Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
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.
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1. ExfoliateJust 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.
Kiehl’s Deep Micro-Exfoliating Scalp Treatment, $20, available at Kiehl’sPhoto: Via Kiehl’s.
Love using dry shampoo 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 Christophe Robin Cleansing Purifying Scrub with Sea Sal, $53, available at Birchbox
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.
dpHUE Apple Cider Vinegar Scalp Scrub (9 oz.), $38, available at DermStore
2. Try A TonicTo 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.
Philip Kingsley Flaky Scalp Toner, $36, available at Philip KingsleyPhoto: Via Philip Kingsley.
With a cooling blend of peppermint and spearmint oil to reduce scalp itchiness and tea tree oil to lessen irritation and inflammation, this treatment hydrates the scalp. Just massage a few drops onto your roots after shampooing, and you’ll offset the flakes that have yet to arrive.
Briogeo Scalp Revival Charcoal + Tea Tree Scalp Treatment, $31.47, available at Amazon
3. Use A Therapeutic ShampooWhether 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 sound 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 Neutrogena T\u002F Sal Therapeutic Shampoo Scalp Build-Up Control, $7.99, available at walgreens.comPhoto: Via Neutrogena.
4. Start From The InsidePullan 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.
be well Early Bird Discount: Save Up To $75 thru June 29th, $46, available at be wellPhoto: Via Be Well.
If you can’t be bothered with shipping and handling, there are fish oil supplements you can find right at your local Sephora.
Hum Omega The Great Supplements, $30, available at Sephora
5. Oil UpApplying 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.
desert essense No7 Restore & Renew Face & Neck Multi Action Serum, $9.99, available at walgreens.comPhoto: Via Desert Essence.
6. Apply Conditioner StrategicallyGo 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.”
Carol’s Daughter Monoi Repairing Conditioner, $22, available at Carol’s DaughterPhoto: Via Carol’s Daughter.
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.
illustrated by Anna Sudit.
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