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

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

The newest development to come back about—which might be fueled at the very least partly by social media—is all about scalp care. Skincare manufacturers are launching scalp-specific merchandise and individuals 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 publish, I’ll share my ideas on this subject. I’ll additionally talk about widespread scalp points and reply ceaselessly 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 knowledgeable, 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 a whole lot of blood vessels and capillaries that connect with and provide hair follicles. It additionally has a whole lot of sebaceous glands. In reality, it’s probably the most 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 susceptible to points than facial pores and skin. Take it from Reslan, who says, “as a result of present nature of the atmosphere 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. As a result 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 ladies. For the reason that 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 few of the Most Widespread Scalp Issues?


In keeping with Speck, probably the most widespread issues (and the problem 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 usually begins within the late-20s and may ebb and stream through the years.” 

Dandruff occurs when the pores and skin undergoes fast keratinization (that is when pores and skin cells reproduce too rapidly). As a result of they’re replicating so quick, they’re not in a position to harden and develop into flat and protecting. The outcome? 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 attributable to a fungus known 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 handle 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 effectively. If you happen to assume you may have dandruff, Speck says you need to use an anti-dandruff shampoo 2-3 occasions per week. “The secret’s, 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. Comply with with the shampoo and conditioner of your selection 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 individuals are experiencing scalp flakiness, they’re not experiencing dandruff in any respect. As a substitute, they’re experiencing some kind of irritation, whether or not that’s some sort of dermatitis and even low-grade psoriasis. That’s why I at all times suggest consulting a dermatologist to get a analysis. They’ve the educated eye and information required to find out the distinction between dandruff and dermatitis. And really, for those who 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, other than pores and skin thickness and dryness. In one research, researchers discovered that scalp thickness elevated, and the flexibility 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 improve with age.

On this occasion, hydrating scalp merchandise may turn out to be useful. You possibly can attempt 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 for those who’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 Vital?

Whereas there’s no scarcity of scalp care merchandise that declare to deal with nearly each problem and concern, I imagine they are often boiled down to a few principal 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 remedies 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 in case you have dry pores and skin and so they include the best components. Once more, search for humectants. These will assist replenish moisture and hold your scalp hydrated.

You too can search for scalp serums which can be labeled as “microbiome-friendly” or one thing to that impact. We’re simply starting to study concerning 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 components that assist cut back or regulate oil since that may assist hold 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 offered on that. In reality, I’d warning towards 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 customarily talking, a scalp serum received’t tackle the basis causes. That’s except it incorporates an ingredient known as minoxidil, which is the one authorised 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 received’t essentially goal hair loss immediately.

“If you might be experiencing hair loss or signs reminiscent of 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 believe scalp oils could be helpful since they moisturize the hair and stop 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, identical to if 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 you know the distinction between dry and dehydrated pores and skin.)

Once more, for those who’re susceptible to dandruff or have some other scalp situation, I wouldn’t suggest utilizing oils. If you happen to do, it may imbalance your microbiome even additional, exacerbating the problem. I’d 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 well-liked a part of many at-home scalp care routines. The thought 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 break 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. In reality, lots 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 imagined 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 individuals assume.

Chemical Exfoliants

Not too long ago, 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 wish to over-exfoliate it or expose it to too many lively components. “Low concentrations of exfoliating acids are protected for the scalp and shouldn’t be used day by day however as a substitute used as supplemental weekly remedies very similar to your facial exfoliant,” Reslan says. “The 2 hottest exfoliating acids and protected percentages for the scalp getting used immediately are salicylic (round 2%) and glycolic (round 7%).” 

If you happen to do use chemical exfoliants in your scalp, ensure you’re defending it from the solar. If you happen to’re not defending new, susceptible cells, you might incur harm. Over time, solar harm may result in an elevated propensity for irregular cells. I at all times suggest dusting an SPF-infused powder alongside your hairline, in search of shade, and carrying a hat if you’re outdoors.

How Typically 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 ceaselessly they need to be cleansing their hair and scalp.

In keeping with Speck, “the superb interval to scrub most hair varieties is each 2-3 days. Kind of ceaselessly can result in over or underproduction of oil. That being mentioned, somebody with effective straight hair would err on the extra frequent facet (ex: each 2 days), whereas African American hair is extra fragile and ought to be washed solely as soon as each 1-2 weeks.” 

The Very best Shampooing Methodology

The best way you shampoo additionally issues. In keeping with Reslan, “The largest mistake individuals make when washing their hair is just not sufficiently cleaning the scalp and leaving product and/or sebum (pure oil) residue behind. Because of this scalp care merchandise are important in sustaining a wholesome and balanced scalp atmosphere 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 actually assist take away build-up. I like to recommend solely working the shampoo down your ends for those who use styling merchandise commonly.”

Reslan says individuals typically overlook the nape of the neck and the edges of the pinnacle above the ears. That explains why it’s widespread to search out flaking and irritation in these areas. “If you happen to shampoo your hair sometimes, it may be more difficult to sufficiently cleanse your scalp as a result of improve in product and sebum build-up,” she says. You actually must be your personal decide and make 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?

In my view, scalp care merchandise, and a scalp care routine, aren’t completely vital. And really, I’d 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 interested by testing out this ever-expanding product class, go for it! There are a whole lot of attention-grabbing merchandise on the market, and you need to take a look at 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.” 

If you happen to’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 possibly can relaxation assured realizing an expert has checked it out. It’s at all times higher to be protected than sorry!

Subsequent, may hair conditioner be inflicting your again breakouts?

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