Every -ologist that I have spoken to lately—derma and tricho—has the same message: You should treat your scalp as an extension of your skin. Because it, quite literally, is and should receive the same attention as you give your face. Why, then, does it often go neglected?
A couple of reasons. For one, it’s not the sexiest conversation topic, trichologist Anabel Kingsley says. True. You don’t go up to a person on the street and tell them how much you envy their well-kept scalp. Imagine?? Another is the “out of sight, out of mind” thing. “Your face is very visible, whereas your scalp is covered by hair, so people forget about it,” Kingsley says. As dermatologist and founder of LivSo, Dr. Shari Hicks-Graham explains, we’re usually focused on the cosmetic factor of the hair not so much what’s going on underneath it all. “We’re focused on the look and not necessarily why that look happens,” she tells us. “We’re basically trying to achieve whatever desired style we’re hoping for, without recognizing that its success comes from the health of the hair, and the health of the hair starts with a healthy scalp.”
It seems like, in the coming months, more and more women are becoming privy to this fact. More importantly, more and more brands are coming out with products that specifically target the scalp. The uptick might be due to people becoming cognizant of their overall health in general. Dr. Hicks-Graham thinks it also has to do with the oversaturation of the market. We have plenty of volumizing this and shampoos that promise bounciness and shine, but there’s room for other treatments. “I think, to vary the offering, [brands] have seen this as a potential opportunity area, and they’re hearing correctly from consumers that this is a need. This is an issue, and so I think they’re finally recognizing that this is what people want.”
It also might be what they need. A lot of the products coming out (more on those to come) are marketed for ladies with curly or coily hair. According to Dr. Hicks-Graham, she’s seen a big chunk of her patients with the ascribed hair who suffer from scalp wounds, hair loss, or extreme itchy scalp; or, in scientific talk, sebhorreic dermatitis. She says this might be due to the fact that most women with this hair type use products like cleansing conditioners or no-poos in place of shampoo. “Sometimes, conditioning cleansers may not be enough to rid the scalp of natural yeast that will grow, and then if people are using natural nut-based butters and things like that, it can allow for a nice moist warm environment for this yeast to grow and that dermatitis to become worse.”
Dermatologist Dr. Francesca Fusco makes a good comparison when she explains: “If you had dry skin on your face, you wouldn’t get up every day and not wash it and just put a conditioner on it. Just think about that and the fact that the scalp is an extension of the skin on your face. You do need to wash your skin.”
Ahead, we highlight some of the new scalp-focused products on or coming to the market. On top of the treatments, Kingsley stresses that your diet also plays a factor in your scalp health. “If you’re prone to dandruff, things like full-fat dairy products—like cheese and cream—can make it worse, as can really spicy and sugary foods and even Champagne,” she says.
Read up more on dry scalp and dandruff here.
The main ingredient of Cantu’s root rinse is a natural hair favorite: apple cider vinegar. Combined with tea tree oil and shea butter for some added moisture, it helps to gently detox the scalp without stripping it completely dry.
Cantu, Refresh Root Rinse, $4.99, available at Sally Beauty
I have a particular affinity for DevaCurl’s new Buildup Buster (you can read about my experience here). The brand has, essentially, taken the technology of micellar water and brought it to the hair. Even if you’re not ordinarily a fan of the French-based product (I wasn’t), you’ll still like this for your tresses.
DevaCurl, Buildup Buster Micellar Water Cleansing Serum, $28, available at Sephora.
LivSo’s products are marketed toward curly hair, so the shampoo, conditioner, and moisturizing lotions are sulfate-free, but also include ingredients that will help reduce dryness, flaking, and scaling, without turning your hair into a dried-out sponge. One point of warning: Some of the products include AHA which can increase the skin’s sensitivity to the sun.
Speaking of, did you know you should be applying sunscreen to your scalp if you’re going to be outside with rays beating down for extended periods of time? Dr. Fusco says, “People don’t often think about their scalp getting sunburnt but it can,” she explains. “So if you’re going to be in the sun, I personally think the easiest thing is to wear a hat or a cap or a scarf. But, if you can’t, you should definitely apply sunscreen to the exposed scalp where it’s parted. From a medical standpoint, you can get skin cancer anywhere on your skin, and that includes the scalp.”
She recommends using a spray or something gel-based rather than a cream or lotion.
Briogeo is taking the same concept of bringing popular skin-care ingredients and using them in hair products with its latest launch of scalp revival products. Instead of micellar water, though, they landed on charcoal. And if you’re familiar with the wonders of the ingredient, it has a vacuum-like effect that helps to absorb any oil, dirt, or buildup. The line includes the exfoliating shampoo, which is effective but not abrasive, the scalp treatment, which is soothing and refreshing, and the dry shampoo, which helps stretch out the time in between washes without any damaging ingredients that, in the long run, actually clog your scalp.
Briogeo, Scalp Revival Charcoal + Biotin Dry Shampoo, $ 24, available April 4 at Sephora; Briogeo, Scalp Revival Charcoal + Tea Tree Scalp Treatment, $32, available April 4 at Sephora; Briogeo, Charcoal + Cocunut Oil Micro-Exfoliating Shampoo, $42, available April 4 at Sephora.
Carol’s Daughter’s Mimosa Hair Honey line is specific for protective styles. Think: box braids, extensions, weaves that you keep in, sometimes months at a time. This serves as a refresh for your scalp and comes in handy when you’re not able to wash your hair often as you should.
Carol’s Daughter, Mimosa Hair Honey Clarifying Scalp Treatment, $12, available at Carol’s Daughter.
Dr. Fusco says that supplements are great to add to your regimen, on top of the previously listed treatments. “It’s a two-pronged approach,” she says. “There’s the topical and the supplement and then, of course, eating healthy.” So, maybe, more of a three-pronged approach.
This new launch from Ouai comes in two scalp-specific options: dry and oily. There’s also an option for thinning hair. They all include biotin and omega 3 and 6s. The rest of the ingredient list differs depending on your needs. Dr. Lamees Hamdan makes a good point when she says: “The hair originates at the hair follicle, which is inside the body, so it needs to be nourished inside.” Just make sure to consult your doctor first before popping these, or any other supplements.
Ouai, Dry Hair Supplements, $28, available April 7 at Ouai.