Everything You Need to Know About Scalp Care, the Latest Trend in Skin Care

Skin care for your scalp is one of the hottest beauty trends, but more importantly, it just might transform your hair.

Unless your head is itchy or you spot some unsightly flakes on your shoulder, you probably don’t give your scalp a second thought. It’s mostly hidden by hair, after all.

“It’s not uncommon to overlook our scalp because, unlike the rest of our skin, it’s not an area we can easily see,” says Dr. Monica Li, a Vancouver-based dermatologist and clinical instructor in the Department of Dermatology and Skin Science at the University of British Columbia. But the skin on your head does require care.

Why does my scalp need skin care?

“Scalp skin issues can range from hair loss to dryness and itchiness to dull hair,” says Li. Severe dryness and flaking (often called seborrheic dermatitis) is one of the most common scalp skin concerns. It can be related to a medical condition, like psoriasis or eczema, but often is just a simple case of dandruff that can be solved with an over-the-counter medicated shampoo containing zinc pyrithione, selenium sulfide or ketoconazole, says Li.

Mild dryness can be caused by poor hair and scalp hygiene or using products that are too harsh for your skin. You may need to swap your current product for one that is free of fragrance or contains more hydrating ingredients.

A neglected scalp can affect your hair too. “Scalp skin health is important, as it plays a key role in healthy, normal hair growth,” says Li. Clogged pores, for example, can lead to dull, dry strands and increased shedding.

(Related: 10 Things Dermatologists Wish You Knew About Scalp Psoriasis)

How do I care for the skin on my head?

For starters, wear a hat — sun protection is vital. (Here are some of our favourite sun hats.) And if you shampoo every morning, stop. “The scalp does not need to be washed daily unless your hair is greasy or the scalp is visibly soiled or sweaty,” says Li. “The actual frequency varies depending on the individuals’ tolerance and preference.” But she recommends people with fair skin and hair shampoo a few times a week and people of colour at least every two weeks. Shampooing too often can dry out the scalp, but shampooing too infrequently can lead to oil and product buildup, which can be just as bad, says Li. Hot showers and alcohol-based hairsprays can also disrupt the integrity of your scalp skin barrier.

(Related: 3 Simple Steps to A Healthier Scalp)

Ready for a more rigorous regimen? Here are three ways to a healthier-looking scalp and strands.

1. Go for a deep clean.

If you suspect you’ve got some product buildup going on, your scalp could use a good scrub. Occasionally swapping your usual shampoo for an exfoliating scalp product could make all the difference. “In theory, using a scalp scrub one or twice a week may provide a deeper cleanse of flakes or dead skin buildup on the surface,” says Li.

Try: GOOP G. Tox Himalayan Salt Scalp Scrub Shampoo ($58, thedetoxmarket.ca). Use this gentle scalp exfoliator to combat oiliness and flakes, and refresh your scalp and hair. The scents of geranium, orange and peppermint smell amazing while you scrub and they linger the perfect amount of time post-wash.

2. Slather on a serum.

Similar to the ones you use on your face, scalp serums are designed to fight problems like itchiness or flaking and boost skin health. Select one that’s right for your scalp and hair, whether that’s hydrating, clearing or soothing.

Try: Kérastase Initialiste Advanced Scalp and Hair Concentrate ($60, kerastase.ca). Apply directly to the scalp after shampooing. It’s designed to help prevent excess shedding and perfect for soothing a dry scalp between washes.

3. Shampoo smarter.

When your hair is ready for a cleanse but there’s no time to shower, opt for a high-performance scalp-friendly dry shampoo. Ingredients like clay and tapioca starch will gently absorb excess oil at the roots, without drying out your hair or scalp. If you have dark locks, experiment with different products to make sure they won’t leave a white residue. Just don’t use dry shampoo for more than two days in a row, Li warns, because it can clog scalp pores and cause buildup.

Try: Briogeo Scalp Revival Charcoal + Biotin Dry Shampoo ($30, thedetoxmarket.ca). A blend of clay and rice starch absorbs excess oil, while witch hazel extract helps balance out oil production over time.

Next: A Decade-by-Decade Guide to Changing Up Your Skin Care Routine

Originally Published in Best Health Canada