We scrub our bodies smooth with sugar and salt, take rotating brushes to our faces, and buff our feet to silky softness… but what about the skin on top of our heads?
Yes, the scalp is skin. And while you give it a seeing-to every time you shampoo, it needs extra love if you want hair that’s smooth, strong, glossy, and flake-free.
Skipping scalp care, on the other hand, may leave you with weak, stressed, or clogged hair follicles (cue: lack of glossiness, flakes, thinning strands, and excessive hair loss). And this comes with scientific proof!
So, let’s take a deep dive into scalp health (which equals hair health), shall we? It’s ALL here, from why we need scalp exfoliation to the best scalp scrubs.
Why do you need a scalp scrub?
Most of us put loads of effort into our hair care and wonder why it’s not making a difference. According to hair experts, the truth is that healthy hair can only exist on a healthy scalp. And this goes for all hair types. Simple.
Shampooing, conditioning, masking, and glossing the external hair strands can only do so much since they have already reached peak growth.
What’s important is to cleanse and nourish them at the very source — the hair follicles rooted in the scalp.
And like all other skin on our body, the scalp also needs help.
It needs oxygen, moisture, and nutrients.
And since our hair is rooted in the scalp, it is important! So, a scalp scrub is a necessity rather than an indulgence.
What does a scalp scrub do for our hair?
Specially formulated scrubs are the best options for a healthier scalp, which pays off rich dividends by making our hair shinier, smoother, and stronger. How? Let me count the ways.
Scalp exfoliation tackles excess oil
You know how the sebaceous glands (oil glands) on our face keep skin moisturized and protected but sometimes go into overdrive, leading to oil slicks and clogged pores?
The same thing happens with oily scalps.
Enter a scalp exfoliation scrub to lift away these excess oils gently, unclogging hair follicles and bringing the skin back into balance.
It balances out a dry scalp
A scalp that is too dry and tight will slow hair growth and cause excessive breakage.
Good scalp exfoliants re-balance the natural oil distribution, creating a nourishing environment for hair growth. And they sort out an itchy scalp!
Removes product build-up
Like the rest of our body, scalp exfoliation helps remove product buildup from hair spray, gels, dry shampoo, and the gazillion other things that can clog follicles and stop hair from growing properly. It also helps the scalp feel fresh and soothed.
Keeps yeast in check
A scalp exfoliation scrub also goes a long way in controlling the scalp’s Malassezia levels. Malassezia is a type of yeast that damages hair follicles (leading to hair loss) while also causing dandruff.
Busts dead cells and boosts cellular turnover
Scalp scrubs remove follicle-clogging dead skin cells, saying goodbye to scalp acne (gross, but it exists!). This also helps make way for fresh, healthy new cells to surface, which then become the bedrock for long, thick, healthy hair.
Combats environmental damage
Our scalp is as susceptible to environmental damage (sun, cigarette smoke, pollution, airborne chemicals!) as the rest of our skin. This environmental damage triggers the formation of free radicals, which affects the proteins responsible for hair growth.
An effective way of neutralizing them to prevent hair loss? Scalp exfoliation draws out the molecules before they can do damage.
Plus, the extra stimulation helps boost blood circulation to the hair follicles, which ensures an optimal supply of nutrients to nourish the scalp and ensure healthy hair growth.
What is a scalp scrub?
They’re exactly what they sound like: Scrubs or exfoliators for your scalp.
And given the accelerated growth in hair technology nowadays — you have almost as many options for your strands as you have for your skin! —there is a choice between chemical and physical formulations for your scalp care ritual.
Physical scalp scrubs
A physical exfoliant, these contain ingredients to scrub the scalp manually. Think salt, sugar, charcoal, clay, nuts, fruit pits, and plant-based beads.
They are particularly efficient in controlling excess oils, handling dandruff, and promoting circulation for healthier hair.
When going with a physical exfoliator, look for one with smaller grains and massage it gently in circular motions to avoid the risk of causing micro-tears in the skin.
Chemical scalp exfoliators
Chemical exfoliants, on the other hand, contain active ingredients like alpha-hydroxy-acids (AHAs) and beta-hydroxy-acids (BHAs) to dissolve dead cells and other buildup chemically. Think glycolic acid, lactic acid, and salicylic acid. For the skin… on our scalp.
You leave them on for a while (usually 5-10 minutes, depending on the formula) and then shampoo them away — no massage required.
They work brilliantly to unclog the pores, bust dead cells, and boost cellular turnover.
How often do you need scalp exfoliation?
The general rule of thumb is to use every 7-10 shampoo cycles for the best scalp care regimen, which usually equates to twice a month for most people.
If you use a lot of hair styling products or have oily roots, aim for the lower end of the scale.
As with any other body area, over-exfoliation is as bad as not exfoliating at all. It can over-sensitize the scalp, cause it to produce excessive oils, or dry it out to the point of tightness and undernourishment.
In short, scalp scrubs work best in moderation, like most things in life!
The 9 best scalp scrubs
Now that we know why we need this form of scalp care, let’s go shopping?
This scalp treatment contains salicylic acid, which cuts through grease slicks, unclogs hair follicles from all debris (including dead cells and product build-up), while zinc helps target excessive oil production and soothes any inflammation. Perfect for oily scalps!
Indulge in the detoxifying powers of goop's G.Tox Scrub Shampoo. With Himalayan pink salt, this scrub deeply cleanses the scalp, removing buildup and impurities. Its luxurious blend of oils and extracts leaves your scalp soothed and your hair naturally lustrous.
DIY scalp scrub
Looking for a homemade scalp exfoliator made with natural ingredients?
Blend 3 tablespoons of sugar with 2 tablespoons of coconut or jojoba oil and a few drops of essential oil like tea tree, jasmine, or lavender.
Wet your scalp and then massage it in a gentle, circular motion with this mixture for a couple of minutes.
Use your regular shampoo and conditioner to wrap up the scalp treatment.