Is a Scalp Care Routine Actually Needed? Here is What Specialists Say

I’ve been within the skincare business for over 30 years now, so I’ve undoubtedly seen my justifiable share of tendencies come and go. A few of them had advantage, however as a rule, they didn’t stay as much as the thrill they usually turned out to be simply one other passing fad.

The most recent development to return about—which might be fueled no less than partially 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 vital? Is that this simply one other short-lived development or is there actual worth to this?

On this submit, I’ll share my ideas on this matter. I’ll additionally focus on widespread scalp points and reply steadily 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 Totally 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 loads of blood vessels and capillaries that hook up with and provide hair follicles. It additionally has loads of sebaceous glands. The truth is, it’s one of the crucial 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.

Although scalp pores and skin is thicker than the pores and skin on different areas of the physique, it’s very delicate. For that reason, it might be extra vulnerable 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 commonly missed by many individuals because the focus is especially on the aesthetic of the hair itself. As a result of an increase in hair thinning and hair loss points, the main focus 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 stage, moisture ranges, and cells that profit from exfoliation and regeneration.” 

What Are A number of the Most Widespread Scalp Considerations?


In response to Speck, one of the crucial widespread issues (and the difficulty she sees essentially 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 circulation 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 turn out to be flat and protecting. The consequence? The pores and skin isn’t tight and compressed, so it flakes off simply.

The reason for dandruff has been identified for over 50 years. It’s attributable to 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 circumstances of dandruff, there are prescription choices as properly. For those who suppose you’ve got dandruff, Speck says you need to use an anti-dandruff shampoo 2-3 occasions per week. “The secret is, that you simply wish to therapeutic massage it by way of 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 reducing 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 occasions, when persons are experiencing scalp flakiness, they’re not experiencing dandruff in any respect. As an alternative, they’re experiencing some kind of irritation, whether or not that’s some type of dermatitis and even low-grade psoriasis. That’s why I at all times suggest consulting a dermatologist to get a prognosis. They’ve the educated eye and information required to find out the distinction between dandruff and dermatitis. And truly, if you happen to attempt to deal with dermatitis or psoriatic pores and skin with dandruff shampoos, you may make issues worse!


One other attention-grabbing reality concerning the scalp is that the pores and skin doesn’t change very a lot with age, apart from pores and skin thickness and dryness. In one examine, researchers discovered that scalp thickness elevated, and the flexibility of the pores and skin to remain hydrated decreased with age. Meaning transepidermal water loss, and subsequent pores and skin dryness and dehydration, are more likely to improve with age.

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

What Sort of Scalp Care Merchandise Are Out There, and Are They Needed?

Whereas there’s no scarcity of scalp care merchandise that declare to handle virtually each concern and concern, I consider 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 kind of product and focus on 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 feel they are often useful you probably have dry pores and skin they usually include the appropriate components. Once more, search for humectants. These will assist replenish moisture and preserve your scalp hydrated.

You can too search for scalp serums which are labeled as “microbiome-friendly” or one thing to that impact. We’re simply starting to be taught concerning the significance of the microbiome, however what we do know is that it’s essential to maintain it balanced. I  would additionally search for scalp serums with components that assist scale back or regulate oil since that may assist preserve dandruff-causing fungi in test.

Scalp Serums and Hair Loss

Some scalp serums declare to scale back or reverse hair loss, however I’m not offered on that. The truth is, I’d warning in opposition to utilizing any of those in your at-home scalp care routine. That’s as a result of there are lots of causes for hair loss, and usually talking, a scalp serum gained’t tackle the foundation causes. That’s except it incorporates an ingredient referred to as minoxidil, which is the one accepted ingredient in america 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 immediately.

“If you’re experiencing hair loss or signs similar to 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 ultimately. Personally, I feel 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’ll present a barrier between the pores and skin and the air and assist scale back flaking and irritancy. Nonetheless, identical 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. (Be sure to know the distinction between dry and dehydrated pores and skin.)

Once more, if you happen to’re vulnerable to dandruff or have some other scalp situation, I wouldn’t suggest utilizing oils. For those who do, it might imbalance your microbiome even additional, exacerbating the difficulty. I’d additionally keep away from scalp oils if you happen to’re vulnerable 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, identical 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 an enormous fan of those for a few causes. The primary is that it’s troublesome for these tiny particles to get previous strands of hair. The truth is, 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 lifeless cells like they’re purported to.

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

Chemical Exfoliants

Just lately, although, there’s been a rise in chemical exfoliants for the scalp. Whereas I feel these could be helpful, they need to be used sparingly. In any case, the scalp is a fragile space. You don’t wish to over-exfoliate it or expose it to too many energetic components. “Low concentrations of exfoliating acids are secure for the scalp and shouldn’t be used day by day however as an alternative used as supplemental weekly therapies very like your facial exfoliant,” Reslan says. “The 2 hottest exfoliating acids and secure percentages for the scalp getting used right now are salicylic (round 2%) and glycolic (round 7%).” 

For those who do use chemical exfoliants in your scalp, be sure you’re defending it from the solar. For those who’re not defending new, weak cells, you could possibly incur injury. Over time, solar injury might result in an elevated propensity for irregular cells. I at all times suggest dusting an SPF-infused powder alongside your hairline, looking for shade, and sporting a hat once you’re exterior.

How Usually Ought to I Actually Be Utilizing Shampoo?

An enormous 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 steadily they need to be cleansing their hair and scalp.

In response to Speck, “the excellent interval to scrub most hair sorts is each 2-3 days. Roughly steadily can result in over or underproduction of oil. That being stated, somebody with high-quality straight hair would err on the extra frequent facet (ex: each 2 days), whereas African American hair is extra fragile and must be washed solely as soon as each 1-2 weeks.” 

The Very best Shampooing Methodology

The way in which you shampoo additionally issues. In response to Reslan, “The largest mistake folks make when washing their hair isn’t 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 powerful 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. “It is best to focus the shampoo in your roots and therapeutic massage gently in round motions to really assist take away build-up. I like to recommend solely operating the shampoo down your ends if you happen to use styling merchandise recurrently.”

Reslan says folks typically overlook the nape of the neck and the edges of the top above the ears. That explains why it’s widespread to seek out flaking and irritation in these areas. “For those who shampoo your hair occasionally, it may be more difficult to sufficiently cleanse your scalp because of the improve in product and sebum build-up,” she says. You actually have to be your individual decide and be sure 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 vital. And truly, I’d argue that most individuals don’t must do a lot to care for his or her scalps, apart from utilizing shampoo and conditioner. Nonetheless, if you happen to’re experiencing dryness otherwise you’re desirous about testing out this ever-expanding product class, go for it! There are loads of attention-grabbing merchandise on the market, and you need to check them out if you happen to’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.” 

For those who’re experiencing a diagnosable scalp concern, although, I like to recommend skipping the scalp care merchandise and consulting a physician. Even when it’s a situation that doesn’t require remedy, you possibly can relaxation assured understanding an expert has checked it out. It’s at all times higher to be secure than sorry!

Subsequent, might hair conditioner be inflicting your again breakouts?

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