From scrubs to cleansers, these are the must-haves in my scalp care regimen.

By Andrea Jordan
April 21, 2020
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This is part of our new weekly series called Test Drive, where our team of beauty experts demystify products and tools, as well as explore new techniques IRL.

To be honest, up until a few years ago, I never thought much about scalp care. I mean, I knew my scalp was what my hair grew out of, but besides an itch here or there, it was probably the last thing on my mind. That was until one day my boyfriend (now husband) mentioned a slight odor coming from my hair. Even though he was incredibly sweet about it, I was mortified. From that day forward, I started to notice that my hair did, in fact, have a particular smell and my scalp was consistently itchy so I did what any sensible person would do—I phoned a friend. After frantically brainstorming for a few minutes we came to no conclusion so I knew it was time to consult an expert.

Apparently, there are a few common reasons your hair could have an odor. It could be a lack of cleansing, hormone imbalances, excess oils or even product buildup. After a quick visit to a trichologist (a specialist in the science of human hair), I learned that my odor stemmed from excess oils and product build-up on my scalp. I have fine, curly hair, but a lot of it and in order to keep my curls intact, I use a whole lot of styling products. And since I only wash every three days, product buildup happens pretty regularly for me.

According to board-certified dermatologist, Dr. Michelle Henry, assessing your scalp is a healthy habit. “Check for redness, tenderness, and odor, periodically,” she suggests. “It’s also important to wash as frequently as necessary for your hair type and consider clarifying treatments or gently scalp exfoliant to practice good scalp health.” With that in mind, I started dabbling in scalp care products and my scalp (and hair) have never felt better.

Whether your scalp is itchy, dry, oily, or just normal, adopting a healthy scalp routine can change the look and feel of your hair. Plus, we have to remember that the skin on our scalp is just as important as the skin on our face. Ahead, find seven scalp-healthy products I can’t stop using.

Credit: Courtesy of Target

Henry suggests using a gentle scalp exfoliant once a month to clear the scalp of dirt and dead skin. I love this scrub because it not only cleans the scalp, but it detoxifies and hydrates so you don’t have to worry about irritation.

Buy It: Nexxus Clean & Pure Scalp Scrub, $14.99, Target

Credit: Courtesy of Sephora

We all know that charcoal is a powerhouse when it comes to drawing out impurities and that’s exactly what sold me on this treatment. It helps with itchiness, irritation and even helps to balance oil production. Plus, it leaves you with tingling, mint feeling that makes you feel oh so clean.

Buy It: Scalp Revival Charcoal + Tea Tree Scalp Treatment, $32, Sephora

Credit: Courtesy of Target

This shampoo is super-rich (and luxurious) and it works great on all hair types. I especially love that it doesn’t leave my strands feeling stripped and lifeless.

Buy It: Scalp Purifying Micellar Shampoo, $12, Target

Credit: Courtesy of Target

Another cleansing option is this water-to-foam shampoo. The pointed applicator and liquid formula make applying directly to the scalp so easy. And it surprisingly works up a great lather, too.

Buy It: Wash Day Delight Shampoo, $10.99, Target

Credit: Courtesy of Sephora

On weeks when I’ve skipped one (or two) wash sessions, I like to use this concentrated formula to reset my hair before shampooing.

Buy It: Apple Cider Vinegar Hair Rinse, $35, Sephora

Credit: Courtesy of Ulta

If you find that the pH of your scalp is out of whack, try this gentle scrub. It uses jojoba wax beads to slough off dead skin and absorb impurities to rebalance your scalp.

Buy It: Activated Bamboo Charcoal & Purple Moonstone Restore & Reclaim Scalp Scrub, $8.99, Ulta

Credit: Courtesy of Rooted Rituals

Since using a scalp scrub every week is a big no-no, this scalp massager can help to lift up build-up without damaging your skin. Just be sure to massage in small circles so your strands don’t end up a knotted mess.

Buy It: Root Rejuvenating Scalp Massager, $9.97, Rooted Rituals

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