We often forget that scalp is skin. We can’t see it, but indeed it is just as important as the skin on our faces and bodies. Now, skincare-grade ingredients are finally being added to haircare products.
“Seasonal changes can always affect our skin, and the sweat, humidity and heat that summer brings with it can create a moist, warm environment on your scalp in which microbes, the bacteria that causes dandruff and irritation, thrive,” says Dr. Barbara Sturm, who recently launched her brand’s first product for the scalp. It’s important to note the positive effects a healthy scalp can have on hair’s strength, texture and appearance. “Hair that’s grown from an unhealthy scalp shows signs of roughness or breakage and in some cases, shine reduction, dandruff, seborrheic dermatitis or psoriasis.”
Months spent swimming in a chlorinated pool or in salty ocean water can be harsh on the hair and scalp, so your scalp needs more TLC. “Fall is a good time to reset and develop a consistent haircare routine to repair the damage to our tresses and encourage stronger hair growth,” says Fable & Mane’s co-founder, Akash Mehta, a vegan, plant-based hair wellness line inspired by ancient Indian beauty secrets. The brand’s products feature ingredients like centella asiatica and adaptogenic ashwagandha to help the scalp microbiome adapt to changes in environment, internal hormonal changes and stress. Exfoliating the scalp is crucial to removing buildup and toxins from color treatments and styling products. “A balanced scalp microbiome is key for healthy hair,” says the brand’s other co-founder Nikita Mehta. “If one type of bacteria starts overpowering the rest, the balance of the scalp microbiome is thrown off, which can result in dry, fragile strands and possible hair loss.” Using products with silicone also causes damage to hair, so exfoliating the scalp should be done weekly to reboot the scalp. “Talking about the scalp wasn’t a sexy subject before but now people are much more open to discussing the details,” says Helen Reavey, a trichologist and founder of hair and scalp care brand Act+Acre. “Hair loss was a huge issue during Covid from the virus itself and the stress it caused, creating different conditions for the hair. Now scalp care is part of the conversation.” Act+Acre’s products, like its Scalp Renew, Scalp Detox and Stem Cell Serum, treat the scalp like your skin cleansing and exfoliating while leaving all the good bacteria.
“Until this point, not only have we not taken care of our scalp, we have essentially been feeding it a steady diet of junk food from starch-filled, drying and irritating dry shampoos to sulfate-laden formulas,” says Jamie O’Banion, founder and CEO of BeautyBio. “We are finally starting to remember that our skin doesn’t end at the hairline and, just as our facial skin loses its bounce and elasticity as collagen depletes with age, our scalp skin also experiences collagen loss and subsequent loss of hair volume, density and strength.”
BeautyBio’s best-selling GloPRO microneedling facial roller device is debuting a scalp attachment for fall. “There is no better way to stimulate hair growth than forcing skin’s healing response through microneedling that is safe, easy and painless to do at home,” says O’Banion. The brand recommends using the device on the scalp at least three times a week to see improvement in hair density. The accompanying Healthy Scalp Serum (which boasts fortifying ingredients like loquat leaf, zinc and rosebay extract) should be used immediately following microneedling and can be used on its own as a daily scalp treatment. The microneedling attachment stimulates collagen and encourages a boost in hair density. “One of the most overlooked yet visible signals of aging is loss of hair density, luster and hairline definition,” says O’Banion. “A woman with thick, bouncy hair looks years younger than a woman of the same age with thin, lifeless hair.”
“When you think about it, you use different creams and serums to treat and pamper the eyes, face, neck and décolleté, so the same applies for the scalp,” says the French colorist and haircare product line founder Christophe Robin. “I recommend using our Cleansing Purifying Scrub with Sea Salt scrub once or twice a week, and in between, a gentle shampoo.”
After achieving success with her skincare line Drunk Elephant, it was only a matter of time before the brand’s founder and CEO, Tiffany Masterson, tackled the scalp with a new line of fragrance- and sulfate-free shampoo, conditioner and styling products. “The truth is that you can’t have good hair without a healthy scalp,” says Masterson, whose son and husband both struggle with long-term scalp issues. “It’s super important to exfoliate weekly to have a clean and healthy scalp.” Drunk Elephant’s T.L.C. Happi Scalp Scrub has both physical (plant cellulose beads) and chemical exfoliation in the form of AHAs (alpha hydroxy acids, such as glycolic or lactic acids) and BHAs (beta hydroxy acid, like salicylic acid). “Traditionally, haircare products have contained all sorts of ingredients, like silicones, that could disrupt the health of the scalp and cause buildup,” Masterson explains. “Our biocompatible line focuses on healthy pH levels, formulations the skin recognizes, small molecular structure that’s easily absorbed and effective active ingredients.”
“Your diet is also so important because your hair needs certain vitamins and minerals to be healthy and if the hair doesn’t have them at the birth stage it can weaken the hair,” says Reavey. “Your hair is the last to get nutrients, so you need to have a healthy surplus of vitamins and minerals in your body.” Act+Acre’s new Plant Based Hair Capsules help provide all the nutrients your hair needs outside of your diet.
Entrepreneur Nancy Twine founded plant-powered, vegan haircare line Briogeo to fix damaged locks. “I can see how the scalp can be overlooked—traditionally, we are accustomed to cleansing and conditioning just our hair,” says Twine. “This is why I created Briogeo’s Scalp Revival Charcoal + Coconut Oil Micro-Exfoliating Shampoo. It is formulated with plant-based exfoliators that gently remove buildup from the scalp and coconut oil that moisturizes to help prevent a dry, flaky scalp.” She also recommends using a scalp exfoliator once or twice a week like her Charcoal + Tea Tree Scalp Treatment, which is included in the brand’s Scalp Revival product set and features detoxifying Binchotan charcoal that draws out impurities from the scalp. “This formulation contains a cooling blend of tea tree, peppermint and spearmint oils that help reduce itchiness, irritation and inflammation,” she says.
Click through the gallery above for a look at our top favorite scalp products.