What’s a Scalp Serum and Do I Need One?
An expert weighs in on the benefits of scalp serums, and we round up six of our favourites.
by Leah Rumack
(Excerpt) Three years into a pandemic-induced cycle of on-again, off-again relationships with our hairdressers (and a mostly always-on relationship with capital S-stress), and our hair is probably in need of some serious help. While the pan certainly didn’t start the “skinification of hair” trend—where classic skincare ingredients like hyaluronic acid and niacinamide started appearing in hair and scalp products—it definitely accelerated people’s interest in taking extra good care of their heads.
Now scalp serums, which are super concentrated, easily absorbable formulations designed to treat the skin on your scalp, are seemingly everywhere. Some are leave-in, some you rinse out. Some you can use every day, and some are intense, short-term treatments.
“Scalp health and hair are inextricably linked because your hair follicles are in your scalp,” says cosmetic dermatologist Sonya Abdulla from DLK on Avenue in Toronto. “The health of your scalp skin dictates the health of your hair.”
Abdulla says the main complaints dermatologists see are excessively dry and itchy scalps, overly oily—sometimes pimply—scalps and unexplained bald patches. All of the above can be triggered by stress, pollution, genetics, hormonal changes like pregnancy and perimenopause. Over-washing your hair can dry out your scalp and disrupt the skin barrier, but under-washing your hair can lead to product buildup that plugs up your follicles. (Abdulla says how much you should shampoo depends on your hair type and how much you work out or sweat each day—but a good rule of thumb is if it seems greasy or you get debris under your fingernails when you run your fingers across your scalp, it’s time for a wash). We’ve all probably tried serums for our hair, but do you need a serum just for your scalp, too?