Why you might need a scalp scrub these days

Today's trends might just mean more buildup than ever before.

Today's trends might just mean more buildup than ever before

(Credit: iStock/Getty Images)

Scalp health is a popular topic in beauty these days — and for good reason. With the trend of washing our hair less and using dry shampoo more, our scalps are likely seeing more build-up than before. "Over the last seven years there's been a decline in wash frequency of about 11 per cent globally," says Jeni Thomas, Analytical Chemistry PhD and Pantene principal scientist. She cites the long hair trend, with the option of updos on greasy strand days, and the casual dress and hairstyles of the athleisure movement as contributing factors.

Combine that with our use of styling products, and our scalp's ecosystem is becoming disrupted says Teo Manning, owner of Gyökér Hair Evo Úció in Oakville, Ontario, a salon specializing in repairing and rejuvenating hair from the root with scalp 'facials'. "Your hair will never grow healthy if your roots are not healthy," says Manning. After all, your scalp is an extension of your face, and it needs care, treatment, and exfoliation just like the rest of you. Manning says the only differences between the scalp and the face are the thickness of the hair on our scalp, and the fact that each follicle has a sebaceous (a.k.a. oil) gland attached. Follicles that are full of sebum or blocked by dead skin, product build-up or dandruff (which is a fungus) will impact the quality of hair growth. "The oil on the scalp starts to hold dead skin cells in place and [the scalp] becomes irritated and starts to feel itchy," says Manning.

Most scalp scrubs use finely ground textures such as sugar, salt or other fine particles that loosen and whisk away flakes and build-up. Many of the offerings also include oils in their formulas to bestow the scalp with soothing and hydrating properties. Manning recommends looking for ingredients such as activated charcoal (for its purifying benefits), tea tree (naturally antifungal and antibacterial) and peppermint oil (to reduce scalp itch). Apply to the scalp in sections on wet hair, making small circular motions with your fingers to gently massage it in. Next, thoroughly rinse and follow up with your regular shampoo and conditioner. 

From high-end salon buys to drugstore deals, here are five scalp scrubs that promise to help exfoliate and keep your scalp feeling fresh and clean.

Meet the commercial hair scrub that pioneered the category as we know it. The famous French colourist originally formulated it to help remove chemical residue deposited on the scalps of his clients post colour processing. The combo of sweet almond oil and sea salt breaks down into a lather that allows you to skip shampooing because it cleanses hair while also exfoliating your scalp.

Christophe Robin Cleansing Purifying Scrub with Sea Salt, $67, Christophe Robin

Created to be used before using shampoo, this scalp scrub addresses buildup and dead skin cells by exfoliating with silica beads that remove dirt and sebum. It makes for a great weekly treatment, eliminating product build-up for squeaky-clean, refreshed hair. A highlight from this formula is that it rinses from the scalp really quickly, which can save you precious shower time.

Head & Shoulders Exfoliating Scalp Scrub, $14, Amazon

If you're not sure if a scalp treatment is right for you, make a small commitment with this single-use packet from Marc Anthony. This invigorating scalp treatment's star ingredients are a combo of mineral salt and peppermint oil. Together they break down impurities, leaving the scalp deeply cleansed and feeling refreshed. 

Marc Anthony Hair & Scalp Detox Purifying Scalp Scrub, $3.99, available at drug store beauty counters across Canada

If you've got curly, kinky or coarse hair this is the scalp exfoliator for you. This formula removes product buildup but promises to be hydrating too, leaving the scalp and hair balanced and nourished thanks to activated charcoal, white tea, and coconut oil.

Shea Moisture Purifying & Hydrating Exfoliating Hair Mud, $12.50, Walmart

Designed for the most sensitive of scalps, this crisp citrus-scented, gel-based scrub acts as a double agent, playing the role of shampoo too. An added bonus is the blend of jojoba and sweet orange peel that awakens your senses in addition to promising to leave behind a flake-free scalp and shiny hair.

Kérastase Apaisant Soothing Scalp Scrub, $70, Kerastase

Julia McEwen is a Toronto-based writer, editor and stylist. Follow her at @juliapjmcewen.

Add some “good” to your morning and evening.

A variety of newsletters you'll love, delivered straight to you.

Sign up now


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversationCreate account

Already have an account?