Hair » Scalp Exfoliation Guide: How to Exfoliate Scalp Gently

Scalp Exfoliation Guide: How to Exfoliate Scalp Gently

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We never forget to exfoliate our face or body, but what about scalp exfoliation? Occasionally, the skin right atop our head can also benefit from a good scrub or exfoliation. Exfoliating can help keep both the scalp and the hair itself healthy, especially if you’re dealing with some particularly frustrating scalp conditioners.

We’ve put together this guide to explain everything you need to know about scalp exfoliation. We’ll explain the different scalp scrubs and their benefits and even include some tips on how to exfoliate the scalp.

In this article:

What Is a Scalp Exfoliant?

Exfoliants, if you’re not familiar, are products designed to slough away dead skin. They usually come as gels, peels, toners, or creams, sometimes with gritty bits embedded in them. Scalp scrubs are simply scrubs designed specifically to suit the unique condition of the scalp. They’re made with ingredients that help maintain scalp and hair health. They’re also formulated to rinse away easily, even off of a thick head of hair.

Scalp exfoliants aren’t all necessarily based on physical scrubbing, though. Scalp exfoliants can also have acid-based ingredients that help break down sebum and force dead skin cells to shed themselves in a healthier manner. If you’re not sure which of the two will be right for you, check out our guide to the best scalp scrubs because we include a comparison of the different types of scalp scrubs.  

Scalp Exfoliation Benefits

Scalp exfoliation has a few benefits that make it an interesting and potentially very worthwhile practice.

  • First of all, it removes dead, dry skin from the scalp. This can eliminate flakiness and help you better moisturize the scalp later on.
  • Exfoliation may also help clear the hair follicles and pave the path for healthier hair growth
  • Scalp exfoliation provides a deep cleaning that helps to remove product build-up from the scalp, including dry shampoo, mousses, hair gel, and more.
  • It clears excess oil from the scalp, which can be especially helpful for those with oily hair.
  • Depending on the ingredients used in the scalp exfoliant, it can have other benefits, like targeting dryness, irritation, scalp acne, and more. 
Scalp Scrub Benefits & Uses

Should You Use a Scalp Scrub?

Scalp exfoliation is amazing, but it’s not for everyone! This section will help you figure out if it’ll be right for you.

Scalp Exfoliation Is Great for: 

  • Oily scalps because it helps to remove excess oils and build-up.
  • People who use a lot of hair products near the root of their hair. This can build up or irritate the scalp, but scalp scrubs will help to remove it.
  • Those who suffer from dandruff or flaky skin on the scalp.
  • For sensitive or dry skin, an appropriately formulated scalp scrub may help alleviate dryness and irritation.
  • If you have psoriasis, exfoliation is a controversial topic. Many dermatologists do not recommend it, so if that’s the root cause of your flakiness, avoid using scalp scrubs before talking to your doctor. Your doctor may recommend a special, salicylic acid-based exfoliant that will thin the skin without aggravating inflammation. 
  • Those with a very sensitive scalp can exacerbate the irritation by using scalp scrubs. If you do want to exfoliate your scalp anyway, choose a gentle, fragrance-free, and acid-based scalp exfoliant.

How to Exfoliate Your Scalp

No matter what kind of salt scrub you buy (or DIY at home), our advice will help you exfoliate your scalp gently and carefully. Read this section well since we also adjust our instructions slightly depending on the kind of scalp exfoliant you use.

How to Exfoliate Your Scalp
  • In general, you should exfoliate your scalp about once or twice a week. Overdoing it may irritate your skin or dry out your hair.
  • Most scalp scrubs are designed to be used before or instead of shampoo. Double-check the instructions to see if that’s the case with your product.
  • Hop in the shower and under lukewarm water, dampen your hair and scalp.
  • Dispense a small amount (about a quarter-size) of scalp scrub.
  • With the tips of your fingers, gently massage it into your scalp, but avoid bringing it in contact with the rest of your hair.
  • If your scalp scrub contains exfoliating acids or a purifying clay, you can leave it in for a few minutes to let those ingredients work their magic.
  • Once enough time has elapsed, turn the water to the strongest possible pressure, and while massaging with your fingers, rinse out the scrub until all of it is gone from your hair.
  • If your scalp scrub isn’t very cleansing or there’s a residue left behind, follow it up with shampoo.
  • Finally, apply some hair conditioner to nourish your hair and address any dryness from the scrub.

Photos via @nikki.cruz, @dphue, Instagram