Understanding the science behind the scalp is crucial for hairdressers looking to offer a more personalised service. In this guide, we’ll take a look at the most common scalp conditions and how to approach a scalp treatment plan with your clients.

We’ll also help you…

✅ Address scalp issues with your clients sensitively.

✅ Recommend appropriate products to your clients with scalp issues.

✅ Deliver in-salon services that contribute to a healthy scalp and overall hair health.

The Science behind the Scalp 🧪

The scalp is a complex and dynamic part of the skin, and it plays a significant role in the overall health and appearance of your client’s hair. 

Let’s start by taking a look at the structure of the scalp

The scalp is made up of 3 parts…

Epidermis: The outermost layer of the skin on the scalp that provides a protective barrier.

Dermis: Sitting beneath the epidermis, the dermal layer contains blood vessels, nerves, and hair follicles.

Hair Follicles: These are structures in the dermis responsible for hair growth. Each follicle has associated sebaceous glands that produce sebum, an oily substance that moisturises and protects the hair.

Woman has her hair washed over a backwash

Other factors involved in promoting a healthy scalp…

Blood Supply

The scalp has an extensive blood vessel network that supplies nutrients and oxygen to the hair follicles. Proper blood circulation is essential for hair growth and overall scalp health.

The Sebaceous Glands

These glands are attached to hair follicles and secrete sebum. Sebum helps moisturise the scalp and hair, preventing dryness and maintaining a healthy environment for hair growth.

The Hair Growth Cycle

The hair growth cycle consists of three phases: anagen (active growth), catagen (transition), and telogen (resting). Understanding these phases helps in predicting and managing hair growth.


Cells in hair follicles undergo keratinisation, a process in which they harden and form the hair shaft. The health of these cells influences the strength and appearance of the hair.

pH Balance

The scalp’s slightly acidic pH helps maintain the health of the skin barrier. Disruptions in pH balance can lead to issues such as dryness, itching, or an overgrowth of certain microorganisms.


The scalp has a diverse microbial community, including bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms. Maintaining a balanced microbiome is crucial for scalp health and preventing issues like dandruff or inflammation.

Hair Shaft Composition

The composition of the hair shaft, including proteins like keratin, influences its strength, elasticity, and texture. Damage to the hair shaft can result from various factors, such as chemical treatments, heat styling, or environmental exposure.

How to Identify a Scalp Condition

Various scalp conditions can affect the health of your client’s hair, including dandruff, seborrheic dermatitis, psoriasis, and folliculitis. Each condition has distinct characteristics and may require tailored treatments.


Here are some of the most common scalp conditions to look out for…



Dandruff is a very common scalp condition characterised by the shedding of dead skin cells from the scalp. While the exact cause of dandruff isn’t fully understood, several factors are believed to contribute to its development.


The most common causes of dandruff include…


Malassezia Yeast: Malassezia is a yeast-like fungus that naturally resides on the scalp. While it is a normal part of the scalp’s microbiome, an overgrowth of Malassezia is associated with dandruff. The yeast produces oleic acid, which can irritate the scalp and trigger the shedding of skin cells.

Dry Skin: Dry skin on the scalp can lead to flaking and the appearance of dandruff. Factors such as cold weather, low humidity, and inadequate moisturisation can contribute to dry skin.

Excessive Oil (Sebum) Production: On the other end of the spectrum, an overproduction of sebum (the skin’s natural oil) can contribute to the development of dandruff. This excess oil can create an environment conducive to the growth of Malassezia.

Not Shampooing Enough: Infrequent or inadequate shampooing can allow oil buildup and dead skin cells on the scalp, contributing to dandruff. Regular cleansing helps to remove these accumulations.

Certain Skin Conditions: Conditions such as psoriasis and eczema can affect the scalp and lead to flaking and dandruff-like symptoms.

Sensitivity to Hair Care Products: Some clients may be sensitive or allergic to certain ingredients in hair care products, including shampoos, conditioners, or styling products. This sensitivity can result in scalp irritation and flaking.

Hormonal Changes: Hormonal fluctuations, such as those occurring during puberty and pregnancy etc.

How to help your clients manage Dandruff

As a professional hairdresser, you can play a crucial role in helping clients manage and reduce dandruff.


Start with an Assessment and Consultation…


Ask about their hair care routine, frequency of washing, and any recent changes in hair products.

Educate Your Clients 💡

Explain the causes of dandruff, emphasising factors like an overgrowth of Malassezia, dry skin, or sensitivity to hair care products. Educating clients helps them make informed decisions about their hair care routine.

Recommend Appropriate Shampoos 🫧

Suggest anti-dandruff shampoos containing active ingredients such as zinc, salicylic acid, ketoconazole, selenium sulfide, or tea tree oil. These ingredients help control the growth of Malassezia and reduce flaking.

Advise on Shampooing Frequency 🦰🚿

Guide clients on the importance of regular shampooing. Encourage them to wash their hair at least twice a week or as recommended by the chosen anti-dandruff shampoo.

Massage Techniques 💆🏼‍♀️

During the shampooing process, incorporate gentle scalp massages. This promotes blood circulation and helps distribute the anti-dandruff shampoo evenly.

Avoid Harsh Products ⛔

Advise clients to avoid harsh or drying hair care products, as these can exacerbate dryness and contribute to dandruff. Sulfate-free and moisturising products may be more suitable.

Recommend Moisturising Treatments 💧

Suggest conditioning or moisturising treatments to help alleviate dryness. A well-moisturised scalp is less likely to produce excessive flakes.

Encourage Hydration 🚰

Emphasise the importance of staying hydrated, as general skin health is linked to hydration. Drinking an adequate amount of water can contribute to overall skin and scalp health.

Consider Professional Treatments

Some salons offer professional scalp treatments designed to address dandruff and promote a healthier scalp.

These may include…

  • Scalp exfoliation.
  • Hydrating treatments or targeted therapies.

If you don’t already offer a service like this, it might be time to consider offering it to support clients with scalp issues.

Seborrheic Dermatitis


Seborrheic dermatitis is a common skin condition that can affect the scalp, causing redness, inflammation, and flaking.

As a professional hairdresser, here’s how you can help clients manage seborrheic dermatitis.


Recommend Medicated Shampoos 🫧

Suggest anti-seborrheic dermatitis shampoos containing active ingredients like ketoconazole, coal tar, salicylic acid, selenium sulfide, or zinc pyrithione. These ingredients help control the overgrowth of yeast (Malassezia) associated with seborrheic dermatitis.

Advise Regular Shampooing 🦱🚿

Encourage clients to shampoo their hair regularly, at least two to three times a week, using medicated shampoos. Proper cleansing helps manage the symptoms and prevent flare-ups.

Application Technique 🪮

Instruct clients on how to properly apply medicated shampoos. Leave the shampoo on the scalp for the recommended duration before rinsing. 

Gentle Massage 💆🏼‍♂️

During shampooing, incorporate gentle scalp massages to help distribute the medicated shampoo and promote blood circulation. However, avoid aggressive scrubbing, as it can exacerbate inflammation.

Avoid Irritating Products ⛔

Recommend clients avoid hair care products that may irritate the scalp, such as those containing harsh chemicals, strong fragrances, or alcohol.

Heat Styling Precautions 🌡️

Advise clients to be cautious with heat styling tools, as excessive heat can worsen symptoms. Encourage the use of low heat settings and heat protectant products.

Educate on Triggers 👩🏼‍🏫

Inform clients about potential triggers for seborrheic dermatitis, such as stress, hormonal changes, and certain weather conditions. Managing these factors may help control flare-ups.



Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune skin condition that can affect the scalp, forming thick, red, and scaly patches.

While there is no cure for psoriasis, as a professional hairdresser, you can help clients manage the symptoms and improve their scalp psoriasis.


Here are some tips you can pass on to clients suffering from psoriasis…


Avoid Trauma to the Scalp 🤕

Be gentle during hair care procedures. Avoid aggressive brushing, combing, or hairstyling that may cause trauma to the scalp and exacerbate psoriasis symptoms.

Recommend Gentle Hair Care Products 😶‍🌫️

Suggest mild, fragrance-free, and hypoallergenic shampoos and conditioners. Products specifically formulated for sensitive or psoriasis-prone skin may help minimise irritation.

Moisturise the Scalp 💧

Psoriasis can cause dryness and itching. Encourage clients to moisturise their scalps using products containing coconut oil, jojoba oil, or emollients. However, they should consult their dermatologist before trying new products.

Avoid Harsh Chemicals ⛔

Advise clients to avoid hair care products that contain harsh chemicals, strong fragrances, or alcohol, as these can irritate the scalp and worsen psoriasis symptoms.

Gentle Massage Techniques 💆🏽

During washing or conditioning, use gentle massage techniques to avoid causing additional irritation to the affected areas.

Cool Water Rinsing 🚿

Recommend that your clients use lukewarm or cool water for washing and rinsing their hair, as hot water can exacerbate dryness and irritation.

Folliculitis or Fungal/Bacterial Scalp Issues


Folliculitis, whether caused by bacteria or fungi, is an inflammation of the hair follicles on the scalp. 

You can assist clients with folliculitis or fungal/bacterial scalp issues; however, it’s important to note that your primary role is to recommend and encourage clients to seek professional medical advice. 


Recommend a Dermatologist

Advise clients to consult with a dermatologist for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan. Folliculitis can have different causes, and an accurate diagnosis is crucial for effective treatment.

Clients should adhere to the treatment plan prescribed by their dermatologist, whether it involves topical antibiotics, antifungal medications, or other specific therapies.

As a hairdresser, you could recommend that your clients…

Avoid Aggressive Hairstyling 🪮

Suggest gentle hairstyles that do not pull on the hair or scalp, as excessive pulling or tension can worsen folliculitis. Avoid tight hairstyles that may irritate the scalp.

Gentle Scalp Massage 💆🏼‍♀️

During washing, incorporate a gentle scalp massage to help improve blood circulation and promote drainage of hair follicles. Use gentle, circular motions.

Avoid Harsh Chemicals 🧪

Recommend avoiding harsh chemical treatments and styling products that may further irritate the scalp. Opt for mild, hypoallergenic products.

Regular Shampooing 🫧

Encourage clients to maintain good hygiene by washing their hair regularly with a gentle, medicated shampoo prescribed by their dermatologist. Frequent washing can help prevent the buildup of bacteria or fungi.

Avoid Sharing Hair Tools

Remind clients not to share combs, brushes, or other hair tools, as these items can harbour bacteria or fungi and contribute to the spread of folliculitis.

Sun Protection ☀️

If applicable, recommend protecting the scalp from direct sunlight with hats or scarves, as sunlight can exacerbate certain types of folliculitis.

Avoid Scratching 😱

Discourage clients from scratching the affected areas, which can worsen irritation and potentially lead to secondary infections.

The Best Professional Haircare to promote a Healthy Scalp in the Salon

Here at Salons Direct, we stock a fantastic range of professional haircare products to help your clients maintain a healthy scalp.

Whether you’re looking for treatments to use at the backwash or products to sell as part of a salon retail offering for clients to use at home, here are some of our recommendations…

Umberto Gianni Scalp Rescue Super Kit

Umberto Giannini Scalp Rescue Super KitSHOP NOW


Help your clients wave goodbye to a flakey scalp. The Umberto Giannini Scalp Rescue Super Kit revitalises the scalp by eliminating product buildup and dead skin cells, promoting a healthier appearance for the hair.

Kit Includes:

Grow Gorgeous Scalp Care Scalp Detox Scrub

Grow Gorgeous Scalp Care Energising Scalp Tonic SHOP NOW

The Grow Gorgeous Scalp Care Scalp Detox Scrub deeply cleans the scalp to achieve the perfect canvas for gorgeous, shiny, and flake-free hair.

Here are just some of the benefits…

  • Instantly detoxifies and refreshes the scalp.
  • Removes product buildup, excess sebum and follicle-clogging grime caused by pollution.
  • Perfect for hair with a tendency for grease and product build-up.

Grow Gorgeous Scalp Care Energising Scalp Tonic

Grow Gorgeous Scalp Care Energising Scalp Tonic




The Grow Gorgeous Scalp Care Energising Scalp Tonic is scientifically proven to refresh the scalp, give a thicker feel and appearance, and hydrate all hair types.

Key Features:

  • Hair feels strong, nourished and protected with moisture.
  • It is formulated with powerful ingredients, including microalgae, which stimulates the scalp and leaves hair looking stronger and denser, and multimineral actives, which promote vitality and help the scalp feel hydrated.
  • Suitable for all hair types.

Goldwell Dualsenses Scalp Specialist





We also recommend the Goldwell Dualsenses ‘Scalp Specialist Range’, which includes the Deep Cleansing Shampoo and the Anti HairLoss Serum, both of which are suitable for thinning hair and are blended with the highest concentration of t-Flavanone, an ingredient approved by dermatologists.

Revlon Professional Restart





This scalp revitalising range is formulated with proven skincare ingredients. It aims to soothe and protect the scalp for comfort, remove product buildup, and balance the scalp’s microbiome.

Products available in the range…

Revlon Professional Restart Hydration Scalp Moisturising Lotion 

Revlon Professional Restart Balance Clay Scalp Mask 10 

Revlon Professional Restart Balance Scalp Soothing Cleanser

Revlon Professional Restart Balance Scalp Moisture Lotion

L’Oreal Scalp Advanced




If you’re looking for a dedicated range of products to support your clients with the care of their scalp, take a look at L’Oreal Scalp Advanced. This range will help you solve your client’s scalp concerns, including an oily scalp, dandruff, and general scalp discomfort.


If you’d like a more in-depth look at each product within the L’Oreal Scalp Advanced range, take a look at our guide: How To Treat Your Client’s Dryness and Irritation With L’Oréal Scalp Advance.







Relieve your clients from dandruff, scalp redness and irritation with the Boucleme range of scalp specialist tools and products. With dedicated shampoo and dry shampoo in the scalp care range, Boucleme also offers a dedicated Scalp Massager to boost circulation and overall scalp health.





Nioxin is known for its professional hair care products, which are specifically designed to address issues related to thinning hair and promote a healthy scalp. Nioxin utilises advanced technologies and ingredients, such as BioAmp, Glyco-Shield, and Scalp Access Delivery System, to provide a comprehensive approach to hair and scalp care.

The core Nioxin system follows a three-step approach:

Nioxin shampoos are designed to remove sebum, fatty acids, and other environmental residues from the scalp and hair. This helps create a clean and optimised environment for hair growth.

Nioxin conditioners or treatment products are formulated to provide moisture and nourishment to the scalp and hair. They often contain ingredients that aim to strengthen the hair and promote a healthy scalp environment.

Nioxin’s scalp treatment products are leave-in solutions designed to address specific scalp concerns. They often include ingredients that promote a healthy scalp, support hair density, and reduce hair thinning.

Hairburst Oily Scalp and Roots Hair Bundle



The Hairburst Oily Scalp and Roots Hair Bundle remove excess oil and buildup for healthier, looking hair.

The set includes:

Bondi Boost


Take a look at the Bondi Boost Salon professional scalp range.

The Shampoo...

  • Cleanses the scalp from follicle-clogging build-up and promotes better scalp health and healthy hair growth.
  • Formulated for hair thinning and loss.
  • Free from silicones, parabens, sulphates, and many other nasty chemicals.
  • Revitalises the hair shaft and gently cleanses the scalp of build-up.

The Conditioner

  • It is specially formulated for ageing, thinning, and weak hair types to promote scalp health and hair growth for fuller, thicker-looking hair.
  • Powered by a phytoactive blend of Redensyl®, Procapil® and powerful botanical extracts.
  • Safe for coloured and chemically treated hair.
  • Perfect for normal to oily hair types.

The Scrub

  • Buffs away dead skin cells, unclog pores and remove product build-up.
  • Contains natural exfoliant sea salt, stimulating green coffee and nourishing vitamin E to leave the scalp feeling cleansed and recharged.


Whether you are part of a salon team or a mobile hairdresser, your experience will expose you to a wide range of hair types and scalps over the years.

We hope this guide will become your go-to resource on everything you need to know about helping your clients achieve a healthy scalp!

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