The thing that I love most about beauty is its versatility—a colourful eye shadow that sparks joy, that transformative feeling of stepping out of a hair salon with a fresh haircut, the products we seek out when in need of comfort. But alongside the transcendental, beauty's other role is that of a problem-solver: offering practical solutions to a whole host of universal concerns. From hair-thickening solutions to spot-soothing ingredients, beauty products can tackle a multitude of worries with ease. And while I wholeheartedly believe that we should all love the skin we're in—no improvements necessary—I'd be dishonest in saying there aren't days when I look to certain products to bolster my confidence and help me feel a little better in my own skin.
This is why today, I'm talking about the least alluring of concerns: dry, itchy scalps.
Anyone who is used to dealing with regular bouts of flakiness and irritation on their head will know just how frustrating it is. I've experienced dandruff on and off since I was a teenager (yes, acne and a flaky scalp—I am truly blessed) and know firsthand how incredibly annoying that prickly scalp feeling is. However, over the last few months, there has been an influx of new hair treatments landing on my doorstep with the sole focus of improving scalp health and keeping irritation at bay. And ever since Margot Robbie's hairstylist recommended a new scalp serum to me, I've made it my mission to hunt out all of the products that will genuinely combat a dry, itchy head.
It's important to note here that even if you're lucky enough to have never experienced dandruff or irritation, scalp health is well worth taking notice of. Experts agree that having a clean, healthy scalp is key to promoting cell turnover and optimising hair growth—particularly useful if you're dealing with hair loss or thinning strands. By exfoliating your scalp specifically, you remove any potential follicle-clogging skin cells and boost blood flow to your head, so both your strands and scalp should be healthier than before. It's a win-win.
This isn't a new launch, but it's truly one of the best scalp products I've ever tried. Philip Kingsley is renowned in the beauty industry as one of the go-to brands for hair-and-scalp care, and this leave-in toner provides immediate relief from an intensely itchy scalp. Just massage it into damp, clean hair to leave your head feeling soothed and to prevent flakiness over time.
Apple cider vinegar has long been touted as one of the best natural ingredients to use for detoxifying congested scalps, and it's the star ingredient in this trending product. It cuts through follicle-clogging product buildup and deeply cleanses your scalp to leave it clean and healthy, while provitamin B5 and rice seed protein leave it nourished and flake-free. Simply apply it after shampoo, leave it for a few minutes and then rinse away to reap the benefits.
I'm lucky to receive a lot of products to try for my job, but I happened upon Aveeno's new line of scalp-soothing haircare while I was in Boots recently and picked up this shampoo. I have to say I'm really impressed and will definitely be checking out the other products in the line. Just like the product above, it contains the holy-grail ingredient apple cider vinegar to clarify the scalp but is also enriched with colloidal oats and botanical ingredients to leave hair feeling soft and seriously shiny.
It might not be the most luxe of brands, and I could be going out on a limb here, but when it comes to tackling dandruff, Head & Shoulders really works for me. The brand recently launched three new deep-cleansing formulations, and I really like this scalp-purifying one. It's refreshing, leaves my scalp feeling soothed, and keeps flakes at bay, and my hair was so clean after using it that I could actually stretch the days in between washes.
Taking a gentle approach to scalp-care, Gallinée's pre- and postbiotic serum is specifically formulated to balance your scalp's microbiome to prevent itchiness, dandruff and even hair loss, and it also contains gently exfoliating lactic acid. You can spray this on to your scalp before bed to let the ingredients work overnight before washing it out in the morning, but I've found it works just as well applied onto a clean scalp at the start of the day for a more intense treatment. Plus, it leaves hair nice and glossy.
This pre-shampoo treatment contains exfoliating lactic acid to gently slough away dead skin cells and Ameliorate's unique LaH6 skin hydration complex, which improves the texture and clarity of the scalp. Massage it into your head, and then let it sit for a few minutes before shampooing it away. It's slightly gritty—which I love—so you might need to shampoo twice to get rid of any residue. My scalp is always left squeaky-clean without feeling stripped after using this.
This leave-in scalp treatment is specifically tailored toward anyone dealing with hair loss or breakage. It's infused with Japanese knotwood and tangerine peel to support the hair's natural keratin and lifts hair at the roots to leave your strands looking thicker and fuller. Spray it daily onto your scalp for best results.
I adore Living Proof as a brand, and this lightweight scalp treatment is truly brilliant if you're currently dealing with that horrible itchy feeling. It uses hyaluronic acid to tackle dryness at the roots as well as vitamin B3 to rebalance your scalp long-term. I tend to massage it directly onto my scalp and find that not only does my head feel instantly more comfortable, but my hair looks softer and shinier too.
This is the very product that Margot Robbie's hairstylist recommended to me, and I'm now totally obsessed with it. I've raved enough about it here already, but effectively, it's an AHA-based, exfoliating toner that nibbles away at all the dead skin cells on your scalp to leave it clear and healthy. I normally whack it on about 10 minutes before my hair wash, but you can leave it on for even longer for a more intense exfoliation treatment.
Unlike other scalp treatments that tend to use lactic acid as their exfoliating ingredient, this one from The Inkey List uses salicylic acid, which is why I think it's particularly good if you have a very oily scalp. It's brilliant at reducing redness and inflammation, and if you're a regular hair washer, then this very well might reduce the appearance of greasy roots.
I remember using The Body Shop's cult Ginger Shampoo as a teenager to tackle dandruff, but its serum is a new discovery for me. First up, I love the smell, but if you're not a fan of ginger, then it might not be for you. However, it feels incredible when applied—instantly calming—and I genuinely think it does a great job of keeping flakiness at bay.
I'm a tiny bit in love with the new Vita Coco hair range because it smells so good, but this scalp scrub is genuinely great if you suffer from sensitivity on your head. Basically, it's like a body scrub for your head—just massage it into your scalp, and it will work away any flaky skin to leave your head feeling refreshed and smelling incredible.
Chemical exfoliators are all well and good, but when only a truly gritty scrub will do, this sea salt one from Christophe Robin is top of my list of recommendations. Yes, it's scrubby in the truest sense of the word, but the addition of sweet almond oil means it isn't abrasive in the slightest. Massage it generously in to wet hair—I actually use this in place of shampoo—then rinse it away for a lovely, moisturised scalp.
Just reading the ingredient list of this scalp mask is enough to make me feel soothed, but the good news is that it genuinely works. Charcoal, tea tree and aloe are the star ingredients thanks to studies proving that they're all brilliant at rebalancing, nourishing and detoxifying. Plus, it contains a healthy dose of hyaluronic acid and a cooling mint oil blend to instantly deal with itchiness while preventing future cases of flakiness.
After I was lucky enough to visit the Amika salon in Brooklyn a few years back, where the stylist used this shampoo as my first wash, I've always had a tube of this in my bathroom cupboard. Just like the name suggests, it has a jelly-like texture with just the right amount of grit to slough through dry shampoo and product buildup with ease. While the sea salt gets to work with the scrubbing, a calming blend of magnesium, calcium and salicylic acid gently exfoliates and pampers irritated scalps. It's a brilliant weekly treatment to maintain scalp health.
Created specifically with curly hair types in mind, this vegan formula is designed to care for fragile scalps. It contains conditioning seabuckthorn oil and castor oil beads that stimulate your hair follicles to boost growth at the same time as it works away dead skin cells. Plus, it smells incredible—a rejuvenating mix of spearmint and grapefruit oils.