9 Products That Prove Scalp-Care Is the New Haircare

We preach all the time that hiding a skin concern with makeup only makes it worse; it's important to treat the cause rather than hide it. Now more than ever, the same be said for hair. We're calling it now: Scalp-care is the new haircare for 2018. "Scalp health is important because it creates the environment for healthy hair," says Michele Burgess, director of product development for Oribe. "If you don't have a healthy scalp, you can't have healthy hair."

"Short-term, poor scalp health can lead to visible signs including buildup, flaking, and irritation," adds Biologique Recherche co-owner and head of creation Philippe Allouche, MD. "Over time, poor scalp health can weaken and damage the hair follicle, which leads to breakage and fallout, as well as unhealthy hair regrowth."

While taking care of the scalp is important in general for healthy growing hair, it is especially important if you have coily hair. "It's quite fragile, and [people] should avoid styling the hair with high-tension or high-manipulation techniques to avoid traction alopecia," or gradual hair loss, says Cantu hair expert Michelle Henry, MD. "Because coily hair is drying, moisturizing the scalp is key to keeping it healthy and promoting robust hair growth."

So what causes an unhealthy scalp, and what can be done about it? We asked Burgess, Allouche, Henry, and others to weigh in.

Signs of an Unhealthy Scalp

According to Allouche, there are several general signs to indicate if your scalp is in poor health, including the following:

• Dryness
• Itchiness
• Excess sebum (oil)
• Oiliness
• Flaking
• Inflammation
• Hair breakage
• Slow hair regrowth or hair loss

"Once hair grows out of the follicle, it is dead. However, the bulb in the follicle is not and can be negatively influenced by everything from sun exposure, to diet, stress, pollution, and the products we use such as hair dye, styling products, shampoos/conditioners, heat from hair dryers, etc.," he says.

"Unhealthy scalp is often symptomatic," says Henry. "Itch and tenderness are common findings. Scalp infections can have unpleasant odors. Thick scale can be a sign of seborrheic dermatitis or psoriasis."


Unfortunately, a lot of our everyday routine contributes to an unhealthy scalp. "Overuse of products can cause buildup that can clog the follicle (with silicone-based products being the worst culprit), which can impact healthy growth and lead to breakage," says Allouche. "This is especially true with styling products and the use of dry shampoo that build up on the scalp."

Washing our hair every day can also cause damage. "It can strip the scalp of natural oils and impact the scalp's pH, which can dry out the scalp, lead to irritation and cause unsightly flaking," he says. "Alternatively, not washing hair enough allows products and natural oils to build up, leaving hair greasy."

It's all about finding your own balance, and Henry agrees that infrequent washing can be just as harmful as over-washing. "Washing hair too infrequently can cause inflammation causing debris to build up on the scalp," she says.

Both Allouche and Henry warn against using products with harsh ingredients, which only dry and irritate the scalp more and can slow down hair growth.

"Ingredients like soap can strip the scalp of moisture and cause irritation, raising the pH of the scalp and impairing the barrier function of the scalp's epidermis," says Allouche. "It's also important to avoid products containing parabens, glycols, and many other harsh molecules. What you might not realize is that a part of ingredients in your haircare products can be absorbed into your hair follicle, or through the epidermis if the scalp is irritated."

Other factors he points out that contribute to poor scalp health include stress, pollution, and poor diet.


"To maintain a healthy scalp, it is important to keep the moisture levels balanced," says Davide Marinelli, Oribe educator and owner of Davide Hair Studio. "For example, if you have an overly oily scalp, you will want to use a more cleansing shampoo and lightweight conditioner. If you have a dry scalp, you will want to use a more hydrating shampoo and conditioner. It is also important to eliminate any buildup of dirt, oil, and product with a clarifying shampoo."

He recommends using clarifying shampoos weekly, depending on how healthy your hair and scalp are. He also emphasizes the importance of keeping the scalp revitalizing with ingredients like caffeine, which is known to energize the scalp and rejuvenate hair follicles.

For girls with naturally curly and coily hair, it's about changing styling practices. "Include tension-free hairstyles and investing in products that nourish the hair but are safe for sensitive scalps," says Henry. "I love products that avoid ingredients like mineral oil and silicone, which can coat the hair and scalp, making them impervious to moisturization."

She suggests switching to products that are hypoallergenic and fragrance-free; they won't cause as much irritation, and they reduce the risk of follicle-damaging inflammation.

And devoted dry-shampoo lovers may want to reconsider their beloved product. "Skip the dry shampoo and heavy styling products that are known to cause excess buildup and coat strands, leaving them prone to breakage and can weaken the follicle," says Allouche.

He suggests looking for products such as purifying and exfoliating hair treatments, as well as those that can balance pH levels and contain ingredients that can strengthen strands. Scroll down to see a few of our and the experts' product picks for keeping your scalp healthy.