Though it’s hidden by hair, your scalp is still skin and merits its own regimen to stay balanced, calm, and free of flakes. Follow these expert tips and product recommendations for a healthier scalp and hair.

By Deanna Pai
July 05, 2019
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While you may not give it much (or any) thought, the skin beneath your hair still needs to be taken care of. Your scalp can become oily, irritated, and dry just like any other skin on your body; a clean, balanced scalp is also essential for healthy, beautiful hair. Even if you're already practicing good hair habits, a scalp treatment for dandruff or hair growth can be a big help when it comes to making your hair look cleaner, fuller, and healthier. Brush up on these expert tips and products to improve your scalp's health and give it the proper care it needs.

1. Wash Your Hair Regularly

Shampooing is the first step to a healthy scalp. Skipping it allows oil, dirt, and product residue to accumulate on the scalp where it can spur inflammation, says Melissa Piliang, M.D., a dermatologist at the Cleveland Clinic. Washing hair every one to three days is ideal for most people, although people with textured or coarse hair can go up to a week between washes because their scalps tend to be drier. Choose a moisturizing, sulfate-free formula to cleanse without stripping, like Garnier Whole Blends Gentle Shampoo Oat Delicacy ($5.33, Walmart). If you notice flakes, Piliang says to sub in a shampoo with zinc pyrithione until they subside. Our pick: Head & Shoulders Deep Moisture Daily Shampoo ($5.95, Walmart).

2. Apply a Scalp Treatment for Hair Growth

Just like your face, your scalp can become irritated, especially if it’s predisposed to oiliness, sensitivity, or dandruff. An inflamed scalp can interfere with healthy hair growth and lead to thinning hair and breakage, Piliang says, so you should take extra steps to keep it calm and balanced. Exfoliate at least once a week to remove buildup and flakes: Try a mask with chemical exfoliants like salicylic acid to gently dissolve dead cells or a physical exfoliator to help slough them away. We recommend Kristin Ess Scalp Detoxifying Bubble Hair Mask ($14, Target) for a scalp exfoliating treatment. Between showering and styling your hair, apply a scalp treatment. (Think of it as the equivalent of serum.) Look for caffeine and zinc in the ingredients; they support follicle health. Try Thicker Fuller Hair Nourishing Daily Scalp Tonic ($13.38, Walmart) for your scalp treatment go-to.

3. Massage Your Roots

Invest a few minutes in massaging the shampoo into your roots. “You’ll stimulate microcirculation, which draws [nutrient-rich] blood to the scalp and encourages hair growth,” says David Adams, a trichologist (certified hair and scalp expert), colorist, and cofounder of Fourteenjay salon in New York City. Go beyond shampooing with a scalp scrub for even more relaxation; we like Nexxus Clean and Pure Scalp Scrub ($15, Target).

Another benefit of the extra scalp TLC is its calming effect—stress and other lifestyle factors, such as lack of sleep and a poor diet, can impact scalp health. “Stress is not good for our skin or our scalp,” Piliang says. Beyond that, if your scalp still feels itchy or uncomfortable, Piliang says go to a dermatologist to address (and solve) concerns for healthier, shinier hair.

Remember, healthy strands stem from a healthy scalp. Taking these extra measures to restore its balance will help your hair look and feel its finest!

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