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Take Care of Your Crown: A Full Guide to Scalp Care and Hair Growth

a young Black woman pulling a hoodie sweater over her curly hair

There’s growing awareness of how vital it is to maintain a healthy scalp for strong, lustrous hair. The fact that it’s not always visible is one of the reasons why, until recently, it was one of the most neglected and oft-forgotten parts of the body. You might be wondering what you need to do to give your crown the TLC that it deserves. Here are some tips and information that will help you get started.

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A woman getting out of the shower with a towel on her head

Why is scalp care trending?

One positive result of the pandemic is that people started paying more attention to self-care, and many have continued to make time for things like manicures, face masks or bubble baths. Healthy hair begins with a healthy scalp, and scalp care has exploded in popularity as we realize its importance as an extension of overall health care.

There was a time when establishing a scalp care routine was challenging, but things have changed for the better. Scalp care is now more accessible than ever, plus there’s more information available about how to incorporate it into your hair and skincare routine. Gone are the days of trying a dandruff shampoo to help with anything scalp-related!

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A woman flipping her hair backward

Getting down to the roots

There isn’t much difference between the skin on your scalp and that on the rest of your body; it ages, changes and is affected by external factors, such as the weather. The skin on the scalp has five layers (instead of three) and holds thousands of hair follicles, which makes it different from skin anywhere else on your body.

Flakiness, itchiness, brittle hair, split ends, acne and, at times, pain or discomfort are signs of an unhealthy scalp. Dry hair can result from under-washing and under-exfoliating your scalp and, no matter which moisturizing treatments you use, they cannot penetrate your scalp or your hair follicles. The reverse can also occur if you neglect your scalp, resulting in greasy roots and oily hair.


If you have curly or coily locks, the lack of a scalp care routine leads to product buildup, which can damage your curl pattern as well as reduce curl definition. Hair that feels dull and limp could be caused by mineral buildup from the water you use to wash your hair.

Diet also plays a significant role in scalp and hair health. You should consume foods that contain vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids and other nutrients to keep your crown at its best. Supplements might be tempting, but food is a much more effective way of getting the nutrients you need.

Related: 10 foods to help with hair growth.

A woman with curly hair holding a dropper and a bottle containing a hair product

The benefits of caring for your scalp

A healthy scalp can prevent a range of conditions, strengthen your hair and protect it from breakage, making it both softer and shinier. Consider your scalp care routine an opportunity to learn about your particular hair type and texture, as well as its unique care needs.

A curly head of hair, for example, requires more moisture, a gentle touch and less frequent washing to prevent buildup and breakage, whereas straight hair usually needs more frequent washing to prevent oil buildup. And don’t forget about changing your routine based on changes in the weather.

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Three scalp brushes in blue, green and pink


How to start a scalp care routine

Cleansing, conditioning and keeping your scalp properly moisturized can help to prevent many scalp conditions, but that’s just the beginning. Here are some ways to establish a scalp care routine:

  • The first step is to make sure you are using products, tools and techniques that are specifically designed for your hair type. This will help keep your scalp and hair healthy and clean. Researching and finding the right combo will take some time, but the knowledge gained will be worthwhile.
  • Each time you wash your hair, massage your scalp with your fingertips or a scalp brush. On days that you don’t wash your hair, take a few minutes to gently massage your scalp, too. This will stimulate blood flow to the scalp and promote hair growth. Incorporate a few drops of essential oils or a serum/tonic into your scalp massage to help nourish and moisturize it.
  • Using an exfoliating scrub once a week can help you prevent buildup caused by hair products and excess oil. (This amount could be more or less, depending on your hair type.) This will remove dead skin cells along with the buildup, allowing your hair follicles to function correctly.
  • It’s best to avoid using hot styling tools, such as curling irons or flat irons, too closely to your scalp, as this can cause burns and other heat damage.
  • Keep split ends at bay with regular trims, which will help your hair grow in healthy.
  • Wear a hat when out in the sun. For thin hair, bald patches, or simply to protect your part, you can also find sunscreen specifically designed for your scalp and hair.
  • Revisit your routine each season and change it as needed. Your hair and scalp may require different treatments in January than it does in July.

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A bowl of fruits and vegetables including avocado, leafy greens and sweet potato

When it comes to scalp care, you are what you eat

The old adage “you are what you eat” also applies to your scalp and hair, so make sure you maintain a healthy, balanced diet. Foods like avocados and salmon contain omega-3 fatty acids that help keep your hair and scalp hydrated.

Blueberries and strawberries are excellent sources of vitamin C and antioxidants, which help form collagen and strengthen scalp capillaries that feed the hair shaft.

Sweet potatoes, carrots and other orange and yellow veggies contain vitamin A, which helps prevent dry scalp and hair by helping your body produce sebum, the oily substance secreted by the sebaceous glands on your head.

Vitamin E, found in nuts, helps protect against sun damage. Lean proteins prevent slow hair growth and hair loss, while iron in red meat, fish, lentils or leafy greens fortifies the blood supply that feeds the hair root and follicle. Unless you are deficient in a particular vitamin or mineral, try not to rely on supplements for nutrients.

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