breakouts?

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