If you’re a reader of this website, you already know: Asian skincare routines are where it’s at. What you might not know is that Asian scalp care routines are also equally considered and thoughtful. Throughout East, South, and Southeast Asia, women care for their scalps to promote their hair health — with massages, scrubs, masks, oils, and serums. You spend all this time and effort on your hair, don’t you think the thing that it grows out of should also get some love?
If it were an animate thing with the capacity for emotion, I think scalp care would feel like the middle sibling — not as popular as skincare, and not as obvious as body care. Maybe it’s because it's covered up by the rest of our hair, but our scalps are often left out of our self-care routines. However, if your ends aren’t looking their best, you need to get to the root of the problem. Skincare is scalp care is hair care, and scalp serums are the simplest way to get started. Here’s what you need to know to get your scalp in check.
Why is scalp care important?
In response to a similar question, Melissa Hughes of Kérastase India explained this as, “the scalp is an extension of the face.” While that unfortunate visual makes me think of Michael Myers, it’s true.
According to Dr. Ramya Garlapati, M.D., a Florida-based dermatologist, having a healthy scalp helps encourage healthy hair growth. Scalp care gets rid of product build-up, prevents future hair loss, and generally creates healthier hair.
Additionally, any inflammation or irritation of the scalp hinders healthy hair growth, whether by decreasing growth or by affecting the quality of the hair. Dr. Hysem Eldik, M.D., a dermatologist with Marmur Medical and Assistant Professor at Mount Sinai, adds that conditions on the scalp may result in “itching, burning, flaking, redness, and irritation.” Scalp care can help resolve and prevent such conditions.
Do I need a scalp care routine?
The short answer: Yes.
“Taking care of your scalp is similar to taking care of the skin on other parts of your body,” says Dr. Garlapati. “Just as you have a skincare routine for your face, it's important to have one for your scalp as well to promote the production of healthy hair.”
The routine you follow and the products you use will depend on your scalp type, whether dry or oily. Regardless of what type of scalp you have, if you’re in search of healthy, hydrated, and overall happy hair, yes, you need a scalp care routine. Your scalp is where great hair starts, and so taking care of it leads to great ends.
What do scalp serums do?
There are a plethora of scalp products out there — like these things — so what makes a serum any different?
“Serums are highly concentrated formulations that are packed with active ingredients delivering maximum benefits to the scalp,” says Dr. Garlapati. “Serums are also quickly absorbed into the scalp having an added advantage for hairstyling.”
While every scalp care formulation has benefits and a place within your routine, serums are great for quickly added benefits on non-wash days, as they won’t leave you looking greasy.
Who needs a scalp serum?
“I would recommend a scalp serum to someone who feels that their scalp is itchy, flaky or dry or the quality of their hair feels dry, coarse or rough,” says Dr. Eldik.
Because serums can address so many issues, the type of serum you choose should depend on the specific ingredients it contains in order to address your personal hair and scalp concerns.
What should I look for in a scalp serum?
As I said, this depends on what you're looking to achieve. Here are a few guidelines to get you started.
Dry and itchy scalp
Look for: ingredients that are soothing and moisturize the scalp, like Vitamin C and Amla, which soothe the scalp, and Vitamin E and Aloe Vera, which will nourish and hydrate the scalp
Example: Fable & Mane SahaScalp Amla Soothing Serum $34, Bread Scalp-Serum $28
Look for: products with water and glycerin, which is a humectant that helps draw in water, or certain oils like jojoba
Example: Gisou Honey Infused Scalp Treatment Serum $48, The Ordinary Natural Moisturing Factors Hyaluronic Acid Scalp Serum $13
Look for: ingredients that promote hair growth, like Ashwagandha, which reduces stress and inflammation, both of which can be responsible for hair loss
Example: Nutrafol Growth Activator Serum $69, The Inkey List Caffeine Stimulating Scalp Treatment $15