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The Best Products to Fight Dandruff and Keep Your Scalp Healthy

A healthy scalp is a healthy you.

On your list of Life Issues To Worry About, your scalp doesn’t even warrant the bottom spot. Wrinkles, a receding hairline — even that fresh case of foot stank is more pressing than your scalp. But you should spare a second or two on the skin that covers your head. Why? Because your scalp gives off all kinds of warning signs about the state of your diet, sleep, and overall health. It also helps keep your hair healthy, which is one of the keys to keeping yours from disappearing before you’ve turned 50. Here’s what you need to know about helping your scalp be all that it can be. And then some.

Take Care of Dandruff With the Right Shampoo

That flaky stuff you see sitting on the shoulders of your shirt by day’s end isn’t exactly enticing, but it’s not really so bad, either. There is no single cause of the condition, but it can be tied to illness, a poor diet, stress, and oily skin. If you have eczema, you’re also at greater risk for dandruff.  Your first stop for treatment: GK Anti Dandruff Shampoo The protein-rich formula aims to improve hair strengthen while restoring the scalp’s proper pH. Give it a week and if it’s not working, ask your doc about a prescription-strength wash.

Buy Now $25

And Learn to Spot the Dangerous Dandruff

Not all dandruff is created equal. If yours is extra greasy and yellow rather than drier and white, it may be seborrheic dermatitis, an inflammatory skin condition linked with fungal infections, hormonal changes, and even neurological disease such as Parkinson’s (don’t be alarmed, that’s pretty rare). The treatment is the same as for regular dandruff: Special shampoos. Talk with your doc about a good one for you.

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Understand that Some Scalp Oil Is Good

Outside of the excessively oily seborrheic dermatitis, it’s actually beneficial for your scalp to get a little greasy. Hair follicles rely on your scalp’s natural oils for nutrients to grow new, healthy hair. If yours is on the dry side, try these tricks: Switch to a moisturizing shampoo  (we like Paul Mitchell Instant Moisture Shampoo). Massage your conditioner right up into the scalp, not just the ends of your hair; shampoo every other (or every third) day; brush your hair with a natural bristle brush to stimulate the oil glands.

Buy Now $16

The Healthy Scalp Diet

No, there isn’t such a thing. But if there were, it would look something like this: Eat fish — the oily kind. Have nuts — not too many. Enjoy fresh vegetables in copious amounts. The quality of your diet is directly represented by the skin on your head, and therefore the hair that grows out of it. Healthy fats, vitamin-rich veggies, and a good chunk of protein are what you need to get the cue-ball shining.

Protect It From Sunburn With a Scalp Mist

Just like your face, chest, and shoulders, your scalp is vulnerable to sunburn if not protected. Yes, even if it has hair on it. Your scalp has not built up the sun tolerance of, say, your face with the change of seasons. So if you’re heading to the beach, run a little sunscreen up in there, will ya? If goop in your hair isn’t your style, throw on a baseball cap. We’re partial to a scalp mist, like the Coola Organic Scalp Mist, which is easy to apply.

Buy Now $26

Choose Color Wisely

We get it. You’re 30 and your hair thinks you’re 50. You want your color back. That’s your decision. But certain chemicals in some coloring products can adversely affect your scalp’s health. Namely, they burn and itch, causing red splotches to appear on your scalp in thinning areas. Not the look you want. For a younger man’s hair, minus the chemical peel, look for hair-coloring products without ammonia and peroxide. We Like: Just For Men color GX shampoo, which adds color slowly with each wash your hair.

Buy Now $40

Give Your Scalp a Massage

Emotionally, no. But that stretch of skin across your skull is home to thousands of nerve endings, making it the prime candidate for a good rub now and then. You can get a professional massage, or you can DIY by grabbing smalls chunks of hair near the base, and slowly, lightly pulling upwards, away from the scalp. Work your way around your head, then switch to using your fingertips to vigorously rub your scalp as if you are shampooing. Go back and forth between the two techniques for five minutes. You will feel better. Or at least, your scalp will. (PS: There is no evidence that massaging your head will make your hair grow back. Yeah, we heard that, too. It ain’t true.)

And, If You Want, Pamper the Heck Out of It With a Scalp Mask

Not everyone will be down with the idea of going all spa-style on their scalp. Like, if you never exfoliate your face, you’re probably not going to start deep-cleansing your scalp. But if you are an enlightened gent, there are such things are exfoliating scalp masks, and anecdotally, they actually deliver on what they promise. We like the Exfoliating Scalp Mask from Philip Kingsley, which you massage into your scalp while your hair is damp, leave in for 10-20 minutes, then rinse out with your regular shampoo and conditioner. The stuff leaves your head a little tingly and a lot softer.

Buy Now $30