Already have an account?
Get back to the
Beauty

Hair Experts’ Top 5 Tips for a Healthy Scalp to Help Reverse Hair Loss, Dandruff and More

A few tweaks to your hair care routine can make a big difference

Tags:

If you’ve heard a lot about having a healthy scalp lately, it’s for good reason. That’s because scalp health is imperative for hair health. A healthy scalp can lead to fuller, shinier and stronger hair, which explains why “head spa” treatments that help your scalp (think a face mask or massage treatment, but for your head) are trending on TikTok. To learn more about achieving a healthy scalp, we tapped trichologists Mandy Buechner and Bridgette Hill for all the tips, tricks and products that can help. Keep scrolling for the simple keys to a healthy scalp and in turn a thick head of hair.

Why scalp health is important

“All follicular activity, hair creation, known as keratinization and hair growth, requires the involvement of the scalp and its structures,” explains Hill. And “to have healthy hair, you must first have a healthy scalp,” says Buechner. If the scalp is impacted with product buildup, sebum and/or dead skin and debris (which is why hair isn’t able to penetrate out of hair follicle), this causes the follicle to become dormant or slow down the growth process. 

That’s why it’s important to keep the scalp and hair follicles clean, clear and well-maintained. In other words, they shouldn’t be weighed down by sebum, products or obstructed by things such as dead skin, dandruff or inflammation.

What can impact scalp health

“Scalp health can be impacted by genetics, diet, hormones, health, medications, stress, medical conditions, improper hair styling techniques and mineral and nutritional deficiencies,” Hill says. “If there are deficiencies in vitamins, minerals, nutrients, declining health, intake of toxic medications or high cortisol levels due to our stressful lives, the hair follicle may be negatively affected and compromise hair growth.”

And aging can also affect the skin on the scalp. “The skin of the scalp experiences similar shifts, just as the skin on our faces does,” says Hill. And if we “do not engage in proper scalp care or maintenance, our aging scalps lead to deteriorating hair follicles.”

Related: Why Does My Scalp Smell? Dermatologists Reveal What Women Need to Know

Ways to maintain a healthy scalp

Think of scalp health the same way you would think of skin care, says Buechner. “The scalp skin and the skin on your face behave in similar ways. If you are more prone to oily skin, chances are you are also more prone to oily hair.” And just like when you cleanse your face, you need to double wash — it’s the same with your scalp with a double wash being incredibly beneficial. “Not to just remove unwanted buildup but also to deliver essential nutrients to the hair.”

Here, the top scalp concerns and some general care tips from Buechner and Hill on how to treat them.

1. How to treat a flaky scalp

While a dry scalp can be annoying and frustrating, talk with a trichologist or dermatologist about your scalp concerns and to be sure you don’t have a more serious condition, advises Buechner. “If you’re noticing some mild flaky or dry scalp, scalp scrubs can help gently exfoliate the skin on the scalp area for relief.” Or massaging the scalp with a brush can be beneficial to removing flakes.

Related: Scalp Brush Benefits: How This Inexpensive Tool Can Help Regrow Thinning Hair

2. How to treat an itchy scalp

In most cases, an itchy scalp is a sign you need to wash your hair more, says Buechner. “Sebum and debris are causing some mild irritation ,which can be resolved with washing,” she says. “If the itch continues for several days or gets worse, please see a dermatologist to rule out any other serious conditions or lice.”

Hill says it’s also a good idea to begin the process of elimination by ruling out controllable irritants, hair products and general external things that may be causing itchiness. “Rule out sensitivities and allergies to products, accessories and tools used on the scalp,” she says. You’ll also want to ensure shampoos and products are thoroughly rinsed out of the hair. 

Also smart? “Incorporating shampoo rituals by pre-treating the scalp with soothing and cleansing essential oils like eucalyptus and mint prior to shampooing with a detergent based cleanse, is a great way to manage itchy scalp,” says Hill. She also notes to look for specific ingredients in hair products that help manage an itchy scalp.

Woman applying a scalp treatment to help achieve a healthy scalp
aquaArts studio/Getty

A few ingredients Hill recommends are zinc, apple cider vinegar and witch hazel. “Zinc controls the growth of bacteria and assists with calming itchiness,” she says. “Apple cider vinegar contains natural alpha hydroxy acids, which encourage exfoliation. And lastly, witch hazel reduces free radicals and maintains the natural microbiome of the scalp.

Related: Itchy Scalp and Hair Loss? Dermatologists Reveal the Surprising Cause + How to Speed Regrowth

3. How to treat a dry scalp

Hill has a few suggestions that may help. “Use a gentle shampoo that is not overly rich and not customized to combat flakes,” she says. It’s also a good idea to increase your diet with more foods rich in fatty acids and that are hydrating to the body. She also recommends increasing your water intake.

And to further help with dryness, “limit shampooing to no more than two to three times a week,” she says. “It’s important to allow the microbiome to not be overly manipulated.” Additionally, Hill advises using a conditioner based on your hair type and texture — and apply it on the scalp when using to help restore lost moisture.

4. How to treat an oily scalp

“You can also wash as much as needed as long as you are using a shampoo that is not over-cleansing the hair, causing your sebum glands to work overtime,” Buetner explains. She also advises applying to hair only from mid-shaft to ends as it can weigh down hair and make it look oilier. And try your best to not overly touch your hair with hands, as it can transfer more oil onto the scalp and hair.

Related: Why Does My Hair Get Greasy So Fast? A Dermatologist Explains The Vicious Cycle That Causes It — and How to Break Free

How to treat dandruff

Woman washing her hair
Tetra Images/Getty

Dandruff requires a different approach, says Hill. “More shampooing may be required to manage dandruff.” She recommends products with ingredients such as selenium sulfide, salicylic acid, sulfur, zinc and alpha hydroxy acids. These ingredients all have anti-microbial properties that prevent unhealthy bacteria and fungus that lead to flakes on the scalp. And they also soothe skin by reducing “inflammation, itchiness and redness of the scalp.”

The best products for a healthy scalp

Keep scrolling to see a few hair care products beloved by Buechner and Hill that are sure to help you achieve a healthy scalp.

Best gentle shampoo

Zotos Nutri-Ox Gentle Shampoo
Zotos/Amazon

Zotos Professional Nutri-Ox Gentle Shampoo (Buy from Amazon, $16.14)

Buechner recommends this shampoo from Zotos Professional for maintaining a healthy scalp. “It gently cleanses the hair while also removing excess follicle-clogging sebum from the hair follicles, leaving the scalp feeling refreshed.”

Best scalp serum

The NUE Co. Supa Thick Scalp Serum With Rosemary
The NUE Co./Sephora

The NUE Co Supa Thick Scalp Serum With Rosemary (Buy from Sephora, $45)

Just like we use a serum on our faces, one for the scalp works wonders too! Hill likes this serum designed for all hair types and helps address shedding while supporting hair growth and rebalancing the scalp.

Best scalp tonic

Zotos Nutri-Ox Densifying Tonic
Zotos/Amazon

Zotos Professional Nutri-Ox Densifying Tonic (Buy from Amazon, $21.38)

This tonic helps maintain the optimum scalp environment for healthier-looking hair, says Buechner. The result? The scalp is left feeling healthy and invigorated.

Best splurge scalp treatment

Rene Furterer Complexe 5 Pre-Shampoo Purifying Scalp Treatment
Rene Furterer/Amazon

Rene Furterer Complexe 5 Pre-Shampoo Purifying Scalp Treatment (Buy from Amazon, $53.20)

As a pre-shampoo treatment, Hill favors this one. She says it purifies the scalp before your shampoo and conditioner to help create an optimal environment for hair growth.

First For Women aims to feature only the best products and services. We update when possible, but deals expire and prices can change. If you buy something via one of our links, we may earn a commission. Questions? Reach us at shop@firstforwomen.com


For more hair care tips, click through these stories:

Is Dry Shampoo Bad for Hair? Experts Weigh In + How to Pick the Best One for You

These TikTok-Approved Hair Masks Are the Secret to Lush, Shiny Strands — DIY at Home!

Hair Cycling Is the TikTok Trend That Can Make Your Hair Look Healthy, Shiny and Full

Use left and right arrow keys to navigate between menu items. Use right arrow key to move into submenus. Use escape to exit the menu. Use up and down arrow keys to explore. Use left arrow key to move back to the parent list.