Scalp care: The haircare step you’ve probably been missing

How’s your scalp feeling these days? A little sunburned? Irritated? Flaky? Sore and stressed out? If you answered yes to any of the above, you’re not alone – which is why online searches for scalp care have shot up this year.

It’s not just the obvious symptoms that require treating – even if your scalp isn’t obvously dry or damaged, poor scalp health can lead to poor quality hair, dragging down your strands and making them look lank and lacklustre.

scalp care
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‘Most scalp problems are linked to unhealthy stress or poor diet, so our modern lifestyles may be to blame for the rise in scalp conditions,’ says hairdresser Michael Van Clarke. ‘Also, people are colouring their hair and travelling to the sun far more often without using sun protection for the hair and scalp which is essential.’

Similarly, Living Proof Chemist Judy Nguyen agrees that scalp health is an essential component to having great hair. ‘Scalp issues can be due to a seasonal shift or something more serious (like dandruff, which is a fungal infection),’ she says.

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‘The demand for scalp products has drastically increased, creating greater awareness for overall scalp health. But with this sudden availability of these products, consumers should be aware and educate themselves on products that actually address the root cause versus gimmicky ones.’

So with autumn just around the corner and scalps across the country feeling the pressure, we got the experts to share their tips and favourite products for keeping yours healthy all year round.

What is the best way to take care of your scalp?

‘Shampoo the hair at least every other day or daily. Massage the scalp to improve blood flow. Keep as healthy a lifestyle as possible; diet, stress, exercise. Hair quality isn’t life threatening so nutrients will be diverted to more important organs if there aren’t enough to go round,’ explains Van Clarke. 

‘Harsh surfactants and high amounts of ethanol can sometimes leave your scalp feeling tight and dry so avoid products that contain these,’ Nguyen adds. ‘The typical culprits are SLS and SLES, to name a few’ – so watch out for these when shopping for products like shampoo and conditioner.

What ingredients should we look out for when buying scalp care products?

According to Van Clarke, you should not buy anything with micro-beads, silicones, or plasticizers. ‘These are either bad for the oceans or bad for your scalp,’ he advises. ‘Silicones and plasticizers can seep down into the scalp and suffocate the hair follicle.’

Living Proof’s Nguyen expands: ‘You want to address the symptoms as well as the root cause of a dry scalp. When your scalp’s ecosystem (made up of “bad” and “good” microorganisms) is imbalanced, it most likely means that the population of “bad” microorganisms have outnumbered the “good” and can lead to dry scalp itching, flaking, and irritation.’

The brand’s new Restore Dry Scalp Treatment has been formulated with two key technologies designed to give both instant and long-term relief from these symptoms.

How important is it to use SPF on your scalp?

Van Clarke says: ‘If the hair is fine enough to let the sun’s rays penetrate then protection is very important. A hat should be first line of defence, SPF products next.’ 

Look for ranges with natural UV protection, which not only care for the sensitive skin on the scalp but can also help to protect against colour fade in dyed hair.

What are the best scalp treatments out there?

If your scalp is really struggling, try a deep cleanse once a week with a specifically targeted product. Van Clarke recommends his  3’’’ More Inches Exfoliating Scalp Treatment, followed by the Exfoliating Scalp Shampoo. ‘These use highest grade natural AHAs from fruit acids to gently lift dead skin and pollutants. They help keep the scalp fresh and clean, and the hair follicles free to breathe.’

Nguyen again backs Living Proof’s Restore Dry Scalp Treatment: ‘it not only offers instant relief by soothing and hydrating a dry, itchy scalp, but delivers long-lasting results using a microbiome-balancing complex that creates balance for a healthy scalp.’

Scalp-soothing products to buy now

Living Proof Restore Dry Scalp Treatment 100ml, £25, LookFantastic

Helps to reduce the appearance of dandruff flakes, as well as the itching that accompanies a dry scalp.

Soothing Weekly Scalp Mask, £19, Phillip Kingsley

Calms and hydrates dry and stressed scalps using cooling aloe vera and menthol, and moisturising olive oil.

Aveda Purifying Scalp Cleanser 150ml, £24.50, LookFantastic

Uses plant-derived cleansing ingredients, and salicylic acid to exfoliate skin and remove pollution.

Philip B Peppermint & Avocado Volumising & Clarifying Shampoo, £31, Space NK

Clears away oils and styling residue whilst stimulating scalp circulation.

Christophe Robin Cleansing Purifying Scrub with Sea Salt (250ml), £40, Christophe Robin

A hydrating and soothing shampoo that’s especially good for sensitive or oily scalps.

Oribe Serene Scalp Balancing Shampoo, £42, SpaceNK

Salicylic acid relieves and prevents dandruff while soothing any dry, itchy, irritated scalp.

Exfoliating Scalp Treatment, £19, Van Clarke

Gently removes old product build-up allowing your scalp to breathe.