First off, I want to thank my friend Karen for the idea for this post! I got a message from her the other week asking, "What's the deal with exfoliating my scalp? Is this something I should be doing?"
The answer is yes....and no!
In my experience there's three types of buildup (product usage + infrequent shampoos, seasonal dry scalp, and medically-caused dandruff) and basically three types of scalp exfoliation strategies (light, medium-heavy, and aggressive). I'll describe each scenario and then match up the best hair prescription for you.
If you're a person who goes many many days between washes (good job!), on top of preserving the health of your hair AND keeping your gorgeous color gorgeous, it means that they natural oils and dead skin (ew) don't get cleansed from your scalp regularly. Couple that with frequent (or even semi-frequent) dry shampoo use and you'll end up with quite a bit of buildup.
Shampooing alone will likely not be enough to completely get your scalp clean -- in this scenario this person would greatly benefit from a frequent (and pretty aggressive) exfoliation treatment.
Here in Oregon, when the seasons change (usually winter/spring and summer/fall) many of my clients struggle with dry, itchy, flaky scalp. They're usually scared that it's dandruff, but from my vantage point, it's a dry scalp issue (totally different).
Even though the instinct would be to scrub that shizzz off, that may not be the best strategy. Your scalp is skin, and the issue is that she's dry. Applying a lightweight conditioner right to your scalp will provide relief from that itchy, tight feeling as well as prevent more flaking. Lightly exfoliating your scalp might be a good option, but with that you'll want to proceed with caution.
Finally, we have traditional dandruff. More often than not, this is caused by either eczema, psoriasis, an allergic reaction to a hair product, or a random overabundance of an organism that all humans have on their scalps.
Each one of these issues would not benefit from any type of mechanical exfoliation and absolutely needs a quick visit to your doctor/dermatologist. I see folks suffering with these issues for years when really these are super common issues that a prescription cream or shampoo would fix very quickly. Please don't suffer with dandruff -- it's a medical issue that likely won't get better on your own. <3
Okay, time for the fixes!
The most aggressive form of scalp exfoliation are those silicone scalp scrubbers you can get from online. They look like this:
Breaking through product-and-infrequent-shampooing buildup is tough to do with shampoo alone (even a clarifier), using your fingers can easily cause scratches and other abrasions (OUCH!). These guys create a great scrub and lather, and because they're silicone they won't be rough on your skin.
Plus you can control the intensity of the exfoliation by either adjusting the strength of the pressure and/or the duration of said scrubbing.
1. Be sure to place the scrubber on your scalp, move in a small circular motion, lift it up, and place it in the next area you'd like to exfoliate. Please don't try to drag it all over your scalp. This will create some serious knots (and possible matting).
2. Don't forget the nape of your neck! You'd be surprised how easily this spot gets overlooked.
The next step down (medium-heavy) is the dpHUE ACV Scalp Scrub. This contains several grind
This guy contains various grades of pink Himalayan sea salt in an apple cider vinegar base. This can be used directly on the scalp for a good hands-on manual exfoliation, plus it has the benefit of the anti-microbial ACV base (to kill any cooties if you're worried about said cooties).
Does it smell like apple cider vinegar? Yep. Does it provide an almost religious-experience level of scrub? YEP.
Plus it's 100% color safe, vegan, gluten free, and cruelty free. And it you're in the middle of scalp-training (to go longer between washes), this scrub doesn't count as shampoo so you won't be backtracking (plus you'll feel cleaner/fresher).
My recommendation for a lightweight exfoliation is VERB's brand new Ghost Scalp Exfoliating Nectar. They've used natural ingredients like AHAs, PHAs, and citrus (grapefruit) extract to lightly and naturally exfoliate the scalp without too much manual manipulation and no scratchy particulates. Plus, like all things VERB, it's vegan and gluten/cruelty free and smells amazing.
WHO USES WHAT?
Product buildup + infrequent shampoos= silicone scalp scrubber OR the dpHUE ACV Scalp Scrub
Seasonal dry scalp = VERB's Ghost Scalp Exfoliating Nectar and/or a light application of a thin conditioner
Medical Dandruff = a doctor's appointment to get you the relief you need
Try out the dpHUE ACV Rinse after an exfoliation session! This will help to easily cleanse/remove the debris you've loosened up from the scalp. And if you've used a scrub with particles, it'll help get those out of your hair, too. Not to mention it's also anti-microbial, hydrating, and suuuuper soothing on that fresh new layer of skin!