10 soothing products for a happy scalp
It's skin that needs care, too.
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Skincare, whether for face or body, gets all the press. But unless you suffer from a medical condition, you may not give a second thought to your scalp, or the skin on the top of your head. But maybe you should: Developing a dry, itchy scalp in response to a change in products or even the weather is incredibly common. And scalp ailments crop up more often than you think. One survey in the U.S. found that about 50 million people suffer from dandruff each year.
Fortunately, treating an irritated scalp mostly comes down to knowing which products to stock your shower with. As a general rule, you want to look for ingredients such as glycolic and salicylic acids as well as tea tree oil and witch hazel—all of which have been studied and show to have exfoliating and soothing effects. Scouring ingredient labels can be time-consuming, so we went ahead and rounded up 10 top-rated scalp care products.
1. For both hair and scalp T.L.C.: this Moroccanoil solution
Moroccanoil is beloved for its argan oil-based treatment serums. But the brand also offers its Dry Scalp Treatment. It’s designed to deeply hydrate the hair while repairing the scalp with exfoliating salicylic acid and moisturizing geranium oil. Considering that more than 13,000 Sephora shoppers have "loved" it, and over 160 have rewarded it with a five-star review, it’s safe to say it’s worth trying.
To use it, divide your hair into sections and massage a few drops into each area at the root, focusing your fingertips on your scalp rather than the hair. Finger-comb it through, let it sit for 10 minutes, and rinse it out. Your scalp (and strands!) will thank you.
2. For deep-cleaning: this Drunk Elephant scrub
Did you know that, like your face and body, your scalp can benefit from exfoliation, too? This is especially true if you use a lot of hair styling products, as sprays, lotions, gels, and creams can build up on the surface of your scalp.
To tackle this, Drunk Elephant’s Happi Scalp Scrub gently sloughs away the buildup to reveal a healthier scalp underneath with ingredients like glycolic, lactic, tartaric, and citric acids. As a result, your scalp should feel less itchy after to your shower routine.
Apply it directly to your scalp (with dry hair) before getting in the shower. Massage it in and let it sit for up to 10 minutes, then rinse.
3. For soothing itchiness: this Briogeo mask
Having an itchy scalp is the worst. To bring some comfort, Briogeo created its Scalp Revival Cooling Hydration Mask, which uses tea tree, peppermint, and spearmint oils to create a cool sensation on contact that relieves an irritated and inflamed scalp. The mask also "detoxifies" with charcoal, which means unclogging hair follicles and ridding the scalp of buildup. A blend of hyaluronic acid and aloe vera hydrates the scalp in an effort to ward off dry, itchy skin, too.
After exfoliating your scalp, massage the mask into your noggin and let it sit for up to 10 minutes before rinsing and following up with your conditioner. (P.S. If you end up loving this product, or if you prefer to use full collections over mixing and matching products, you’ll be glad to know that reviewers love Briogeo’s entire Scalp Revival line.)
4. For an all-day treatment: this Living Proof product
If you don’t have time to pamper your scalp before or while in the shower, you can still add some T.L.C. to your routine. Living Proof's Dry Scalp Treatment is designed for application to damp hair without the need to rinse it out after. It contains hyaluronic acid and niacinamide (vitamin B3) to hydrate and balance the scalp leaving it neither oily nor dry.
Use the tapered nozzle to directly apply the product across your scalp and massage it in. The formula is clear, so there's no need to worry about it leaving residue or gritty particles in your hair.
5. For extra-soothing application: this Briogeo massager
Pretty much every pre- or in-shower scalp product requires massaging. While your fingertips can certainly help with this process, using a targeted scalp massager can work—and even feel—better. This one from Briogeo is beloved for its firm-yet-flexible bristles and easy-to-grip handle, both of which make massaging products into or out of the scalp (think: rinsing shampoo) a breeze. It’s even earned over 43,000 "loves" from Sephora customers.
6. For mess-free exfoliation: this Sunday Riley serum
Sunday Riley is best known for creating luxe skincare products with creative names and aesthetically pleasing packaging. But the brand makes hair care items, too. The Clean Rinse Clarifying Scalp Serum is a great option for anyone who wants to gently exfoliate their scalp without the mess of a scrub. It’s made with a blend of glycolic and salicylic acids—both of which help to slough away dead skin cells and product and dirt buildup—along with niacinamide, which is said to promote healthy hair growth.
Apply the product onto your scalp using the nozzle tip. Massage it in and let it soak further into your scalp for 30 minutes before rinsing it out and proceeding with your regular shampoo and conditioner.
7. For styling-product removal: this DevaCurl spray
DevaCurl may be best known as a brand for wavy, curly, and coily-haired folks, but its latest product can be enjoyed by those with straight hair, too. This liquid exfoliator spray is designed to address product buildup and flaky, dry scalps one spritz at a time. It has glycolic acid at its helm for gently dissolving follicle-clogging impurities.
Prior to shampooing the hair, part your hair and spray the solution directly onto the scalp and massage it in with your fingertips. Let it sit for one to three minutes and follow up with your typical wash routine.
8. For soothing stress and your scalp: this Pacifica serum
Love the idea of a cooling scalp product but don’t want to have to immediately wash it off? This tingly rosemary, mint serum can be used as a quick boost of soothing relief or as an overnight treatment. It contains witch hazel, sage, thyme, and rosemary, which all together claim to help hydrate and balance the scalp for a reduction in dryness and itch.
Massage two to four drops of the serum throughout your hair and across your scalp. Either follow up with a shampoo after letting the product sit or keep it in overnight.
9. For the dandruff-prone: this Biolage anti-dandruff shampoo
Many scalp treatments are designed to be used once a week, but if you have dandruff, more relief may be necessary. This well-reviewed shampoo from Biolage contains pyrithione zinc to soothe the scalp, get rid of dandruff, and balance the scalp and strands for a healthier head of hair all over.
The brand recommends using at least twice a week or as instructed by your doctor if you receive treatment for scalp health. (In fact, it's safe to use daily, though that may not be best, because overwashing can trigger more oil production and lead to more pesky flakes.) Allow it to sit on the scalp for up to two minutes before rinsing it away.
10. For an at-home scalp spa: this BeautyBio set
To take your scalp care to the next level, you can incorporate BeautyBio’s Rejuvenating Scalp + Fuller Hair Therapy Set into your routine. The kit comes with the GloPro roller device that contains teeny-tiny needs that, like with a micro-needling tool, claim to create controlled micro-injuries to the scalp and trigger a healing response. It also uses red light therapy to reduce inflammation on the scalp. The kit also comes with a tube of the Healthy Scalp Serum for after rolling, which claims to reduce flaking and buildup.
The brand recommends parting your hair into sections and pulling each section taught before gently gliding the GloPro back and forth on the scalp for about five seconds per area. Consider speaking with your doctor before trying this kit if you have questions about how your scalp will tolerate the rolling device.
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