In the past, it’s fair to say we’ve viewed our scalp like a self-cleaning oven. Unless your head is really itchy or shedding its flaky distress onto the shoulder region, it’s a hands-off approach. Whether covered with a lustrous thatch or starting to thin, it’s easy to overlook the skin above and behind our ears. Until that day when you discover, like any ‘self-cleaning’ oven, your scalp is actually encrusted with gunk.
This was our experience on a recent trip to expert trichologists, Philip Kingsley. As we plonked nonchalantly in front of the mirror, our therapist, Sidney, took one look at our crown and diagnosed eczema. We were oblivious to this state of affairs, but from her bird’s eye view she could see large dry, red patches obscured by the hair. Our horror was short-lived; Sidney had a plan to fix it. It’s time to take a closer look at the state of your scalp.
Why Should You Take Care Of Your Scalp?
“Scalp care is important for absolutely everybody,” says Adam Reed, International Hairdresser and Founder at ARKIVE Headcare and Adam Reed London. “Men’s hair is generally shorter, so you can tend to see if the scalp is dry, flaky, scaly or oily. The most important thing about looking after your scalp is keeping it clean and conditioning, strengthening, and making sure it’s full of moisture.
“Whatever your scalp needs, it’s so important you take it seriously and treat your scalp like the rest of your skin because healthy scalp will encourage healthy hair growth, a really key benefit.” Makes sense – any decent farmer knows you can’t get a plentiful crop without taking care of the soil first.
Having squeaky-clean hair doesn’t mean you’re not walking around with a grubby skullcap. Scalp function is both an extension of the facial skin and the hair. Itchy conditions also increase hair fall, so if you’re balding this can make the situation worse.
Anabel Kingsley, brand president and trichologist at Philip Kingsley, says, “by taking good care of your hair and scalp health, you can help to reduce porosity and seal the outer hair cuticle, helping to strengthen the hairs.” Extending your grooming regime beyond the hair line is one way to give those precious follicles a better environment to grow.
What Are Typical Scalp Complaints & The Causes?
“Common scalp concerns include dry, flaky scalps and dandruff. [But] it’s important to determine whether you have dandruff, a medical condition, or just a dry scalp. Having an oily scalp is another concern, whereby it’s important to cleanse without stripping the hair, so you need a bit of a double-act product that will nicely cleanse the scalp without over-drying the hair,” says Adam Reed.
“Itching and flaking can occur when a certain species of yeast, called Malassezia, overgrow, which can happen when your scalp’s microbiome becomes imbalanced,” explains Anabel Kingsley. “Yeasts naturally live on your scalp, and usually do not cause any problems, but it is easy for the build-up of yeasts and bacteria to occur on the scalp, especially as they thrive in an oily environment.”
“Some people are simply sensitive to normal levels of these yeasts on their skin. People who suffer from scalp conditions, such as psoriasis and dandruff, often find their condition is made worse by stress. Therefore, when you are going through a stressful period, you may note that your scalp feels more flaky, itchy, greasy and overall more sensitive.”
The Philip Kingsley clinics in London and New York treat and diagnose an exhaustive list of scalp concerns including hair loss caused by telogen effluvium, alopecia areata, traction alopecia, scarring alopecia, thyroid conditions, trichotillomania, hair loss from cancer treatments (chemotherapy, radiotherapy) and COVID-19, psoriasis, eczema, dietary deficiencies, medications and stress.
What Does A Healthy Scalp Look Like?
While certain conditions demand immediate attention, you don’t need to have a problem scalp to take care of it. “A healthy scalp is clean, smooth and clear. A good scalp care routine means there should be no signs of redness, dryness, flaking or irritation,” says Anabel Kingsley.
A closer inspection of the undergrowth would likely reveal a miniature forest floor with clogged follicles and pores, layers of dead skin and waxy product build up that literally plaster the root to the head. Most of the time, this texture feels normal because we barely experience a truly scrubbed scalp.
At Philip Kingsley, the Hair Spa Treatment is tailored to your scalp needs. Our treatment began with wet hair and a layer of the exfoliating scalp mask applied all over. Then the hair was covered from root to tip with Elasticizer, a deep conditioning treatment, and placed under a steamer. After that, the hair was misted with water to loosen the product and the therapist massaged the scalp, neck and shoulders with firm pressure. This was followed by a double shampoo and conditioner to thoroughly cleanse and rinse. Next, she applied a leave-in scalp toner, massaging it in with her fingers. After applying relevant styling aids to protect the hair, it was blow dried.
After, running our fingers through our hair, the roots felt silky smooth and our scalp, scrubbed and shiny, was now completely free of any redness or dryness. It was like our head had been fully restored to factory settings. In short, it was revelatory.
The Best Home Scalp Treatments For Men
Thankfully, you don’t need access to a high-end salon to give your scalp a bit of TLC, though we do recommend seeking out a good Indian head massage or scalp treatment near you. These home treatments can help fix common issues and give the scalp and follicles a much-needed boost.
Pre-Wash Scalp Treatments
For Oily/Sensitive Scalps: Christophe Robin Cleansing Purifying Scrub
Use this fresh-scented Christophe Robin shampoo scrub once a week to tackle oily roots and calm an irritated scalp. Made with chunky pieces of sea salt that invigorate and exfoliate the crown, this paste works especially well on short, fine hair – longer hair just requires more diligent rinsing.
It also works well for recently colour treated hair by removing staining from the skin.
For Oily Scalps/Dandruff: Aveda Pramāsana Purifying Scalp Cleanser
Used on its own or as a pre-shampoo treatment, this Aveda scalp cleanser uses a chemical exfoliant, salicylic acid, to regenerate the scalp surface and rebalance sebum levels, remove pollution and grime.
Use with the stimulating exfoliating scalp brush to massage the product into the skin and lift up flaky scales. With special closed loop bristles, it increases microcirculation, lifts impurities and satisfies the itch without damaging the hair or skin.
For Dry Scalps & Hair: JVN Hair Pre-Wash Scalp Oil
Dry skin on your body? Chances are your scalp is thirsty too – especially if you use heat to style your hair regularly as this can also cause the skin to dehydrate. Packed with moisturising hemisqualane, this blend of natural, plant-derived oils will add much-needed moisture to the scalp without leaving the hair greasy.
Apply a few drops and massage into a dry scalp just before washing, or leave on for longer for extra rehydration.
For All Skin Types: Arkive Headcare The Crown Scalp Scrub
This skin-tingling, cooling scalp scrub sensation is just what you need at the start of a long day. Fruit enzymes, menthol and caffeine stimulate the scalp and the senses, while exfoliating lactic acid and naturally dissolving beads sweep away dead skin cells for a clear scalp.
For Flaky, Itchy Or Irritated Scalps: Philip Kingsley Anti-Dandruff Scalp Mask
Itchy scalp driving you mad? This cooling, effective treatment directly targets the microbes that cause dandruff with anti-fungal ingredients, while giving instant comfort to unhappy skin.
Apply to towel-dried hair in sections, leave for 10-20 minutes and then rinse and shampoo as normal. Use on a weekly basis to keep symptoms at bay or to clear an occasional flare up.
For Styling Product Junkies: Harry’s Scalp Scrub
Get back to ground zero with this invigorating menthol sugar scrub. Like a circuit breaker, it’s designed to remove product build-up from shampoos, conditioners and styling products without stripping the skin or hair of natural oils.
Leave-In Scalp Treatments
For Fine, Thinning & Weak Hair: Sisley Paris Revitalising Fortifying Serum
A clinically-tested, luxury treatment for the scalp, Sisley’s serum strengthens and protects the hair at the root using rice protein and a vitalising complex of zinc, copper, magnesium, arginine, Vitamins B6 and B5 and pro-vitamin B5.
Meanwhile vitamin peptides and Einkorn wheat extract work to improve hair density and resistance to breakage.
For Fine, Thinning & Weak Hair: Philip Kingsley Density Preserving Scalp Drops
For desired results you need to be committed to using these scalp drops daily for at least three months.
With high-tech active ingredients such as biomimetic peptides, azelaic acid, pyridoxine HCL and zinc PCA, dedicated use of these drops can reduce hair fall and stabilise areas that might be thinning due to nutrient deficiency.
For Itchy, Flaky, Dry Scalps: Philip Kingsley Anti-Dandruff Scalp Toner
You can use this leave-in scalp toner on wet or dry hair, as often as you want. Water based, it dries without trace and works to clear the scalp of dry, flaky skin.
The anti-microbial combination of piroctone olamine, benzalkonium chloride, exfoliating salicylic and lactic acids, nose tingling camphor and moisturising hyaluronic acid and shea butter reduce irritation and inflammation for lasting relief.
For Thinning Hair: Horace Anti-Hair Loss Serum
Another stick-with-it serum, you need to use this three times a week for two months for it to bed in. Clinical trials reported benefits such as denser, thicker hair follicles and slower rate of hair fall.
Non-greasy and fast drying, it can be applied to wet or dry hair.
For Thirsty Scalps: Harry’s Scalp Cream
Applying a cream directly to the scalp usually makes us feel nervous. Are we going to be left with greasy, flat hair and need to rinse? Not so with Harry’s Scalp Cream. It’s water-based and lightly scented and can be applied to towel dried hair or as needed.
Moisturising squalane and aloe leaf juice keep the skin smooth and hydrated.
For Weak, Thinning Hair & Dry Scalps: Living Proof Scalp Care Revitalising Treatment
A clean-scented, leave-in treatment for damp or dry hair, daily use and overnight. It contains a healthy follicle complex of yeast proteins, zinc salts and active ingredients to care of the hair root, while amaranth and peptides pump up the hair fibres.
The skinny nozzle allows precision application, and it comes with a rubberised massager for extra scalp stimulation. Satisfied customers noticed fuller, thicker and healthier looking hair.