You may have heard about face and body scrubs, but have you ever tried a scalp scrub? While the scalp can be one of the most overlooked parts of our bodies (it is hiding underneath our hair, after all), it still needs just as much care and attention as the rest of our skin. We exfoliate our lips, face, and knees — why leave out our scalp? Long, shiny, and healthy hair starts with a happy and well-cared for head. In the same way that bodies need regular exercise, scalps need to be kept clean and healthy with regular massaging and exfoliation workouts.
What is a scalp scrub?
One of the best ways to achieve Rapunzel-worthy tresses is by keeping your scalp in tip-top shape with a scalp scrub. There are so many different factors that can spell trouble for our scalps on a daily basis. From city smog and sweaty heatwaves, to dry shampoo addictions, dirt and residues easily accumulate on top of our heads. The hottest new trend in scalp exfoliation, these gritty formulas can help you maintain voluminous, shiny locks — otherwise known as hair nirvana. While shampoo and conditioner can make hair clean and soft, neither of them actually get to the root of it. A scalp scrub goes beyond the surface to remove dryness, excess oil and product build-up, and even boosts circulation. All of these things equal longer, healthier hair in the long run.
The science of scalp scrubs
So how do scalp scrubs work exactly? Hair comes to life in hair follicles, about four millimeters beneath the scalp’s surface. When it reaches the surface, it thrives best in a balanced, flake-free environment. However, our scalps often play host to excess oil, product residue, and dead skin cells, which can lead to irritation and weaker follicles.
Hair gets oily when the scalp’s sebaceous glands produce excess sebum, making it look dirty faster. Scrubs rebalance hair’s pH levels while detoxifying and cleansing. The skin on our heads is a bit tougher than skin on other parts of our bodies and can therefore handle regular exfoliation.
Since most scalp scrubs contain salt, sugar, or other particles that loosen and slough off flakes of dry skin and product build-up, they are a great way to naturally exfoliate and nourish your scalp. By massaging the scrub into your scalp you’ll stimulate blood circulation, remove stubborn dirt, and deliver oxygen to your scalp. In turn, this encourages hair growth and mirror-like shine.
How to use scalp scrubs
Scalp scrubs are super easy to use. Before you shampoo and condition, simply wet your hair, divide it into different sections, and then apply a small amount of the scrub directly to your hairline with your fingers. Repeat this process five or six times, massaging all around your scalp, and then rinse thoroughly. Afterwards, your hair will be left feeling great and smelling delicious.
But be wary of going overboard! Scrubbing too hard or too often can aggravate and irritate your scalp. A weekly scrub is a good rule of thumb for most people, although if you have a sensitive scalp you may want to consider exfoliating once every other week with a gentle touch. Many scrubs are also infused with hydrating oils that can balance out some of the possible roughness from the gritty parts. Exfoliating your head regularly with a scalp scrub can soothe your skin and keep hair healthier between washes.
Should you use a scalp scrub?
Wondering if a scalp scrub is right for you? Maybe you’re developing some dry flakes on your head or your ends are simply refusing to grow past your shoulders. Maybe your hair is looking more dull and dry lately. If you’re a product junkie who regularly uses dry shampoo, heat protectants, lotions, or hairsprays, a simple shampoo and conditioning routine might not be enough to keep your hair clean and healthy. Individuals with fine hair are also more prone to product buildup. But don’t panic! Whatever your hair concerns may be, scalp scrubs can provide some much needed TLC. Using one of these heavenly-smelling formulas is also a great way to upgrade your shower routine. On the other hand, it is important to keep in mind that scalp scrubs aren’t for everyone. They can aggravate skin conditions like psoriasis, acne, eczema, or any cuts and sores you may have on your head.
Choosing the perfect scrub for your hair
With so many scalp scrubs to choose from, you may be left scratching your head when it comes time to choose the right one. When considering where to begin with a scalp scrub, it’s important to think about what type is best for you and your hair’s unique needs. There are two main kinds of scrubs: physical and chemical. Physical exfoliating scrubs use small grains to get rid of any product build-up or dirt on the scalp. They work best for people who are dealing with excess oil, dryness, or dandruff. On the other hand, chemical exfoliants feature active ingredients like salicylic and glycolic acid that banish dead skin cells and flaking without any scrubbing required. Almost all scrubs include natural oils, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that will encourage growth and leave your hair follicles feeling happy and content.
Scalp scrubs for dandruff and dry scalp
Side note: Dandruff and dry scalp are two different issues that often get mistaken for the same thing. While both cause itchy scalps, dandruff flakes are typically larger and yellow-tinged. Dandruff is the result of a fungal infection that often won’t go away without treatment, while dry flakes can usually be removed by using a scrub and shampooing less.
Finding the best scalp scrub for your hair may take a little trial and error. If you have an oily scalp, opt for scrubs with absorbing ingredients like charcoal or kaolin clay. Those who have more buildup may prefer to choose sugar or sea salt to boost exfoliation. And dry scalps respond best to moisturizing ingredients like jojoba oil, coconut, and argan oil.
The best DIY scalp scrubs
While it’s true that hair products can sometimes be a bit expensive, taking proper care of your scalp doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. A great cost-effective way to test out different kinds of scalp scrubs is by making your own all-natural DIY scrub. From detoxifying to deep cleansing, there are plenty of recipes to try that will make your hair feel squeaky-clean, refreshed, and amazing. The best part is that you probably have most of the ingredients lying around your home already.
According to Huda Beauty, you can create a DIY detoxifying salt scrub with the following ingredients:
¼ cup Himalayan ground pink salt (or coarse sea salt)
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon of coconut oil (melted)
1 teaspoon honey
5 drops of peppermint or tea tree oil
Combine the ingredients in a bowl and stir. Then, apply a tablespoon onto damp hair, massaging it into your scalp. Leave the scrub on for 5-10 minutes before rinsing with warm water. Then follow with shampoo and conditioner.
Healthy hair, healthy scalp
No matter your hair type, a scalp scrub can be just the thing to refresh and reinvigorate your haircare routine. A scalp scrub will not only get rid of product buildup, it can also improve dry flakes, itchy scalp, and even hair loss. If the skin on your head is happy, there’s a good chance that your hair will be feeling (and looking) great too.
Written by: Mikayla Uber