Scalp Serum vs Hair Serum – What’s the Difference?

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Image credit: SEEN, Developed by Dr. Iris Rubin 

Most people will tell you that a serum, or a certain type of shampoo, or a certain type of conditioner is the secret to luscious, beautiful hair. Unfortunately, that’s usually not always the case. Lots of things affect the look of your hair – with genetics, your diet and your lifestyle playing a major role.

With that being said, good hair products can improve your hair condition, assuming that you are taking the utmost care of it, and a serum is definitely one of those products. That’s not why you’re here though – you’re here to see what the difference is between scalp and hair serums, when to use either of those, and the benefits and drawbacks of each of them. Let’s dive into it!

Scalp serum is for the scalp, right?

Exactly right – scalp serums are designed to nourish and treat your scalp whereas hair serums are designed to nourish the hair strands themselves. Scalp serums are designed to help with different concerns, like dryness, flaking, or thinning hair. To summarize, they’re designed to promote overall scalp health and maintain a healthy scalp environment, which is important for healthy hair growth (including hair thickness).

There’s a lot of benefits to scalp serums, including:

  • Promoting a healthy scalp: Regular use of scalp serums can help improve scalp health by providing hydration and promoting a healthy scalp microbiome.
  • Reducing dandruff: Ingredients like salicylic acid help combat flaking by exfoliating the scalp and reducing the yeast associated with dandruff.
  • Helping with hair growth: By nourishing the hair follicles and improving blood circulation, scalp serums can support healthier, stronger hair growth.
  • Soothing irritation: Scalp serums with soothing ingredients like menthol and tea tree oil can alleviate discomfort caused by scalp conditions.
  • Hydrating the scalp: Ingredients like hyaluronic acid ensure the scalp remains well-hydrated, preventing dryness and flakiness.

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Image credit: SEEN, Developed by Dr. Iris Rubin 

Why would I need a hair serum then?

Hair serums are different – they’re designed to address the needs of the hair strands themselves which offers an entirely different set of benefits when compared to scalp serums. To put it simply, your scalp and your hair strands are two different things. Hair serums enhance the appearance, texture and manageability of your hair as well as protecting the hair from damage.

Similarly, here’s some of the benefits of hair serums:

  • Adding shine and smoothness: Hair serums help coat the hair strands to give them a shiny, glossy appearance alongside smoothing out the hair cuticles.
  • Reducing frizziness: Hair serums are often “anti-frizz,” and essentially what that means is it prevents moisture from penetrating the hair strands and causing them to swell.
  • Protecting against heat: If you’re planning on pulling out the hair straightener or the blow dryer, then you definitely need the heat protection that hair serums can offer.
  • Detangling and managing hair: If you have long, thick or curly hair, then hair serums will really help with combing through your hair without causing damage or breakage.
  • Improving hair health: Hair serums provide essential moisture to dry hair and improve the overall texture of the hair. Hair serums can also help when styling your hair by providing hold.

How do I decide what hair or scalp serum to use?

When choosing a hair or scalp serum – you always have to look at the ingredients that are used in creating the products. Here’s some bad ingredients that you should be looking out for:

  • Alcohol: Can dry out the hair and scalp, leading to increased frizz and breakage.
  • Parabens: Preservatives that have been linked to hormonal disruption.
  • Synthetic fragrance: Can cause allergic reactions and irritation.
  • Phthalates: Often used in fragrances, these chemicals may be associated with potential health risks.

The company SEEN has stood out when it comes to scalp or hair serums. Designed by Dr. Iris Rubin (who is a Harvard trained dermatologist), the products are formulated with as many natural ingredients as possible, ensuring that not only your hair, but also your scalp is healthy as well. For a scalp serum, their Restore Scalp Serum stands out due to its carefully selected ingredients, which are designed to promote a healthy scalp without causing harm. Here’s a breakdown of its key ingredients and their benefits:

  • Bisabolol: A naturally-derived ingredient with skin-soothing properties, helping to calm the scalp.
  • Hemisqualane (C13-15 Alkane): Derived from plant sugars, this ingredient acts as nature’s answer to silicone, providing a smooth, non-greasy finish that won’t clog pores on the scalp.
  • Ethylhexyl olivate: Sourced from olives, this natural emollient offers deep hydration and nourishment for the scalp, ensuring it remains moisturized and healthy.
  • Squalane: A powerful plant-derived ingredient that not only hydrates the scalp but also helps protect the skin barrier’s integrity while helping ensure a healthy scalp environment.
  • Propanediol caprylate: A naturally-derived active ingredient that detoxifies the scalp while supporting a healthy microbiome, ensuring a balanced and healthy scalp.
  • Sarcosine: Works to rebalance the scalp microbiome, combating stress, pollution, and product buildup, ensuring your scalp stays clean and healthy.

Whether you use the SEEN product or not, we suggest that you find a scalp or hair serum that doesn’t contain any of the bad ingredients we’ve listed out and incorporate it into your hair routine.

What Should I Do Next?

Now that you have an idea of the differences between scalp and hair serums, the benefits of each of them and the ingredients that you might want to avoid – you have the tools to start taking action.

Review your hair – do you have dry hair? Are you looking to smooth your hair? Or do you have scalp issues such as thinning hair or dandruff? Based on whatever experience you’re going through, choose a serum that contains beneficial ingredients (backed up with science) and avoid the harmful ones. We’ve given you some examples, but it’s important to also do your own research.

Remember to incorporate the chosen serum into your haircare routine consistently to see the best results. Remember, healthy hair starts with a healthy scalp, and the right serum can make all the difference. Happy haircare journey!

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