How To Exfoliate Your Scalp And Improve Your Hair Health

by Arshiya Syeda

You have probably heard that skin exfoliation is one of the best ways to improve your complexion and get radiant skin. But, when you are thinking about hair care, scalp exfoliation may not always be on the top of your mind. Maybe you don’t understand why you need it or what exactly it does for your scalp. But, scalp exfoliation has great benefits for your hair.

Your scalp is the foundation for healthy locks. Just like a face scrub can make your skin glow, scalp exfoliation is your ticket to healthier and shinier hair. Let’s learn more about scalp exfoliation and why it pays to introduce this scalp treatment into your hair care routine.

What Is Scalp Exfoliation? Why Is It Important?

Think of your scalp as a frying pan. What if you never scrubbed your frying pan clean? It’s probably going to have lingering food particles and old grease stuck to its surface, may start attracting bacteria, and will possibly even impart an unpleasant taste to everything you cook in it, right?

If you ignore exfoliating your scalp, it is quite likely going to look just like this dirty frying pan! Your scalp will accumulate layers and layers of dead skin cells, dirt, impurities, and build-up from various hair care products.

Of course, your scalp has its own exfoliation mechanism. As new skin cells are produced, older cells are naturally shed through a process called desquamation. But, this natural exfoliation process isn’t always efficient and may even slow down as you age.

So, in short, if you want to remove scalp build-up and keep your hair looking nourished and healthy, periodic exfoliation is absolutely necessary. If you are not fully convinced about the need for exfoliating your scalp, here are more of its benefits that may persuade you.

5 Ways You Can Benefit From Scalp Exfoliation

We already told you a healthy scalp equals happy hair. And this is why, when you think about protecting the health of your hair, you shouldn’t neglect your scalp. Here are five important ways in which you can benefit from including a scalp scrub in your hair care regimen:

  • Removes Dead Skin Cells, Product Build-Up, And Impurities

When oil, dirt, sweat, and product debris start piling up on your scalp, it can result in unwanted consequences such as dandruff and clogged pores. Clogged pores will cause your hair to look dull and limp, and you may even start experiencing hair loss. However, exfoliation can help remove dirt and product build-up and create a healthy environment for your hair to grow.

  • Improves Circulation

Another great benefit associated with the exfoliation of the scalp is that it helps to stimulate blood flow. When hair follicles are fed with a rich blood supply, it is said to reduce hair loss and release any tension and stress that is trapped in the surrounding muscles. However, there is no scientific evidence to prove the same.

  • Regulates Sebum Production

Your natural sebum is what helps to keep your scalp moisturized and prevents it from drying out. Sebum production, however, decreases with age and may cause your scalp to become itchy and dry.

On the flip side, hyper-secretion of the sebaceous glands may cause your roots and scalp to become overly greasy. Scalp exfoliation can help to restore your scalp’s pH balance. Be warned, though: over-exfoliation can actually throw off the pH balance of your scalp.

  • Fights Dandruff

If you are struggling with dandruff, it is another reason why you should start exfoliating your scalp. While exfoliation may not be able to address the root cause of dandruff, it will definitely help eliminate some of the flaky build-up.

  • Stimulates Healthy Hair Growth

You may already be aware that product build-up on your scalp can impede hair growth. Exfoliation can cleanse and invigorate your scalp and help your hair grow thicker and shinier.

Ready to start reaping the benefits of scalp exfoliation? Here’s how you can get started.

How To Exfoliate Your Scalp The Right Way

Here are some simple steps to ensure that you are exfoliating your scalp the right way:

  • Start by dividing your hair into quadrants. This will allow you to focus on one section of your scalp at a time and keep the rest of your hair out of the way.
  • Next, pre-treat your scalp with a scalp serum or scrub. Using your clean fingers, gently rub in a scalp serum or scrub to the exposed scalp areas and leave it on for about 10 to 15 minutes.
  • The scalp scrub or serum will loosen any unwanted product build-up, flakes, and dead skin cells.
  • Using a massager or a scalp brush, start massaging your scalp lightly in order to slough off the loose flakes and debris. You should spend at least 3 to 5 minutes massaging your scalp.
  • Massaging your scalp will increase blood flow and improve hair thickness (1).
  • Once you have massaged your scalp well, rinse your hair out using a clarifying shampoo. Shampoos containing ingredients like aloe vera, tea tree oil, citrus extracts, rosemary leaf, and Ginkgo Biloba extract are some of the best clarifying shampoos for cleansing the hair without stripping away its natural oils.

Scalp exfoliation is not a difficult or complicated process. Just make sure you don’t go overboard with scalp scrubbing, especially if your scalp is already flared up for some reason or you have conditions like seborrheic dermatitis and acne.

Now that you are ready to start exfoliating your scalp, let’s talk about how often you should be doing it.

Exfoliation For Scalp: How Often Should You Be Doing It?

The most accurate answer would be no more than once or twice a week. Frequent exfoliation can irritate your scalp and even cause hair damage. It may also result in imbalanced oil production and excessive oil build-up on the scalp.

So, you should aim to do it only once per week for the best results. If you have a sensitive scalp, thin hair, or are experiencing any kind of irritation, consider exfoliating your scalp even less frequently (only once a month or once every two weeks).

Unfortunately, many widely-used scalp exfoliating products, including scalp scrubs and serums, contain potentially harmful chemicals that could irritate and damage your scalp. If you are concerned about the chemicals lurking in scalp scrubs and looking to try out safer alternatives, here are some easy and natural scalp scrubs that you could try.

Easy Deep Cleansing DIY Scalp Scrubs

There are tons of natural scalp scrubs that you can make with ingredients easily available at home. Here are some easy recipes to make your own all-natural detoxifying scalp exfoliator:

1. Brown Sugar, Oats, And Natural Conditioner

The combination of brown sugar, oatmeal, and conditioner works as a great scalp scrub, especially if you have dry hair. It will help keep your scalp moisturized and remove any excess oils and build-up that are weighing your hair down.

You Will Need

  • 2 tablespoons of any natural conditioner
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons finely ground oatmeal

How To Make

  1. Mix the natural conditioner, brown sugar, and finely ground oatmeal.
  2. Gently work the scrub into your scalp for a few minutes.
  3. Rinse it off thoroughly with a mild shampoo.

2. Coconut Oil And Sea Salt

This duo will purify and cleanse your scalp of oils, residue, and product build-up without stripping your hair and scalp of their natural oils.

You Will Need

  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil

How To Make

  1. Mix the sea salt and coconut oil together.
  2. Dampen your hair.
  3. Then, gently massage the scrub into your scalp for 5-10 minutes.
  4. Rinse off the mixture using a clarifying shampoo.

3. Aspirin And Warm Water

Aspirin may seem like an unusual ingredient to add to a scalp scrub. However, this anti-inflammatory drug contains salicylic acid, which is claimed to be an effective ingredient for cleansing the scalp.

You Will Need

  • 6 to 8 aspirin tablets
  • 4 tablespoons warm water

How To Make

  1. Dissolve the aspirin tablets in warm water.
  2. Massage the mixture onto your scalp.
  3. Leave it on for a few minutes.
  4. Rinse it off with lukewarm water.

4. Coffee And Coconut/Olive Oil

Coffee scrub for the scalp is considered one of the best-kept secrets for healthy hair growth and scalp exfoliation. Here is how you can make this homemade scalp exfoliator.

You Will Need

  • 6 tablespoons finely ground coffee
  • 4 tablespoons coconut or olive oil
  • 2-3 drops of tea tree oil

How To Make

  1. Combine the fine coffee grounds with coconut or olive oil and a few drops of tea tree oil.
  2. Gently massage this mixture onto the scalp in circular motions.
  3. Leave it on for about 5 to 10 minutes.
  4. Rinse off the mixture with shampoo.

5. Baking Soda, Shampoo, And Tea Tree Oil

The combination of baking soda, shampoo, and tea tree oil is another DIY scalp exfoliating treatment that can cleanse your scalp of any irritating build-up. The alkaline nature of baking soda is said to relieve any itchiness, while the antifungal properties of tea tree oil prevent dandruff and moisturize and soothe the scalp.

This natural exfoliating scalp treatment is best suited for people with greasy hair. However, if you have color-treated hair, baking soda scalp exfoliation is not recommended.

You Will Need

  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon shampoo
  • 2-3 drops of tea tree oil

How To Make

  1. Take one heaping spoon of baking soda and combine it with shampoo and a few drops of tea tree oil.
  2. Massage this mixture onto your scalp for a few minutes.
  3. Rinse it off with lukewarm water.

6. Lemon Juice, Sea Salt, And Olive Oil

This natural scalp scrub helps to deeply cleanse the scalp and restore its natural pH level. For the scrub to be the most effective, it is recommended that you use freshly squeezed lime juice and not store-bought lime juice. Here is a step-by-step guide to making this DIY scalp exfoliator.

You Will Need

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons freshly-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt

How To Make

  1. Mix the olive oil with the lemon juice and sea salt.
  2. Gently rub this mixture into the scalp.
  3. Let it sit for 15 minutes.
  4. Rinse off the mixture with warm water.

Are you curious to know how chemical scalp exfoliation compares to physical scalp exfoliation? Let’s find out!

Chemical Vs. Physical Scalp Exfoliation: Which One Is Right For You?

Chemical scalp exfoliation involves the use of chemicals and/or enzymes such as an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) called glycolic acid or a beta-hydroxy acid (BHA) such as salicylic acid. These chemicals help to dissolve any build-up and debris on the surface of the scalp.

Physical scalp exfoliation, on the other hand, involves rubbing the surface of the scalp with an abrasive substance such as sea salt, coffee, or brown sugar. Both chemical exfoliation and physical exfoliation have their benefits. But if you have a sensitive or irritated scalp, physical exfoliation might be a better pick for you.

When compared to physical exfoliators, chemical exfoliators can sometimes be quite harsh on the scalp. You could experience irritation, stinging, discomfort, or even photosensitivity. As such, before you pick your choice of treatment, it is important to take these facts into consideration.

That said, if you’re concerned about other possible side effects associated with scalp exfoliation, here’s some information that can help.

Side Effects Associated With Scalp Exfoliation: Should You Be Concerned?

Adverse reactions can occur with scalp exfoliation. These reactions may vary from minor itching to burning, stinging, irritation, acne, or even skin damage. If you experience a side effect, it is best to stop exfoliating your scalp for a while. Consult a certified dermatologist who can get to the root of the problem and help you find an alternate treatment.

To Conclude

Exfoliating your scalp is a good way to improve the health of your hair. But, always remember that different scalp types have different needs. So, choose your scalp treatments and products wisely to see the best results.

It is also important not to exfoliate your scalp too often. While scalp exfoliation can certainly improve the health of both your hair and scalp, over-exfoliating will only damage the scalp and hair follicles and may even result in hair loss. So, understand your scalp and exfoliate it accordingly!

Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions

Is salicylic acid good for scalp exfoliation?

Yes, salicylic acid is believed to be highly effective in removing scalp build-up and balancing oil production.

Does hair grow faster with scalp exfoliation?

Yes, it is believed that regular scalp exfoliation strengthens your hair follicles and makes your hair grow faster and thicker.

How should you exfoliate your scalp if you have colored hair?

If your hair is colored, choose scalp scrubs with hair dye-friendly ingredients such as sea salt, apple cider vinegar, and aloe vera.

Does scalp exfoliation prevent hair loss?

Yes, scalp exfoliation can prevent hair loss and hair thinning problems by creating a clean, healthy environment for the hair to grow.

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Arshiya Syeda

Arshiya Syeda is an editor and certified counselor. Ever the lover of the written word, she served on the editorial boards of her school and college newsletters. Writing articles on hairstyles, hair care, and nutrition helped her combine her love for reading, writing, and research. As an editor, she helps her team members deliver polished and meticulously researched content. Arshiya is fluent in English, Urdu, and Hindi and aims to become a multilinguist by learning German and teaching herself American Sign Language (ASL).
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