Exfoliation for Scalp

Exfoliation for Scalp

Exfoliation is one of the key parts of any good skincare routine — oil, dirt and dead skin cells can build up, and occasionally removing them is necessary to ensure your skin absorbs product properly and looks its glowing best. While most people know to exfoliate their face and body, there’s a good chance you’re overlooking another very important area: your scalp!


What is scalp exfoliation?

Just like with your face and neck, scalp exfoliation involves using an exfoliating product (chemical or physical) to help remove dead skin cells, debris and build up on your scalp. Letting product and dead skin cells buildup on your scalp means eventually clogging your hair follicles, making it harder for your hair to grow strong and healthy. When you exfoliate your scalp you’re also clearing the way for the natural sebum your follicles produce to work their way down the shaft, leaving you with shiny, healthier hair. 


The benefits of scalp exfoliation

Aside from the overall good feeling that a scalp massage brings, scalp exfoliation has a ton of other great benefits to benefit your skin and overall hair health.


Removes buildup

The most obvious benefit of scalp exfoliation is that it removes any existing buildup, whether that’s dead skin cells, excessive oil, product buildup, or even anything left behind from environmental pollution, like smog or dust. Removing buildup through scalp exfoliation allows you to make sure that your hair follicles aren’t blocked (which can inhibit hair growth) as well as allow the natural oils your hair produces to effectively work their way down your hair shaft.


Encourages hair growth

While removing buildup in the hair follicle is an important part of ensuring that your hair grows as healthy as possible, the physical act of massaging a scalp exfoliant into your head also plays a big role in hair growth. Scalp massages stimulate blood flow under your skin, which can encourage healthy cellular turnover and hair growth.


Promotes shine

Even though hair shine products are great for boosting the glossiness of your locks, a lot of the shine needs to come from the source. When your scalp is healthy and debris-free, it means your follicles are also free to encourage the growth of shiny, healthy hair. The natural oils responsible for hair health and shine will also be able to effectively cover your head, further encouraging silky and beautiful locks.


Davines solu sea salt scrub cleanser exfoliating

photo by @goldandglowco


Prevents dandruff

This heavy, angular cut has been trending for seasons and with good reason. A shoulder-trimming lob with longer layers frames the face in front, making this haircut modern and edgy while also giving you plenty of hair to work with if you want to throw it into a ponytail or braid.A very common skin condition, dandruff can be caused by several different issues, including dry skin (a big reason why general hair care is needed), irritation from hair products, and seborrheic dermatitis, where the scalp becomes oily, red and flaky. The best way to prevent most of these issues is to exfoliate the scalp, removing any residue, buildup or excessive oil. This will leave you with a clean slate to allow your moisturizing hair products to do their job, as well as the natural oils your scalp produces.


How to exfoliate your scalp

Now that we have you convinced on the benefits, let’s discuss the best products and techniques to help you get the most out of your scalp exfoliation.


How often to exfoliate

Like many things in the beauty world, scalp exfoliation frequency can depend on your hair and scalp type. In general, you shouldn’t exfoliate your hair more than once or twice a week. This is because over-exfoliation can strip your hair and scalp of too many essential oils, leading your follicles to try and compensate by over-producing, which means even oiler hair than before you started. And those with fine or thin hair may want to start by exfoliating only a few times a month, since over-exfoliation can also be detrimental and abrasive to these delicate scalps. But on those days where you can’t exfoliate, you can still treat yourself to a nice stimulating scalp massage with coconut oil. Boosting your hair health while also turning your daily shower into a spa experience? Win-win.


How to exfoliate

After wetting your hair in the shower, apply a small amount of scalp exfoliant into your hands, and gently massage it into your scalp using your finger tips. Use gentle, circular movements, working your way throughout your entire scalp. Once you’ve finished (after about 3-5 minutes to ensure your scalp is stimulated and clean), rinse and follow with your favorite lightweight moisturizing conditioner.


SOLU shampoo and sea salt scrub cleanser exfoliating davines

photo by @goldandglowco


Exfoliation products

There are two types of scalp exfoliants: chemical (ingredients like tea tree oil that exfoliates dead skin cells chemically) and physical (a product that usually has a grittier feel to physically exfoliate the surface of your scalp). While a clarifying shampoo for oily hair is always a smart thing to mix into your routine for a nice reset, sometimes you’ll need a deeper clean with a physical exfoliant. An exfoliating sea salt scrub hair cleanser will help remove impurities, residue and dead skin cells, while also having the added benefit of giving your hair a light, textured finish when it’s dry.


If you’re interested in testing out scalp exfoliation with a homemade remedy using pantry staples, here are two simple options to try:



  • Brown sugar and oatmeal scalp scrub
    Combine equal parts brown sugar, ground oatmeal and your favorite conditioner (about 2 tbsp each) into a scalp paste, and apply using our scalp exfoliation technique above. Oatmeal and brown sugar act as physical exfoliants to get rid of any buildup or dead skin cells on your scalp, leaving you with instantly cleaner skin. After exfoliating, rinse and follow with your favorite shampoo to ensure no residue is left behind.
  • Aspirin scalp scrub
    This is another super simple remedy to try, since the salicylic acid in aspirin tablets are a kind of chemical exfoliant to clean up your scalp. Just dissolve 6-8 aspirin tablets into half a glass of warm water, and gently massage into your scalp. Rinse and follow with conditioner to lock in moisture.


Scalp exfoliation should be considered as essential to any good hair care routine as facial exfoliation is in the world of skincare. Removing dead skin cells, oil and buildup from your scalp will not only help deal with dandruff and promote shine, but also give you the best foundation possible for healthy hair growth. Adding in a weekly scalp exfoliation to your usual hair care routine is a great way to ensure your hair is clean and healthy, especially as we head into warmer weather (bringing sweat and environmental pollutants). We hope this inspires you to try some scalp exfoliation for yourself — and if you have any other tips or tricks that have helped you get the most out of your scalp exfoliation, be sure to let us know in the comments below.


By Lauren Hannel, staff contributor

cover photo by @nicolebradleyy


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