Did you know that your scalp is also skin?
I mean, duh, of course it is, but did you ever actually stop to think about the fact that your scalp is skin that needs care in the same way that your face and body skin need care?
Yeah, I hadn’t either until a couple of years ago. It sounds so ridiculous to say it, but for whatever reason, there was just this disconnect for me when it came to scalp care and skin care.
My scalp, like my skin, is naturally somewhat oily. I also deal with an issue of product buildup if I use the same shampoo or conditioner for too long, or if I get a little too dry shampoo-happy between washes (oops).
Even though I have these problems, it never occurred to me to extend my skin care routine past my hairline until I bought the biggest hydrating toner of my life and was trying to use it up. (The toner in question is Kikumasamune Sake High Moist Lotion, if you’re wondering.) I had been applying it all over my body after showering, and I noticed how much softer and less itchy my skin felt.
It never occurred to me to extend my skin care routine past my hairline until I bought the biggest hydrating toner of my life and was trying to use it up.
On a whim, I decided to try massaging a little bit of it into my scalp since I had just washed my hair. That one test alone made such a big difference in how my hair looked and how my scalp felt! I noticed that my roots had more life and I needed less dry shampoo, and that was my lightbulb moment.
So today, I’m going to share a little bit about ways that you can show your scalp some of the same love that you give to your face.
1. Use a Hydrating Toner
Products that are inexpensive and/or come in big bottles are the best for this because they’re the most cost effective, but as long as the toner is thin and watery, it can work! (This is a good way to use up something that didn’t work for your face, too.)
I personally like to use the Kikumasamune Sake High Moist Lotion (“lotion” is another Japanese term for watery toner), but if you have any kind of dandruff or skin issues caused by malassezia, you’ll want to use something that doesn’t have ferments in it, like the Keep Cool and Soothe bamboo toner.
I like to use bottles with thin nozzles (like hair color applicators or condiment bottles) so that I can concentrate application right at my roots. I’ve noticed that if I consistently give my scalp a little bit of extra hydration, it slows oil production somewhat.
Be sure to use something as lightweight as possible for this, otherwise you run the risk of making your hair look greasy.
2. Try Scalp Acids
I’ve mentioned the wonders of scalp acid before, but I think it bears repeating. Tracy Robey of fanserviced-b fame is the person who turned me on to this, and it was definitely life-changing.
Once every week or two, I’ll use The Ordinary’s glycolic acid toner on my scalp and Olaplex No.3 (which I ADORE) on my lengths and ends, and I let the whole thing marinate for about half an hour or so. After I rinse the acid and Olaplex out, I usually don’t even need to shampoo, which I love because washing my hair is a serious chore.
Doing this basically de-gunks my scalp of any buildup, and it also helps to curb oil production for me. My hair is always fluffier and shinier afterward, too.
3. Don’t Discount Scalp Scrubs
While I don’t recommend using scalp acids and scalp scrubs too close together, I do think that it’s good to have both on hand.
Scalp scrubs that offer gentle physical exfoliation can be a great way to stimulate blood flow to your scalp while scaling away any dandruff or product grime that has accumulated. When you use these, it’s best to section your hair and go slowly so that you don’t tangle your strands and create a snarled mess.
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4. Squeaky Clean Isn’t Good For Your Scalp, Either
You’ve probably read about using gentle, low-pH cleansers on your face to keep from stripping away the protective natural oils on your skin. This advice extends to your scalp, too!
Yes, I’ll totally admit that it feels great to have that ultra-clean “squeak” to your hair. But I’ll also admit that my hair gets greasy super fast whenever my scalp is squeaky clean.
You can do a Google search for low pH shampoos, or you can simply start by looking for shampoos that are sulfate-free or low lather. These usually don’t have the same harsh cleaning agents in them, so they’re gentler on your scalp. This shampoo database is useful for the pH of a lot of the most common shampoos. Ideally, the pH of your shampoo should be between 4.5-5.5.
(Pro tip: Beware of anything that says “pH balanced” because this does NOT mean “low pH.” In most cases, a “balanced” pH is usually around 7, and this is much too high!)
5. Get a Shampoo Brush
Seriously. Do yourself a favor and buy a shampoo brush that has either thick silicone bristles or gentle massaging nubs. (Don’t get the ones that are cheap, pointy plastic—I did that once accidentally and it just hurt my scalp and tangled my hair.)
Using a shampoo brush allows me to not only use less shampoo but it also lets me get a deeper clean AND a scalp massage without wearing out my arms. These are especially useful tools if you have very thick or curly hair since it can sometimes be hard to get down to your scalp.
This kind of stimulating massage not only feels good, but it can help with both oily and dry scalp problems. It improves circulation, helps to remove dandruff, and can even help to distribute your scalp’s natural oils more effectively through your hair.
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Skin Care Is Scalp Care, Too
Adopting a scalp care routine has been as revolutionary for my hair as discovering the 10-step skin care routine was for my face. As with anything else in the beauty world, this is a very personal, “your mileage may vary” journey, so don’t be afraid to experiment with different products, application methods, and skin care steps.
Do you have scalp care questions or tips to share? Let me know in the comments!