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Why you should care about your scalp health—even if you don’t have flakes


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When you think about your hair, chances are you look down at your lengths (maybe even picking up the bottoms to check on split-ends). After all, the tips of hair have experienced the most damage in the form of heat, shampooing, and rough brushing, and over time they become a de facto time capsule of sins against your strands.

But interestingly, the spot that actually can say the most about the health of your hair is closer to the root—and that’s why the scalp has become a major focus for many dermatologists and hairstylists alike. Because beyond the matter of dandruff, supporting the scalp’s health can lead to stronger, happier hair from the word go.

“Like the rest of your body, the skin [on your head] constantly turns over every two weeks,” says Terrence Keaney, MD, an Arlington, Virginia-based dermatologist at a recent event for the Dove DermaCare Scalp collection. “On the skin where you have a lot of hair, the hair can trap it. That’s why exfoliated skin has a harder time exiting the scalp.”

The thing is, just because you don’t have dandruff (flatter, yellower flakes caused by a yeast called malassezia) doesn’t mean you don’t have flakes or a dry scalp (the smaller whiter ones). “The good news is that zinc pyrithione will treat wherever you are on the spectrum,” adds Francesca Fusco, MD, a New York City dermatologist at the same event. “So if you’re just dry and itchy due to overuse of hair-heating products, the zinc pyrithione in this product is hydrating as well as flake fighting.”

Another option is to look for a shampoo with an ingredient such as salicylic acid, which is a chemical exfoliant that can help with this process. Or, if you’re more DIY-minded Dr. Fusco also says that you can add a tablespoon of sugar into *any* shampoo to create a physical exfoliant to treat flakes. Otherwise, whether you’re fending off dandruff or just aiming to exfoliate your scalp, these are the shampoos, conditioners and stylers to keep you focused on the health of your hair.

Keep reading to shop scalp-treating hair products.

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