Here are 9 simple and science-backed ways to keep your scalp health

Feb 28, 2024

Here are 9 simple and science-backed ways to keep your scalp healthy

Because a hot mane starts with a healthy head 


No-manicure months, natural lip balms, and sunscreen as foundation... If 2023 taught us anything, it's that embracing your natural beauty is in

In that sense, our goal this year is to show you how to stay radiant by starting at the (literal) root—your scalp. Healthy hair grows from a healthy scalp, which reflects your overall health. 

For healthy scalps and increased confidence, let’s walk through nine effective, science-backed tips for transforming your scalp health and confidence.

The most common scalp shenanigans


1. Dandruff

Most of us know (and loathe) the dreaded white flakes we sometimes see on our heads, especially during colder months.  Dandruff is one of the most common scalp woes and is often caused by a fungus called Malassezia, which feeds on the oils on the scalp. It can also be exacerbated by stress, cold weather, and infrequent shampooing. As pesky and embarrassing as it is, getting rid of it doesn’t have to be a hassle. 

Our quick-and-easy tip? Snag a bottle of anti-dandruff shampoo. According to dermatologists, you should look for ingredients like zinc pyrithione, selenium sulfide, and ketoconazole to effectively battle the flakes. 

2. Seborrheic Dermatitis

Seborrheic dermatitis is a more severe form of dandruff (think: dandruff’s evil stepsister).  

This condition looks like red, greasy skin covered in yellow or white scales and it's thought to be caused by an overgrowth of yeast and genetics.

Treatment usually involves medicated shampoos containing antifungals, corticosteroids, or coal tar, so make sure to steer clear of hair products that contain alcohol, as they can make it worse. If it doesn’t seem to improve, you might have to call in the big guns (aka a dermatologist) for extra help. 

3. Psoriasis

Scalp psoriasis shows up as red, itchy, scaly patches and can spread even beyond the scalp, making it a sort of . Believe it or not, it’s a fairly common autoimmune condition where your body mistakenly attacks healthy skin cells.

Topical treatments such as corticosteroids, vitamin D, or coal tar can help soothe this quirky skin condition. If OTC treatments aren’t working, your doctor might prescribe a bit more of a stronger medication. 

Side note: Psoriasis is a bit of a drama queen. Studies have shown that its made worse by inflammation and stress. It makes sense that managing your stress includes protecting your scalp as well, so get that massage you've been putting off. 

4. Folliculitis

Folliculitis is the inflammation of hair follicles, often caused by a bacterial or fungal infection. It appears as small, red, and sometimes painful bumps.

The good news: Treating folliculitis is possible, from mild to severe. For the milder cases, a warm compress can be like a soothing hug for your skin, helping to calm the irritation. And for the more stubborn guests, a gentle antibacterial wash or cream may be more appropriate. If things get too severe, it's always a good idea to have a chat with your favorite dermatologist, who may prescribe oral antibiotics or antifungal medications. 

5. Alopecia Areata

This autoimmune disorder causes the body’s immune system to attack hair follicles, leading to hair loss. It often results in one or more small, round, smooth bald patches on the scalp.

While there’s no cure for this condition (not yet, anyways), treatments like corticosteroids, minoxidil, or immune therapy can help stimulate hair growth. It’s important to contact a specialist if you believe you may be affected. 

6. Contact Dermatitis

An itchy scalp is like a mystery you need to solve. Could it be the weather, product overload, or just your scalp craving some attention? Contact dermatitis usually occurs when the scalp reacts to certain products, resulting in an itchy, red, and flaky scalp, and can last for a couple of days to weeks depending on the source. Take a look at your current routine to identify what may be causing the outbreak, or try a fragrance-free moisturizer for instant relief. If things are still a bit rocky, speak with your neighborhood dermatologist.


Natural remedies for a healthy scalp 


1. Gentle cleansing rituals

Maintaining a healthy scalp is an art, and the key lies in embracing a gentle cleaning routine. Start by choosing a mild, fragrance-free shampoo, treating your scalp with the tenderness it deserves. A dash of lukewarm water sets the stage for cleansing. Massage the hydrating shampoo in circular motions, allowing the gentle rhythm to remove impurities without disrupting the harmony of your scalp's natural balance. Rinse with grace, and pat your hair dry—no vigorous rubbing. With this refined routine, your scalp can, quite literally, shine bright.

2. Nourish from within 

What you eat plays a key role in the health of your scalp (the same goes for your hair). Essential vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin A, vitamin E, biotin, and omega-3 fatty acids, play a pivotal role in maintaining the health of the hair follicles and promoting hair growth. 

The good news? These vitamins are plentiful in many foods we eat. By nourishing your body with a diverse array of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats, you provide the necessary building blocks for vibrant, resilient hair and a scalp that exudes well-being.

3. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate

Adequate hydration also contributes to scalp health, preventing dryness and flakiness. The average adult living in a temperate climate needs about 11.5 cups of water (or 2.7 liters) every day. Oh, and don’t worry about sticking to water—studies show that juice, coconut water, and even your regular latte are just as hydrating. Drink up for vitality, friends. 

4. Give your scalp some love with a massage

Regular scalp massages are not only relaxing but also beneficial for scalp health. Massaging your scalp while you’re in the tub or shower can stimulate blood flow, fostering a healthy environment for hair growth and reducing the likelihood of dandruff. 

This simple practice can also help relieve stress, contributing to overall scalp and hair health. Pick one or two days a week to give extra care to your scalp and you will see the benefits in no time!

5. Choose the right brush and comb

In terms of hair care, brushes are the VIPs of your hair care routine. A soft-bristle brush is like a gentle caress for your locks, preventing breakage and keeping your hair looking as fabulous as ever. Now, let's not forget about combs – wide-toothed ones can help untangling knots without causing a fuss, designed for both wet and dry hair. And for our sensitive scalps, a massaging brush can be pure bliss, promoting circulation and keeping everything happy up there. As a final tip, to avoid bacteria buildup and product residue on your hair tools, make sure  you clean them regularly.

6. Sun protection for your scalp

Like your skin, your scalp needs protection from harmful UV rays. Wearing a hat or applying scalp-friendly sunscreen can prevent sunburn and other damage caused by sun exposure. Consider using hair care products with UV filters, especially if you spend a lot of time outdoors, to further protect your scalp from the sun. 

7. Stress less, chill more

Yes, even your scalp health can be affected by stress. In fact, it messes with your scalp's groove and can lead to all sorts of drama, like excess oil production and those unwanted flakes making an entrance. 

Need tips to chill? Take a walk around the block, perform downward-dog pose, or treat yourself to a scalp massage using high-quality hair oils as ways to relieve stress.

8. Keep your beauty products clean

Be mindful of the products you use on your hair and scalp. Avoid shampoos and styling products with harsh chemicals that can strip natural oils and cause irritation, flakes, and redness. Opt for products with natural ingredients such as vitamins, minerals, and essential oils that nurture and protect your scalp. Reading product labels and avoiding substances like sulfates and parabens can help maintain a healthy scalp environment and beautiful locks. 

9. Regular check-ins with a professional  

If maintaining a healthy scalp is the ultimate power move, then regular check-ins with a pro are your secret weapon. 

A dermatologist, for example, can catch any unruly guests (read: scalp issues) before they’re causing any problems for you, meaning they can be resolved more quickly. Stylists, on the other hand, can trim those split ends and keep your scalp in top-notch conditions—we all know a little trim can go a long way in promoting healthy hair growth.


The importance of the scalp microbiome

The scalp microbiome is made up of a diverse community of microorganisms, all playing their own little (but important) role in maintaining healthy hair. Disruptions to the scalp microbiome, whether due to harsh products, environmental factors, or other influences, can lead to issues such as dandruff, dryness, or excessive oiliness. By managing and nurturing a healthy scalp microbiome, you create an optimal foundation for the strong, vibrant mane you desire. 

The hair growth cycle

Hair growth happens in three different phases: anagen (growth phase), catagen (transitional phase), and telogen (resting phase). Understanding these phases helps in solving hair issues like thinning or hair loss. Factors like nutrition, hormones, and stress can influence these phases and overall hair health and are worth paying attention to.

Supplement your diet for scalp health

While a well-balanced diet forms the foundation for overall wellness, certain nutritional gaps may exist, and supplements can help address these deficiencies. Specific supplements, such as biotin, vitamins (like A, E, and D), omega-3 fatty acids, and even minerals like zinc and iron, are renowned for their positive impact on hair and scalp health. Biotin, for instance, supports keratin production, a protein essential for hair strength, while vitamins and minerals contribute to a nourished scalp, preventing issues like dryness or excessive oiliness. Just remember—approach supplementation with care, consulting with a healthcare professional to ensure targeted and safe intake tailored to your own specific needs.

Prevent unnecessary damage to your scalp

Protecting your scalp from environmental factors like sun damage is essential. Sun exposure can dry the scalp and hair, leading to inflammation and slowed hair growth. Using hats, scarves, or scalp-specific sunscreen can provide the necessary protection.

A final thought

Your hair's best friend is none other than your scalp, and keeping it healthy is the key to having those shiny, luscious locks. A key to healthy hair is understanding your scalp's unique needs. The scalp, like any other part of your body, signals when something is off. Itchiness, discomfort, flaking, or weak hair can all be signs of scalp issues—now that you know these warning signs, you can maintain a healthy scalp.


How To Care For Your Scalp | Health

Scalp Problems | WebMD