Spa Treatments for a Healthy Scalp

Why should skincare stop at the hairline? New scalp treatments get to the root of hair issues.

Girl washing hair
(Image credit: Valentin Casara/istock)

Whether it's the Amazonian Quechua-Shuar tribe and their rahua nut oil or Central America's Tawira (which literally translates to "the people of beautiful hair") and their now famous Ojon treatments, women across the globe have been massaging their scalps with various tonics for centuries, hoping for long, lustrous hair. Camellia oil is popular in China and Japan, while Russian beauties prefer a homemade blend of clay and salt. But for a real indulgence, new full-service treatments incorporate masks, peels, and scrubs specially designed for healthy scalps and hair.

Just consider your scalp's specific demands: "The skin on the face, especially on the eyelids, is some of the thinnest on the body, but the scalp is some of the thickest," says High Point, North Carolina, dermatologist Dr. Zoe Draelos. Large oil glands (one for each hair follicle) already keep the area moisturized, so what you think is dryness is probably just a buildup of dander. "Skin tends to flake on the scalp just like it does naturally all over the body, but hair keeps this dander in place and traps sweat and sebum, which can lead to dandruff and fungal or bacterial infections that look like pimples," explains Draelos. To avoid scalp breakouts, she recommends sudsing with the fingers in a gentle, circular motion. "Shampoo is meant to clean the scalp, not just the hair." While all scalps typically secrete about the same amount of oil, smoother hair gets greasy faster (oil travels down the shaft of straight strands more easily than on curly textures) and requires more frequent washing.

New scalp scrubs and shampoos with exfoliating beads help to remove flakes and control oiliness, but Draelos advises against trying at-home scalp peels. "Chemical peels can strip your hair's cuticle and weaken the shaft. Your hair won't start falling out by the roots, but you'll see loss from breakage." And the whole point of scalp facials is to keep your head under wraps—with a silky coat of hair.