Scorching flat irons and high-lift bleach take the blame, but substantial damage can happen to a strand of hair before it’s even visible. Each baby hair incubates in its follicle—four millimeters below the surface of the scalp—for about 14 days. During this two-week period, any oxidative stress will compromise the future strength of each hair and make it significantly weaker from the get-go. “Our scalp’s health is reflected in the condition and appearance of our hair,” adds Melville, NY dermatologist Kally Papantoniou, MD.
The number-one cause of scalp stress? Malassezia globosa the same fungus that also causes dandruff, and which Dr. Rolanda Wilkerson, PhD, principal scientist at Procter & Gamble, says exists on every single scalp. Flakes and itchiness are a clear sign that Malassezia is wreaking havoc, but even if a scalp seems calm on the surface, there may still be trouble brewing underneath. Here, 14 potent picks to keep your scalp in tip-top condition.
Head & Shoulders Smooth & Silky Shampoo ($7)
Popular fungus-blasters can target Malassezia on the surface, but they are much too big to penetrate into the follicle. As a response, Head & Shoulders optimized the pyrithione zinc (ZPT) molecule—the chief ingredient in its lines—with additional ingredients designed to amplify its benefits and make it flat enough to slip inside, ultimately destroying Malassezia before it strikes. The latest option to take for a spin is just as hardworking as it is time-saving.
Younghee Purifying Essential Rinse ($29)
Rooted in Korean tradition, this do-everything scalp toner is infused with apple-cider vinegar, chamomile and honey to banish follicle-clogging product residue and balance the scalp’s pH.