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15 Best Scalp Scrubs to Renew Your Scalp

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When was the last time you’ve exfoliated your scalp? Never? Then it’s time to get acquainted with the best scalp scrubs, so you can give your scalp a bit of love. Designed specifically for the delicate skin of the scalp, scalp scrubs help to remove flakiness, dead skin, and product build-up, to prevent itchiness and keep the scalp healthy.

We’ve selected the best scalp scrubs you can buy online for every scalp type! Some are a little more intense, while others are mild, with cleansing, moisturizing, and soothing options to target specific needs. No matter who you are, there’s a scalp scrub out there that might work for you!

In this article:

Our Picks for the Best Scalp Scrubs

These are the best scalp scrubs you can buy online, at every price point and for every need!

Best Overall
Briogeo Scalp Revival Charcoal + Coconut Oil Micro-exfoliating Scalp Scrub Shampoo

We’re starting our list with one of the most famous and exciting physical scalp scrubs! Designed by the clean, luxury haircare brand Briogeo, it’s pricey but effective. It’s designed specifically for those with an oily scalp, with a formula that removes dead skin quite thoroughly while also combating excess oil.

The main exfoliants are cellulose and silica, so they’re gentle and safe for the environment. There is also charcoal, which has skin-purifying and oil-absorbing properties. It’s not recommended specifically for dandruff, but these ingredients could still help if you suffer from that kind of flakiness.

Beyond the exfoliants, it’s a cleansing shampoo formula, so it foams up in the water and rinses away fairly easily. It contains mint and tea tree essential oils, which come together in a candy cane scent, cooling effect and may help target microbes. They do cause the formula to tingle a little, which you may or may not like. 

It also comes in a mini size if you just want to trial it and an extra-large size if you don’t want to repurchase often. Buy it at Sephora!

Key Features:

  • Size: 2 oz., 8 oz., or 32 oz.
  • Exfoliant: Cellulose, silica, and charcoal
  • Other Ingredients: Coconut oil, tea tree oil, cleansing agents
  • Cruelty-Free/Vegan: Yes/Yes


  • Combats excess oil
  • Thorough yet gentle exfoliation
  • Can help with dandruff


  • Pricey

Best Luxury
Christophe Robin Purifying Scalp Scrub with Sea Salt
Christophe Robin

If your scalp is quite oily, this is another wonderful scrub to try, especially if you’re a fan of luxury products. It’s incredibly cleansing, working beautifully as a two-in-one shampoo and scrub. The main exfoliating ingredient here is salt, but there is also some gentle hydrated silica. The two work together to give it a gritty texture that removes flakiness quite well.

Those gritty bits are embedded in a clarifying formula that cleanses the scalp and hair thoroughly. It removes oils as well as product build-up quite easily, although, for those with dry scalps, it might be a little stripping, despite the inclusion of almond oil.

The salt and silica rinse away from the hair easily, and the smell is wonderful, so it really feels like a luxury product. Get it from Sephora!

Key Features:

  • Size: 2.7 oz. or 8.33 oz.
  • Exfoliant: Salt, hydrated silica
  • Other Ingredients: Sodium laureth sulfate, almond oil, menthyl lactate
  • Cruelty-Free/Vegan: Yes/Yes


  • Gritty, thorough exfoliation
  • Clarifying to cleanse and remove product build-up
  • Rinses easily
  • Beautiful smell


  • Expensive
  • A little drying

Best 2-in-1
OUAI Scalp & Body Scrub

If you don’t like clutter around your bathtub, you might enjoy this 2-in-1 scalp and body scrub. It is a foaming formula that cleans the skin but also includes a lot of hydrating ingredients that help to moisturize at the same time. This makes it a nice choice even for dry skin!

The exfoliating ingredient is sugar, which also has some humectant properties to load the skin up with water. Other moisturizing ingredients include glycerin, almond oil, and coconut oil. It’s sulfate-free but still contains some cleansing agents that foam up to clear both scalp and body from product residue and oils. Unless you have very dry skin, you’ll probably have to follow it up with shampoo. You can pick it up at Sephora or Ulta.

Key Features:

  • Size: 8.8 oz.
  • Exfoliant: Sugar
  • Other Ingredients: Cleansing agents, glycerin, almond oil, coconut oil
  • Cruelty-Free/Vegan: Yes/No


  • 2-in-1 for scalp and body
  • Foams for mild cleaning action
  • Gentle, hydrating ingredients
  • Can be used by all skin types


  • Not cleansing enough for oily scalps

Best Budget
Nexxus Clean & Pure Invigorating Detox Scalp Scrub

From Nexxus, this is another great budget-friendly shampoo. It’s a little pricier than L’Oreal’s budget offering further below, but it comes in a larger container that justifies the cost and with a better formula.

Made with sugar, it has a simple and quick-dissolving formula that exfoliates thoroughly without drying out the scalp. It’s a nice alternative to those who find salt too drying! The sugar is embedded in a cleansing, shampoo-like gel that foams easily and gives a thorough cleansing. It’s not particularly special, but it’s a great choice for normal hair. Order it from Ulta!

Key Features:

  • Size: 11.25 oz.
  • Exfoliant: Sugar and silica
  • Other Ingredients: Cleansing agents, almond oil, hydrolyzed elastin protein
  • Cruelty-Free/Vegan: No/No


  • Very budget-friendly
  • Rinses easily
  • Cleansing
  • Great for all hair and scalp types


  • Not particularly special

Best Acid-Based
Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Happi Scalp Scrub
Drunk Elephant

This hybrid scalp scrub from Drunk Elephant is one of the coolest exfoliants on our list. It has a formula that includes both chemical and physical exfoliants to dramatically restore the condition of the scalp. It includes both AHA and BHA, which is a combination that offers thorough exfoliation while cutting through scalp oils.

It’s designed to be left on the scalp for up to 10 minutes, like a peel, and it can tingle a little. It might be a little extreme for those with sensitive skin, but most users enjoy the sensation. If your skin is fine with exfoliation but sensitive to fragrance, you’ll be happy to know it’s totally fragrance-free!  

We love the pointed applicator on the tube, which allows you to apply it right to the scalp and use it sparingly. It’s useful because this scrub is on the pricey side, so you don’t want to waste any product.

Fans of clean beauty will enjoy it since, like all Drunk Elephant products, it’s free from controversial ingredients. Shop for it at Sephora!

Key Features:

  • Size: 6 oz.
  • Exfoliant: Glycolic acid, salicylic acid, lactic acid, cellulose
  • Other Ingredients: Glycerin, coconut alkanes, jojoba oil, marula oil
  • Cruelty-Free/Vegan: Yes/Yes


  • Thorough exfoliation with BHA, AHA, and cellulose beads
  • Clean formula
  • Pointed applicator for precise, sparing application
  • Fragrance-free


  • May tingle
  • A little pricey

Best for Curly Hair
dpHUE Apple Cider Vinegar Scalp Scrub

This scalp scrub is extra gritty, with a touch of apple cider vinegar (a.k.a. ACV) to help maintain the scalp’s pH. It’s only made with pink Himalayan salt as the only exfoliant, which guarantees easy rinsing.

The formula is thick and made with nourishing oils. It’s easy to concentrate only on the scalp. This is especially useful if you have curly hair since you won’t have to worry about the salt drying out your curls. It’s also a nice choice for dry or sensitive skin since it’s fragrance-free and quite moisturizing! However, it does have a slightly sour vinegar smell.

Salt scrubs are usually not ideal for color-treated hair, but dpHUE is a hair-dye brand, so they designed this formula to be a little more color-safe. We still wouldn’t recommend using the salt along the length of the hair, but don’t worry about a small amount at the scalp causing issues. Find it at Sephora!

Key Features:

  • Size: 9 oz.
  • Exfoliant: Pink salt
  • Other Ingredients: Apple cider vinegar, gentle cleansing agents, avocado oil
  • Cruelty-Free/Vegan: Yes/Yes


  • Very gritty and exfoliating
  • Easy to rinse
  • Moisturizing for dry skin
  • Fragrance-free for sensitive skin
  • Color-safe


  • Smells a little sour

Best for Sensitive Scalps
Oribe Serene Scalp Exfoliating Scrub

This ultra-luxurious scrub from Oribe is also our top choice for sensitive scalps. It’s designed specifically with dandruff in mind as part of a full anti-dandruff collection. The packaging is especially stunning with a convenient applicator, which we appreciate considering the cost.

The exfoliation comes from polymer beads, which are incredibly soft – much softer than most salt or silica-based exfoliants. They exfoliate less aggressively, so they’re a nice choice if your scalp gets easily irritated. There’s also a small amount of glycolic acid for added scalp renewal. 

The formula itself is creamy and lightly cleansing, with both cleansing agents and hair-protecting silicones. It’s a nice choice for any hair type, although those with oily scalps will want to follow it up with shampoo. Just note that while it is gentle, it’s also made with mint essential oil, which is considered a fragrance. Some find it cooling and soothing, but for others, it can be an issue. Order it from Nordstrom or Sephora!

Key Features:

  • Size: 4.2 oz.
  • Exfoliant: Soft polymer beads, glycolic acid
  • Other Ingredients: Mild cleansing agents, dimethicone, mint essential oil
  • Cruelty-Free/Vegan: Yes/Yes


  • Soft and gentle polymer bead exfoliants
  • Gently cleansing and moisturizing
  • Stunning, convenient packaging
  • Luxurious packaging


  • Fragrance won’t work for everyone
  • Extremely expensive

Best for Dry Scalps
NatureLab. Tokyo Perfect Shine Clarifying Scalp Scrub
NatureLab. Tokyo

This Japanese scalp scrub has an unusual formula that’s ideal for dry scalps. Instead of salt, it’s a sugar-based formula, which makes it more moisturizing than many of the other options on our list. There are no other exfoliants – just sugar, which melts in water and rinses away very easily! However, unlike other scrubs, it’s not particularly cleansing, so you will need to follow it up with shampoo. 

Other hydrators in the blend include probiotic sake water, which helps fortify the scalp’s microbiome, and hydrating hyaluronic acid. There are also some skin-soothers with antimicrobial effects to help with acne and fungus, like willow bark extract and tea tree oil. It has a really beautiful scent, although it might be an issue for some. Finally, we really appreciate that it’s much more affordable than most of the other scalp scrubs available! It’s sold at Ulta.

Key Features:

  • Size: 8.8 oz.
  • Exfoliant: Sugar
  • Other Ingredients: Sake water, hyaluronic acid, willow bark, tea tree oil
  • Cruelty-Free/Vegan: Yes/No


  • Moisturizing formula
  • Affordable
  • Easy to rinse away
  • Soothing
  • Supports scalp microbiome


  • Not cleansing at all

Best Gentle Formula
Virtue Exfoliating Scalp Treatment

Virtue is a little newer than some of the other brands on our list, and they also actually offer something a little different. Their scalp exfoliant has a very gentle formula with rice powder, salicylic acid, and pineapple and papaya enzymes.

The rice powder is a very mild physical scrub that works with the chemical exfoliants to lightly remove dead skin. It’s even gentler than Oribe’s Serene scrub! This means that it can be used on a regular basis, although for some, it might not offer dramatic enough results.

The rest of the formula is more akin to conditioner than shampoo, with silicones and oils, so it helps to soften and smooth the hair. This makes it a solid choice for those with sensitive or dry scalps. Unlike many other options on our list, the fragrance blend is mint- and menthol-free, so it’s wonderful if you’re not a fan of that tingling, cooling effect. It’s available at Sephora.

Key Features:

  • Size: 5 oz.
  • Exfoliant: Rice powder, salicylic acid, enzymes
  • Other Ingredients: Dimethicone, coconut and jojoba oils
  • Cruelty-Free/Vegan: Yes/Yes


  • Very gentle exfoliation
  • Moisturizing conditioner-like formula
  • Suitable for sensitive skin


  • Subtle, progressive effects

Best Drugstore
L’Oréal EverPure Sulfate-Free Scalp Care + Detox Scrub

You can always trust L’Oréal to make quality drugstore products at reasonable prices. Most of the formulas on our list favor natural ingredients, but the folks at L’Oréal are not afraid of synthetics. We don’t mind this at all since, as a rule, we don’t think natural ingredients are necessarily better.

The main drawback is that it’s harder to rinse the apricot seed powder out of the hair when compared to other exfoliants. If you have very dense or tightly coiled hair, it’ll be a bit of a pain to use. For thin, fine, or straight hair, it’ll be easy enough, so you might be willing to spend the extra time rinsing for the lower price.

The formula the powder is suspended is lightly cleansing and gentle, with some hair-nourishing effects. Grab it from Ulta!

Key Features:

  • Size: 8 oz.
  • Exfoliant: Apricot seed powder
  • Other Ingredients: Synthetic cleansing and conditioning agents, menthol
  • Cruelty-Free/Vegan: No/No


  • Affordable
  • Cleansing yet nourishing
  • Decent exfoliation


  • Difficult to rinse out
  • Not suitable for all hair types

Best Clean Formula
Goop G.Tox Himalayan Salt Scalp Scrub Shampoo

This clean, natural salt scrub is another nice choice for oily hair. The price breakdown for it isn’t great, especially considering it comes in a slightly smaller container than most other scrubs, but it isn’t too surprising, either: pink Himalayan salt is famously much more expensive than the plain sea salt found in most other scrubs.

The salt is actually the only exfoliant in this blend, so it melts easily under warm water. This means that it leaves behind absolutely no residue, unlike other gritty ingredients that sometimes like to stick around.

The formula is deeply cleansing, with coconut-derived cleansing agents that foam up well. However, the combination of the surfactants and the salt can be a little harsh for those with sensitive or dry scalps. For those with oily scalps, though, it works very well. Thanks to peppermint essential oil, it’s also mildly cooling. It’s available at Sephora.

Key Features:

  • Size: 0.85 oz. or 6.7 oz.
  • Exfoliant: Pink Himalayan salt
  • Other Ingredients: Coconut-derived surfactants, plant oils, peppermint essential oil
  • Cruelty-Free/Vegan: Yes/Yes


  • Salt dissolves easily and leaves no residue
  • Deeply cleansing
  • Great for oily scalps


  • Expensive
  • Can be drying

Best Oil-Free Formula
Playa California Salt Scalp Scrub Shampoo

For those who don’t mind essential oils but still want minimalist formulas, this is a lovely scalp scrub to try! It doubles as a sulfate-free shampoo, with a cleansing formula that doesn’t lather too much. The exfoliation comes from sea salt, which also helps to eliminate oils. There are no added oils in the blend, which is nice if botanical oils cause dandruff for you. 

Other ingredients in the blend are mostly refreshing and ideal for itchiness, like tea tree oil, menthol, and eucalyptus oil. Those strong, medicinal scents are polarizing, but if you like them, then you’ll enjoy this scrub quite a bit!

Despite the cleansing action and the salt, it’s not overly drying, so it’s nice for both normal and oily hair types. You can buy it at Sephora.

Key Features:

  • Size: 8 oz.
  • Exfoliant: Salt
  • Other Ingredients: Mild cleansing agents, tea tree oil, eucalyptus oil, menthol
  • Cruelty-Free/Vegan: Yes/Yes


  • Cleanses thoroughly
  • Very cooling
  • Rinses easily
  • Ideal for oily hair


  • Strong medicinal smell

Best Charcoal Formula
Drybar On the Rocks Charcoal Scalp Scrub

Though it looks intimidating and black at first, this charcoal scrub lathers up into a creamy, cleansing formula that works well for oily hair. Charcoal helps to eliminate excess oils, but the actual exfoliant in the mix is gentle, non-drying sugar, which thankfully also dissolves easily. The blend of ingredients is not drying to the scalp, but if left on the hair for too long, it may make your tresses feel a little brittle.

A touch of glycolic acid boosts the exfoliating effects, although the amount is much lower than in a product like Drunk Elephant’s exfoliant. The scrub has a cooling effect, due to the addition of menthyl lactate. This can be nice for some and irritating for others. Find it at Nordstrom and Sephora!

Key Features:

  • Size: 5 oz.
  • Exfoliant: Sugar, silica, glycolic acid
  • Other Ingredients: Charcoal, menthyl lactate
  • Cruelty-Free/Vegan: Yes/No


  • Removes excess oil
  • Glycolic acid boosts exfoliation
  • Cooling effect stimulates the scalp


  • Can make delicate hair brittle

Best Cleansing
Kérastase Energizing Purifying Scrub for Oily Scalp

This powerful scrub from Kérastase exfoliates, clarifies, and cleanses all in one go. It’s by far the deepest cleansing treatment on our list. It has a strong formula with some intense ingredients, like salt, salicylic acid, and sodium laureth sulfate.

For most, they’re a little much, but if your hair needs that extra-powerful cleansing and residue-removing action, it’s perfect. It’ll work to remove oils and product build-up, but it might also be helpful if your scalp has gotten stained with dye!

For those with dry scalps, it will definitely be a little too intense. If your scalp is usually oily, get it from Sephora!

Key Features:

  • Size: 8.5 oz.
  • Exfoliant: Salt, salicylic acid
  • Other Ingredients: SLES
  • Cruelty-Free/Vegan: Yes/Yes


  • Thoroughly cleansing
  • Clarifying to remove product build-up
  • Added exfoliation with salicylic acid


  • Can be very stripping

Best Follicle-Stimulating
Frank Body Stimulating Scalp Scrub
Frank Body

Frank Body is a brand that knows body scrubs, so it’s no surprise that they expanded their range to include scalp exfoliation. The formula isn’t too different from their body scrubs, with walnut shell as the main exfoliating ingredient, along with various emollients and oils that nourish the scalp. Interestingly, the formula includes both coffee extract and caffeine, which may have some hair growth-boosting effects.

Unfortunately, it also has some big drawbacks. The walnut and pumice exfoliating blend is tough to rinse out, and if your hair is particularly delicate, it may also cause some breakage. If you have short, resilient hair and you want that caffeine boost, you may choose to give it a try anyway. Purchase it at Ulta!

Key Features:

  • Size: 4.22 oz.
  • Exfoliant: Walnut shell powder, pumice
  • Other Ingredients: Coffee extract, caffeine
  • Cruelty-Free/Vegan: Yes/No


  • Caffeine helps stimulate hair follicles
  • Scalp-nourishing oils


  • Difficult to rinse
  • May cause hair breakage

What to Look for in the Perfect Scalp Scrub for You?

So many amazing scrubs, but which one should you choose? Here are our tips based on your hair type and formula!

The Formula of Scalp Exfoliants

Scalp exfoliants come with a few different types of formulas! These are the main ones you should know about.

Cleansing Base

Most scalp scrubs have a shampoo-like base made with surfactants, from strongly cleansing sodium laureth sulfate to gentle decyl glucoside or coco-betaine. These cleansing ingredients pick up oils and impurities from the scalp, and they often foam up once they come in contact with water. They usually rinse away easily, and they save you the need to shampoo after scrubbing.  

Nourishing Base

Other scalp exfoliants have a nourishing base that’s more similar to a hair conditioner or to a regular body scrub. They contain emollients and oils that moisturize the scalp and help smooth or soften the hair. Because they’re free from surfactants, they’re often gentler on sensitive or dry scalps. However, they might be a little harder to rinse out, and they’re usually not ideal for oily scalps.


Salt is the most common abrasive used in scalp exfoliants. The salt crystals are able to dislodge dead skin cells, but they also melt in water, so they’re easy to rinse away without a residue. Salt has oil-clearing and anti-microbial properties that make it fantastic for oily scalps as well as for those suffering from dandruff. For those with dry scalps, however, it can be a little drying and irritating. 


Sugar is another commonly used abrasive. Like salt, it also exfoliates well and then melts away in the water. The main difference is that, unlike salt, sugar is hydrating rather than drying. It doesn’t dry out the scalp at all but actually helps to keep it moisturized.

The only issue with sugar is that it can feed the yeast that’s the cause of dandruff for some people. If you have issues with fungal infections, you may want to avoid sugar altogether or be careful to rinse-off sugar-based scalp scrubs soon after using them.

Other Common Abrasives

While salt and sugar are the most common scalp exfoliant ingredients, there are other abrasives that are sometimes used instead of or in addition to the tasty crystals. They include silica, which is a mineral, biodegradable microbeads from special polymers or cellulose that are safe for the oceans, or powders from walnut shells or apricot seeds. While these usually work very well to exfoliate gently, they’re a little tougher to rinse out of the hair.

Acids & Enzymes

Finally, some scalp exfoliants rely on exfoliating acids or enzymes to remove the dead skin. Ingredients like glycolic acid, salicylic acid, lactic acid, papain, or bromelain help to melt down the connective material that holds dead skin cells together, forcing them to shed. They’re effective while being gentler on the skin of the scalp.

Usually, these ingredients need to be in contact with the scalp for 5-15 minutes to do their job. All scalp exfoliants that include these ingredients also feature some physical abrasives. If you want to exfoliate your scalp without any scrubbing, you can use a salicylic- or glycolic acid-based toner as a scalp rinse instead. 

How to Choose the Best SCalp Scrub for Your Hair Type?

Consider Your Hair Type

For your scalp scrub to be effective, pick the right formula for your hair type and concerns.

Oily Scalp

Those with oily scalps benefit the most from scalp scrubs! If your hair gets oily quickly, this is an investment worth making. The sebum produced by the scalp can clog the hair follicles and prevent dead skin from shedding correctly, so scalp scrubs go a long way towards unclogging the follicles and removing the dead skin and oils.

Almost any scalp scrub will work, but we especially recommend salt-based formulas that’ll help remove excess oil and then dissolve easily. Charcoal, like in the Briogeo scrub, will also work, especially as an alternative if you find salt irritating.

Additionally, you can also look for salicylic acid, which is a chemical exfoliant that cuts through oil. If your oily scalp is acne-prone, tea tree oil is another great ingredient because it has antimicrobial properties.

Finally, it’s up to you if you prefer a scalp scrub with cleansing agents since it can double as a shampoo. If you end up with a scalp scrub that’s a little more like a treatment or a conditioner, make sure to follow it up with shampoo instead.

Dry Scalp

For those with dry scalps, finding a good scalp scrub is a little tougher. Most formulas are made with oily scalps in mind, so they can be very stripping. You’ll have to do a bit of digging. Look for moisturizing formulas that are made without salt since it can be a little drying.

Instead, cellulose, sugar, silica, and other gentle exfoliating beads can work very well. Lactic acid, glycolic acid, and even salicylic acid will work as chemical exfoliants. Other ingredients to look for include hydrating humectants like glycerin and hyaluronic acid, hair-restoring proteins, and scalp-nourishing oils. OUAI and NaturaLab. Tokyo both offer wonderful scrubs for dry scalps and hair.

Sensitive Scalp

Those with sensitive scalps also need to be a little careful with scrubs, although scalp exfoliation can actually be quite helpful. Having a sensitive scalp often correlates with sensitive skin, which means it’s prone to irritation, itchiness, and redness, and you may experience dermatitis.

If that’s your situation, avoid scrubs described as “clarifying” with harsh cleansing agents or rough exfoliating particles. Gentler exfoliants like cellulose or rice powder will work well, however. For some, salt offers calming effects, but if your scalp is very inflamed, it may actually sting. Calming ingredients like chamomile or willow bark extract can be nice.   

Another ingredient you need to consider carefully is mint and its related compounds, like menthol and menthyl lactate, as well as essential oils from tea tree or eucalyptus. For some shoppers with sensitive scalps, these are wonderful ingredients that cool and soothe the scalp. For others, they can be the exact opposite, causing irritation instead.

If you have a sensitive scalp, always make sure to patch-test new products since even scrubs free of these ingredients can still be irritating.


One of the best ways to clear the hair of dandruff is with an exfoliating scrub. Those with dandruff often also have oily scalps, so most salt scrubs will work beautifully! Salicylic acid, especially, is considered a great dandruff treatment, while tea tree oil may also offer some benefits. Kérastase and Drunk Elephant are both great choices.

Color-Treated Hair

In addition to considering the condition of your scalp, you should also take note of how each scrub will work with dyed hair. Salt-based scrubs, in particular, are important to avoid if your hair is color-treated, especially if they’re not advertised as color-safe. Instead, look for conditioning formulas with sugar or other exfoliants that will help keep your hair color intact.

Photos via Sephora, Ulta, Instagram