As the lines between haircare and skincare become ever blended, we started to second-guess our routine. Should we be treating our hair more like an extension of our facial skin? To find out if we should be switching it up for more perfect locks, we consulted the pros—including a board-certified dermatologist. Here’s the full story on whether you can use skincare products as haircare products.
Can I Use Skincare Products on My Hair?
According to Dr. Nancy Samolitis, yes. The board-certified dermatologist and co-founder of Facile Dermatology + Boutique shares you should definitely be incorporating skincare products into your haircare routine. “This is a very important topic that is not commonly discussed,” she says. “Although there are many products available for the hair itself (cleansing, conditioning, and styling), most of them are not designed to treat the scalp. This is where the hair is born and keeping this skin healthy will promote healthy hair growth from the start.”
The Skin Story
This skin on your head (aka the scalp) has its own special set of needs that are often neglected. “The dermal layer in the scalp is very thick due to the density of hair follicles,” explains Dr. Samolitis. “These follicles are each associated with groups of oil glands, so some people may experience oily scalp even when they don’t have oily skin in other places.”
“Think of the scalp as the bedrock for the follicles and consider the scalp the way you think of your face. After all, the scalp is skin and an extension of our face,” explains Liz Phillips, a trichologist at the Philip Kingsley NY clinic. “Consider all the processes and nourishing ingredients applied to our face, why not our scalp? Our scalp has a very important function, it is responsible for housing our hair follicles. The benefits of attending to scalp care are two-fold.” Your hair is influenced by many variables—and a big factor in this equation is the health of the scalp.
The scalp is also highly prone to skin conditions that result in itching, redness, and flaking such as seborrheic dermatitis and psoriasis. Not only that, but if you feel like you might be getting a pimple on your scalp, you aren’t imagining things. “The scalp is prone to a unique type of acne, known as folliculitis,” says Dr. Samolitis. There are also types of hair loss (or alopecia) that can affect not only the scalp but also the eyelashes and eyebrows.” Ultimately, if you experience these symptoms, it’s best to pay a visit to a board-certified dermatologist who can diagnose and prescribe the proper skincare treatments for the scalp.
Skincare as Haircare
If you are experiencing a specific scalp condition, turn to anti-inflammatory shampoos, creams, and medicated products, which will reduce scalp flaking or stimulate hair growth. In general, Dr. Samolitis advocates for treating and protecting the scalp as we would the skin on our face. “I am a believer in using a combination of hydrating and anti-aging serums on the scalp daily, similar to how we treat the skin on our face. In someone with healthy hair, this daily skincare will prevent damage from the sun and environment, which can cause thinning, brittle, and graying hair.”
And you don’t need to look any further than your skincare cabinet for the remedy. “There are several products designed for skincare that are safe and easy to use on the scalp,” she adds. “For my personal use, I blend a few drops of Facile Roots serum, Facile Easy C, and NIA24 treatment catalyst. This creates a cocktail of antioxidants, hair growth stimulators, and niacinamide oil, which is hydrating and reduces inflammation. It is not greasy and can be used on wet or dry hair.” Dr. Samolitis is also an advocate for supplements with anti-aging and anti-inflammatory properties, which can enhance topical products.
If you need to reach for one, cross-functional product, make it a serum. “A serum or light oil formulation is usually the most cosmetically elegant because it won’t affect the hair styling products,” explains Dr. Samolitis who recommends daily application. However, a treatment shampoo needed for itching/flaking scalp can be used two to three days a week.
An advanced skincare regime targeted for your scalp can provide much more than just shampoo. “Shampoo is washed away, so it doesn’t always have as much of a lasting effect as a topical skincare product that is left on,” she explains. This is also because sometimes you just can’t wash every day—and who doesn’t have an arsenal of dry shampoo?
Dr. Samolitis wants to remind you that even if you are experiencing any scalp issues, nothing is hopeless. “A board-certified dermatologist can do a thorough examination including history, medications, diet, blood tests, and maybe even a small biopsy to determine the cause of the problem and help to find a solution. There are even treatments that we can perform in the office such as PRP injections to stimulate hair growth,” she suggests. The more care you put into your scalp and hair, the better your outcome. “Using products that add moisture to the skin is a super effective way to ensure that the scalp environment stays healthy and hydrated,” adds Liz. It’s official—we will be migrating our skincare north for a more balanced scalp.