You know who needs a new publicist? Scalp care. Here we are indulging in nightly eight-step skincare rituals, weekly hair masks and monthly salon bookings for trims, chemical treatments and blow-outs, while our scalps get a basic lather and rinse daily—or for some, a heavy-handed spritz of dry shampoo till day three.
An extension of your skin, the scalp deserves just as much, if not more, tender loving care than the lengths of your hair. It is the often overlooked, living life source—analogous to the bed of soil from which flowers grow—comprising a myriad of blood vessels that transport the all-important nutrients your hair needs for growth, protection, shine and suppleness. It is also a lot more delicate than skin, with a higher number of sebaceous sweat glands and hair follicles, which can be compromised by aggravating factors like diet, fluctuating stress (or hormone) levels, sun exposure and pollution. Not to mention the self-inflicted damage from all that heat styling and the build-up of products. Even constant and overly tight updos can cause traction alopecia, a common condition caused by damaged hair follicles that lead to hair breakage and fall out.
This increase in scalp dysfunction has given rise to the concept of skinification. Dr Harold Ma of Freia Aesthetics describes this as “a relatively new phenomenon that extends the concept of skincare to the scalp”. He adds: “In essence, specialised hair products, serums and treatment protocols are designed to keep the scalp healthy for thick, luscious hair to flourish and shine. This would include addressing primary scalp issues like oiliness, sensitivity and dandruff by infusing the scalp with the right products to stimulate or enhance hair growth. I find that with proper diagnosis and using the right protocols, hair can be restored to its maximum potential or age-related thinning can be reversed.”
Take it from the top
So, where’s the best place to start? Many tend to run to the salons or clinics the moment their scalps feel inflamed or when they start experiencing hair loss, expecting some kind of overnight miracle. But just like skincare, scalp care starts at home with a regular routine and good formulas to boost hair health and prevent or address early-stage damage. According to a PHS Hairscience spokesperson, topical hair treatments are an ideal way for at-home prevention and maintenance when done right: “Our scalp care products contain a complex known as Patent 5. It’s made of five botanical ingredients that work together to exfoliate and detoxify; heal damaged cells and tissues; promote circulation to ensure the delivery of nutrients to the hair bulb; improve scalp immunity with anti-bacterial and -inflammatory properties; and neutralise free radicals with antioxidants to maximise scalp health. In turn, this normalises and strengthens the natural hair growth cycle.”
“In essence, specialised hair products and treatment protocols are designed to keep the scalp healthy for thick, luscious hair to flourish and shine.”
But before replenishing, your scalp needs exfoliation—the same way your skin does—to be able to fully absorb the subsequent nutrient-rich products you apply. Something like Drunk Elephant’s T.L.C. Happi Scalp Scrub is great once a week, with its supercharged but gentle AHA and BHA formula that breaks down product and sebum build-up, and dissolves dead skin cells with the help of plant cellulose exfoliating beads. It’s also formulated with a blend of antioxidants and fatty acid-rich plant oils that keep the scalp moist and nourished. Purifying shampoos with salicylic acid or Briogeo’s Scalp Revival Charcoal + Coconut Oil Micro-exfoliating Scalp Scrub Shampoo work well for that weekly double cleanse too.
“Another often neglected step is a scalp conditioner,” says Shiseido Professional’s education manager, Tien Goh. “Just like the skin, our scalp needs daily cleansing and moisturisation. By applying a scalp conditioner in circular motions, it not only will moisturise but it will also promote blood circulation, and aid in loosening any dead skin cells as well. Our Fuente Forte Treatment infuses the scalp with rosa roxburghii fruit extract, which enhances the scalp’s ‘self-moisturising power’, as well as collagen and hyaluronic acid-boosting blackberry lily extract, anti-inflammatory ginkgo leaf extract, and scutellaria extract, which suppresses sebum oxidation.”
The rise of the hair-coal
When it comes to more intensive scalp care, Dr Low Chai Ling, founder of SW1 Clinic, says: “Ingredients such as minoxidil have seen really good results in minimising hair loss and encouraging thicker hair growth.” Minoxidil and biotin are two key ingredients used in SW1’s Revitascalp ‘hair-cial’, a facial for your scalp that infuses scientifically selected nutrients to support healthy regeneration and strengthen against external aggressors. Think targeted blasts of vitamin B12, folic acid, protein-building amino acids and clinically proven minoxidil that helps inhibit the production of hair-hindering dihydrotestosterone (DHT) and promote thicker hair growth. “This is a non-invasive 30-minute treatment available in-clinic for a healthy scalp, which in turn creates a healthy crown of hair,” Low affirms.
Papilla Haircare, the brainchild of Korean dermatologists and Singaporean heiress, Kim Lim, offers a host of innovative scalp technologies powered by a patented source of cultured cells. Its proprietary elixir contains a potent mix of growth factors like EV-cytokines, polypeptides, amino acids, essential proteins and vitamins that work together to reactivate hair cells, reduce inflammation, strengthen follicle repair and boost advanced bio-signalling for enhanced rejuvenation and immune function. Its SEP Activator is a unique hair loss treatment that uses Scalpelectroporation, an FDA-approved technology and alternative to injections. Proven to be 17 times more effective than topical applications, this breakthrough needle-free transdermal delivery method uses low electrical pulses for safe, pain-free delivery of nutritious substances—from the patented EV formula to rich antioxidant blends—deep into the epidermis and subcutaneous layers, which in turn improve all sorts of degenerative and problematic scalp conditions from within over time.
Besides genetics, hormones and diet, scalp health can also be triggered by our increasingly harried, urban lifestyles. Ma affirms this: “Common aggressors of scalp discomfort include dust, smoke and pollution. Even our own scalp sebum, sweat and dead skin cells can affect overall scalp health.”
Freia Aesthetics tackles stressed, sensitised and degenerating scalps with Cellular Regen, which starts with medically advanced H20 jet suction technology that leaves heads deeply cleansed and purified in a single session. “What follows is the application of AnteAge Stem Cell hair growth solution. This potent regrowth serum combines WNT1 Stem Cytokines (12 bio- identical growth factors and cytosignallers) along with a cocktail of natural stimulants to awaken dormant hair follicles, and promote fuller, thicker and healthier looking hair,” shares Ma. This serum step is paired with a microneedling or dual electroporation device that causes controlled trauma to the scalp to help the serum penetrate significantly better and deeper. Medical-grade LED (red) light therapy ensues, helping in the stimulation and healing process as well as to reduce any inflammation for a soothed and rejuvenated scalp after 20 minutes. “Red light of the 670nm wavelength has been shown to improve wound healing and hair growth. It has been FDA-approved since 2011 for the stimulation of hair growth in male and female pattern hair loss,” adds Ma, who recommends completing this three- step scalp treatment over a course of six sessions at a three-week interval for overall rejuvenation.
Technologically driven therapies aside, Ma does have some words of advice when it comes to personal scalp responsibilities at home. “I find that many patients with hair loss minimise washing their hair as that is when they see the most numbers of hair shed. There is actually no basis for this observation—it happens whether or not one washes hair. In fact, the longer the interval, the more shed hair will accumulate per wash.” And you know that dry shampoo you reach for to skip a day or two? Well, Ma says “all it does is absorb—not clean off—oil and sweat to reduce the greasy appearance of hair or to mask any bad smells”. He adds: “This accumulation of sebum, dirt and other residue will have a negative effect of disrupting scalp health, leading to itch, irritation and even dandruff. One should be hair washing regularly [daily or alternate days] with the right shampoo to keep scalp and hair follicles healthy.” His final reminder: “Always make sure to properly dry your hair before going to bed.”