The Right Way to Care for Your Scalp for Healthy Hair

To get to the root of your hair care woes, start with your scalp. Just like the skin on the rest of your body, scalp skin should be cleansed, exfoliated, and hydrated on the regular. And if it’s not? Well, your scalp is where all your hair follicles are housed so, presumably, if your scalp’s not in peak form, neither is your hair.

Table of Contents

    Spot signs of an irritated scalp

    Weakened or diminished new growth, uneven or irregular sebum production (leading to overly-dry or greasy locks), and dull, lank locks (the result of poor blood circulation to the follicles and, thus, a shortage of nutrients for your hair) are just some of the fallout from an irritated or malnourished scalp. But, while this list may sound like a downer, it should not be distressing. A few simple strategies can get your scalp—and strands— in good shape stat.

    Pay attention to how you cleanse

    Stretching time between shampoos is good for your hair because it allows the natural oils on your scalp to hydrate your hair, it minimizes daily (and damaging) heat styling, and it can help elongate the life of salon color. However, what’s good for your hair may be less good for your scalp, especially if your shampoo-stretching strategy involves using lots of dry shampoo or other products to maintain your style. The buildup of those styling products on your scalp can have the unintended effect of clogging hair follicles and limiting the ability of strands to sprout from your scalp. So, how do you balance the needs of your hair with the health of your scalp? Make sure when you do wash, you’re very thorough. This means, at least twice a month, use products that deeply clean and break down excessive buildup. To ensure your deep cleanser is really getting your scalp skin super-clean, massage your shampoo in for at least thirty seconds, then let it sit on your scalp for another minute before rinsing away.

    Exfoliate your scalp

    Gently exfoliating your scalp once a month will ensure dead cells are not impeding new hair growth or negatively impacting sebum production. Regular scalp sloughing is also smart because it acts as a backup in case your deep-cleaning shampoo misses a spot. To do this, just manually exfoliate using a brush with soft, rubber tips (or your fingertips—just be careful not to scratch if your nails are long). For best results, apply your shampoo, then massage in circular motions for up to a minute. This will loosen dead skin cells and any grime that’s stuck to your scalp. Rinse clean. Another great option to slough off any dead skin cells is to incorporate an exfoliating scalp mask into your routine. The Prose scalp mask has jojoba beads for gentle exfoliation and either eucalyptus or grapefruit essential oil for freshness.

    Boost hydration

    Your scalp’s natural oils will help keep it moisturized most of the time, but sometimes it’s just not enough (i.e. in dry climates, when outside temperatures are very cold, or if you are on medication that impacts your skin’s oil production). To make up the difference in those instances, you can just massage a mask into your scalp after you’ve applied it to the lengths of your hair. It will help to nourish very dry scalp skin. You can also try applying coconut oil to your scalp twice a month before shampooing. This will hydrate a dry scalp without weighing down your hair.
    Shop products featured in this story
    Card image cap

    Pre-shampoo scalp mask