Hair care starts with scalp care, which is why irritated and flaky crowns need to hop on the bandwagon of the best scalp serums that dermatologists approve of. Whether your scalp concerns revolve around flakes, buildup, or oil control, these silky, lightweight serums will do just the trick post-shower to nourish your scalp and hair follicles the way you need it most.

“Many people don’t realize that the scalp is an extension of your skin,” says Margarita Lolis, MD, board-certified dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology Group in Hackensack, New Jersey. “Just like we use serums to help keep our face glowing, they can also be used on the scalp.” She notes that the ultimate goal of these serums is not only to soothe your current concerns but to create a healthy environment for hair growth and protect the scalp from future inflammation and irritation. 

With all of this being said, not all scalp serums target the same concerns. Los Angeles-based board-certified dermatologist James Y. Wang, MD, says different types of scalp concerns require specific types of treatments. “A sebaceous and oily scalp can benefit from mild exfoliants, such as glycolic acid or ketoconazole,” he says. “It is important to not over-treat the scalp, which in turn causes inflammation and more flaking.” For truly dry or dehydrated scalp skin, Dr. Wang suggests a mild, fragrance-free, oil-based serum. “With that being said, overusing oil-based serums can cause yeast to overgrow, so everything should be used in moderation,” he says.

Dr. Lolis adds that gingko biloba, emu oil, and green tree extracts are powerful ingredients known for reducing hair loss, if that’s your main concern. “They inhibit 5-alpha reductase, a key enzyme which binds to receptors on hair follicles that ultimately increase testosterone,” she says. “Individuals with male and female pattern hair loss have increased 5-alpha reductase receptors leading to an increase in testosterone, which causes hair loss and hair thinning.” She also recommends looking out for products that support hydration and moisture retention, such as hyaluronic acid and coconut extract. 

As for what not to put on your scalp, Dr. Lolis says to avoid parabens, sulfates, formaldehyde, and synthetic dyes so that the formulation is gentle on the delicate skin of your scalp. “You should also look for serums that are silicone-free,” she says. “While silicones such as dimethicone are great for creating lustrous locks, the residue left by silicone-based serums on the scalp clog pores, which blocks hair follicles and increases sebum production, hair shedding, and flakiness.”

Got all that down? Good, because now it’s time to apply all of that information to your new scalp routine. Below, take a look at some of the best scalp serums to relieve any flaky, itchy scalp moment.

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