Want strong, healthy hair? You better start taking care of your scalp then.

By By Shannon Bauer
May 27, 2018
Photo: Shutterstock/uriya yapin

Scalp health is one of the buzziest topics in beauty right now with new products launching seemingly every day. But is this hair care concept legit or just another marketing trend? "Scalp health is extremely important because it is an extension of the skin on your forehead with oil and sweat glands that constantly shed dead skin cells," says Anabel Kingsley, trichologist (a specialist who studies the scalp and hair) and Philip Kingsley brand spokesperson.

The scalp and its underlying dermis support the hair follicle so a flaky scalp can cause or worsen hair loss, says Kingsley. And that flakiness is typically a sign that your scalp isn't being cleaned well enough. (Related: Why You Should Treat Your Scalp to a Detox)

An increase in dry shampoo usage (gym hair, do care) could be a contributing factor to the conversation around scalp health. Dry shampoo is fine but shouldn't be used as a replacement for shampoo because it doesn't actually cleanse the scalp, says Kingsley. She likens it to using a setting powder to tame oil rather than washing your face at night. (When you think of it that way, it's kind of gross, right?)

Not every hair type (or schedule) wants a daily shampoo-it may be better to wash extremely dry and color-treated hair every few days. Look for a dry shampoo with scalp-soothing ingredients like zinc PCA and allantoin, such as Philip Kingsley One More Day Dry Shampoo, ($12; philipkingsley.com).

A good rule of thumb is to care for your hair and scalp in a similar way as you do your face: Cleanse and tone daily, and exfoliate weekly. "Cleaning product buildup and dead skin cells off of the scalp is the key to promoting hair growth and keeping hair shiny and healthy," says Justin Anderson, celebrity hair colorist and creative director at dpHUE.

The Best Healthy Scalp Routine

Step 1: Cleanse

Shampoos for scalp care range from treating specific afflictions like a detoxifying shampoo or a dandruff-control shampoo to soothing formulas like Noughty Care Taker Scalp Soothing Shampoo ($10; ulta.com) that won't irritate a sensitive scalp while still nourishing the hair. (PS: You're Probably Shampooing Your Hair All Wrong)

Step 2: Tone

A toner will gently remove product buildup and impurities from the scalp (like from your daily dry shampoo binge). OGX Detoxifying + Pomegranate & Ginger Scalp Toner ($8; ulta.com) is applied after your normal shampoo and conditioner routine and is not rinsed out. Over time, using toners can train your scalp to produce less oil.

Step 3: Exfoliate

Similar to exfoliating your face, a scrub for your scalp will remove heavy buildup from the hair to promote hair growth. Anderson recommends dpHUE Apple Cider Vinegar Scalp Scrub ($38; dphue.com) as a product that works for everyone. He says the best way to apply it is to part your hair into a few different sections, take a small amount of the scrub and apply directly onto your scalp in the sections that you parted. Gently work the product into the scalp (don't pull it through the hair) until it melts away. Use an exfoliator one to two times a week.

Step 4: Mask

To round out your scalp care routine, consider adding a hair mask once or twice a week to your repertoire. The vinegar in the Orlando Pita Play Hair Purifier Vinegar Cleansing Mask ($32; orlandopitaplay.com) clarifies and replenishes moisture to the hair. The product is pH balanced to prevent fading in color-treated hair.

Step 5: Supplement

If all else fails, it's possible your scalp health may need to be treated from within. "People don't often connect diet and nutrition to their hair and scalp health, and the fact of the matter is that what we eat has a huge impact on hair growth and our scalp environment," says Kingsley. Talk to your doctor about possible vitamin deficiencies as they may be impacting your scalp health. There are nutritional supplements on the market related to your scalp-HUM Hair Sweet Hair Vitamins ($25; humnutrition.com) have biotin, B12, and folic acid to strengthen the hair and zinc to keep the hair follicle healthy. Keep at eye out for Root Complex from Philip Kingsley, a nutritional supplement for your hair launching in June-it contains anti-inflammatory agents omega-3 and vitamin E, antioxidant coenzyme Q10, as well as collagen and silica, which are essential to skin health. (Related: Do Gummy Vitamins Actually Help Your Hair Grow?)

Maintenance: Sunscreen

Since your scalp is an extension of the skin on your face it is also susceptible to other factors that affect your skin. Be sure to apply SPF to your part or wear a hat. Coola Organic Scalp & Hair Mist SPF 30 ($26; sephora.com) is a spray sunscreen that protects against heat and UV rays and prevents color fading.

Maintenance: Stress Reduction

Your scalp is also prone to dehydration so be sure to drink enough water, especially in the summer months. Stress influences your hormone levels which can trigger dandruff, excessive oiliness, and the formation of pimples on the scalp. That weekly yoga or meditation class you're taking will also positively influence your hair through reduction of stress.