Of all the beauty woes we're struggling with, scalp issues are certainly among the least glamorous. While it’s a bit of an awkward subject — because things like dandruff have long been taboo —
a lot of people suffer from scalp flare-ups. And these somewhat embarrassing issues are not only problematic in the dry, winter months, but through sweaty summer days, too.
We assure you that scalp problems are nothing to be embarrassed about. There’s a slew of solutions to soothe itchy dryness, greasy product build-up, and the flaking and irritation that tend to follow. To prove it, we tapped
Stephen D. Pullan, a trichologist at the Philip Kingsley Clinic, to give us the lowdown on exactly how to alleviate these uncomfortable issues.
Ahead, seven tips for saving your scalp — whether you’re suffering from a little sunburnt irritation or a wet-looking muck of product buildup. Click through to find an answer to your dandruff dilemmas.
Photo: Via Kiehl's.
1. Exfoliate Just like our bodies need a good slough to remove dead skin once in a while, our scalps need that exfoliation as well — sans the scrub, though. Instead, Pullan suggests using an intensive exfoliating scalp mask once or twice a week to reduce flakiness, counteract buildup, and soothe irritation.
Deep Micro-Exfoliating Scalp Treatment,
every morning? Then you know that your hair can quickly turn heavy and greasy from the powder buildup on your scalp. If you're feeling extra oily, sub out your normal shampoo for a clarifying scalp scrub, like this fancy sea salt paste from Christophe Robin. You'll step out of the shower with an squeaky clean scalp and lighter hair.
Christophe Robin Cleansing Purifying Scrub with Sea Sal,
Rebalancing your hair's pH is the first step in fixing a dry scalp and this apple cider vinegar scrub will do just that. Bonus: Not only does it help your scalp retain moisture and buff away dead skin cells, it also won't strip color if you just got new highlights last week.
Apple Cider Vinegar Scalp Scrub (9 oz.),
Photo: Via Philip Kingsley.
2. Try A Tonic To keep redness and flakes at bay, apply a leave-in tonic post-shampoo. “After cleansing the scalp thoroughly, it can help to apply a toner directly to areas of the scalp that you’d like to target most,” says Pullan. “A tonic permeates deeply, which offers long-lasting relief.” Opt for calming ingredients, such as glycerin and aloe.
Flaky Scalp Toner,
Photo: Via Neutrogena.
3. Use A Therapeutic Shampoo
Whether your scalp issues are mild or severe, it’s always best to steer clear of shampoos with harsh irritants and fragrances. Pullan recommends a therapeutic shampoo with coal tar. (Neutrogena's is the gold standard.) While it may
like a scary ingredient, the FDA has deemed under-5% concentrations in OTC products
safe for use
. “Tar is something we add when treating excessively itchy or flaky scalps,” says Pullan. Other ingredients common in scalp-soothing shampoos include zinc, salicylic acid, and tea-tree oil.
Neutrogena T\u002F Sal Therapeutic Shampoo Scalp Build-Up Control,
Photo: Via Be Well.
4. Start From The Inside Pullan stresses the importance of treating scalp problems through hydrating and eating nutrient-rich foods, in addition to topical treatments. “When we’re evaluating patients, we always tell them to drink tons of water and eat foods such as avocado, salmon, nuts, and anything containing essential omega-3 oils,” he says. That's all good and fine — but for the girl on the go, there are always capsules.
Early Bird Discount: Save Up To $75 thru June 29th,
If you can't be bothered with shipping and handling, there are fish oil supplements you can find right at your local Sephora.
OMG!™ Omega The Great Supplements,
Photo: Via Desert Essence.
5. Oil Up Applying skin-loving oils directly to the scalp can be extremely beneficial in combating dryness and soothing irritation. Coconut and jojoba oils both contain anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal properties, while olive oil expertly conditions with squalene, a naturally derived lipid used to protect and lubricate the skin.
No7 Restore & Renew Face & Neck Multi Action Serum,
Photo: Via Carol's Daughter.
6. Apply Conditioner Strategically Go ahead, apply your favorite conditioner liberally from the mid-lengths to the ends of your strands, but resist the urge to massage it into your scalp — it will only do harm, Pullan tells us. “Conditioner is meant to moisturize hair, not skin,” he says. “It will clog the pores in your scalp and cause further issues with buildup.”
Monoi Repairing Conditioner,
illustrated by Anna Sudit.
7. See A Doctor If You Need To If you’ve tried it all and your scalp issues persist or worsen, it may be time to see a dermatologist about getting a steroid or cortisone treatment — or even an antibiotic. What’s not normal? Bleeding, excessive buildup, and scabbing. Make the appointment sooner rather than later to assuage this painful problem.