Here’s the thing: If you want thicker, longer, shinier hair every single day, it doesn’t really make much of a difference how many serums and oils you slather on. Instead, you should be focusing on your scalp.
Francesca Fusco MD, a dermatologist and assistant clinical professor Mount Sinai, explains that by focusing on the top of your head, you’re more likely to grow a thicker ponytail: “Your scalp is where your follicle sits. It is where blood vessels feed oxygen and nutrients to the follicle, it is where oil glands secrete sebum which is the body’s natural hair conditioner. If yours isn’t healthy, the hair will not grow healthy, shiny and at optimal growth rate.”
Some of the common physical stresses she says to avoid include overusing heat tools, chemicals, or lagging on your regular cleansing and conditioning routine, which are all things that can cause a sebum imbalance. “If sebum is over produced, hair will be oily. If it is underproduced, you will have dry hair,” Dr Fusco explained.
There are some things she says you can do daily to improve the health of your scalp (and, by default, your hair). When styling, don’t pull your hair too tight and avoid scraping the scalp, as both of these things can damage the follicles. Another tip: If your scalp hurts when you’re getting your hair colored, ask your hair dresser to switch formulas. “Don’t just grin and bear it,” Dr Fusco warned. “Burning means inflammation and inflamed follicles can lead to shedding.” Some spas and salons even offer treatments to target your scalp and promote hair growth—I’m a personal fan of the scalp treatment at Haven in New York City.
Then, there are at-home treatments, exfoliants, and serums you can use on the regular to treat your scalp. Keep clicking to see a few of our favorites.
Flaky Scalp Shampoo, $40; at Phillip Kingsley
This shampoo has literally won awards for its ability to relieve and clear flaking scalps. It's mild and soothing, and won't strip your hair of its color.
Dr. Hauschka Revitalizing Hair and Scalp Tonic, $30; at Dermstore
Neem leaf and birch bark gently condition, and a blend of plant extracts nourish and balance your scalp. Other natural ingredients (such as rosemary, borage and horse chestnut) stimulate the hair follicles and encourage circulation, which will encourage the growth of healthy hair.
Madam C.J. Walker Beauty Culture, $32; at Sephora
Your scalp contains more oil glands than your nose, cheeks, and forehead, so why aren't you exfoliating it as often as you do your face? Leave this scalp exfoliator in for about 12 minutes before shampooing, to remove buildup and flaking skin, while also soothing and hydrating your scalp. It contains salicylic acid which dissolves buildup, and natural ingredients like shea, olive, and coconut oils cleanse and hydrate.
Christophe Robin Cleansing Purifying Scrub with Sea Salt, $52; at Sephora
Yes, you do need a scrub for your scalp, and this happens to be one of the best. It's quite rich (and also very hydrating), but the exfoliating sea salt does an excellent job of cleansing and cleaning oily scalps. Use it when your hair is oily or after you've just had your color done to relieve any stinging, itching, or chemical residues from your scalp.
ALTERNA Haircare Caviar Clinical Daily Root and Scalp Stimulator, $36; at Sephora
This stimulating, leave-in treatment creates a defense against the buildup of excess oil, DHT build-up, and other things that can clog follicles and cause your hair to thin and fall out.
Scalp Toner, $35; at Phillip Kingsley
This toner will rehydrate and energize your hair and scalp, while also stimulating blood supply to the scalp, absorb excess oil, and protect against flaking. It's also fragrance-free, for who hate spelling like their shampoo.
Stimulating Scalp Mask, $30; at Phillip Kingsley
If your scalp is sensitive or simply irritated at the, try this vitamin and mineral-rich mask that promises to boost blood circulation and also improve the texture of your hair.
Davines Naturaltech Rebalancing Shampoo For Oily Scalp, $26.50; at Birchbox
This shampoo controls overactive sebaceous glands, which is what leaves your hair greasy, heavy, and stringy. Regular use will restore balance to your scalp. Use three times per week for an intensive treatment.
Phyto Phytopolléine Botanical Scalp Treatment, $40; at Sephora
This multi-tasking treatment balances and purifies the scalp and slows down the development of dandruff. If you're into natural beauty too, you'll love its ingredients: Rosemary, sage, cypress, eucalyptus, and lemon. It is recommended for those suffering from an unbalanced scalp whether it is dry, oily, itchy, or irritated.
Flaky Scalp Treatment Kit, $95; at Phillip Kinglsey
For anyone dealing with dandruff or a flaky scalp, try this intensive three-step regime (instead of buying all the products separately) to lift and clean away flakes while also exfoliating and soothing your scalp.
ALTERNA Haircare Caviar Repair Lengthening Hair and Scalp Elixir, $38; at Sephora
This elixir will nourish your scalp and even promises to maximize hair's "potential length." Compared to some of the other scalp-focused products, it's gentle and doesn't strip your hair of moisture.