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Why You Should Exfoliate Your Scalp, According to Experts

·4-min read

The key to healthy hair is a healthy scalp. Think of your scalp as an extension of your skincare routine: It requires all of the same steps your skin needs to appear healthy and radiant, such as cleansing, moisturizing, and the occasional exfoliation. Exfoliating your skin removes any dirt, oil, and debris that may be wreaking havoc on your complexion's appearance. Scalp exfoliation works the same way. However, if you're new to exfoliating this area, it can admittedly be a little tricky to navigate.

For instance, there's a lot to consider, such as your hair type, scalp concerns (such as dryness, dandruff, or acne), and the type of product you'll need. Currently, scalp exfoliation is a buzzy topic in the beauty industry, meaning there's no shortage of formulas available. From scrubs, tools, and even chemical formulas that promise to dissolve any flakes, you're sure to find something that works best for you and your concerns. If you're not sure where to start, though, we spoke with two trichologists to learn how to exfoliate the scalp and its benefits.

woman with itchy scalp
woman with itchy scalp

Getty Images

What is scalp exfoliation?

Gretchen Friese, a certified trichologist for BosleyMD, says scalp exfoliation is the process of cleansing the scalp to rid it of dry, flaky skin, product build-up, and debris. You can exfoliate the scalp physically by using a tool or scrub with granules to help buff away any dead surface skin cells that contribute to feelings of itchiness, tightness, and excess oil production. Alternatively, you can use a chemical exfoliant formulated with active ingredients, such as glycolic or salicylic acid, to lift away any dirt, dead skin surface skin cells, or debris.

What are the benefits of scalp exfoliation?

One of the biggest benefits of scalp exfoliation is that it helps promote healthy hair growth. "Scalp exfoliation helps to create a healthy environment for the hair to grow by cleaning out anything that might be clogging or blocking the follicles," explains Friese. It also helps to remove buildup caused by products and helps with scalp concerns such as oiliness, dryness, or flaky scalp issues.

Penny James, a certified trichologist at Penny James Salon, says exfoliating the scalp massages the area, too, which not only feels great, but also helps loosen tight muscles and release stress, and in turn, promote healthy hair growth.

What is the right way to exfoliate the scalp?

The first step to exfoliate the scalp is knowing how often to exfoliate. According to Friese, the frequency to exfoliate will depend on the person, but a good rule of thumb is to start with once a week and increase to twice a week if you're someone who experiences scalp concerns like oiliness, dryness, dandruff, or flakes. You can also bump it up to twice a week if you're having a week where you've used a lot of hair products or gotten sweaty at the gym, and you want to keep your scalp feeling clean and fresh. Be careful not to over-exfoliate your scalp, though, as it can cause irritation, itchiness, or worsen pre-existing scalp conditions.

The next step to scalp exfoliation is picking the method of exfoliation, which is all about preference. "A physical exfoliant will require scrubbing action and is easy to do in the shower," says Friese. After shampooing, apply a scalp scrub evenly all over your head, and gently massage it in before rinsing and following up with conditioner.

You can also use a tool, like a wet brush, says James. When doing so, she recommends applying the product to your scalp and using the tool to massage the formula into your head. "This is a great way to distribute the product all over and give your scalp a wonderful massage," she says. After you rinse out the formula, follow up with a conditioner.

Chemical exfoliants often work a little bit differently in that after applying it all over your scalp, they need to sit for five to 10 minutes before washing your hair with shampoo and conditioner. If you have some extra time on your hands, you can try this method to see if it works better for you and your scalp. When in doubt, always read the directions on the product packaging for the recommended application method.

So, if you aren't already doing it, try exfoliating your scalp. Your hair will thank you.

RELATED: 7 Scalp Scrubs for Cleaner, Dandruff-Free Hair

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