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Exfoliating Your Scalp: The Pro's Guide To Doing It Right

photo of hair stylist exfoliating scalp
If you’ve ever experienced a dry, itchy scalp, chances are good you’ve scratched said itchy scalp to get some relief. If you’re in a never-ending cycle of scratching your scalp and brushing flakes off of your shoulders, here is one answer you may not have thought of: exfoliating your scalp.

Much like the skin on the rest of your body, your scalp can seriously benefit from exfoliation. We sat down with Hair.com consultant Sophia Emmanuel, an International Association of Trichologists Certified Trichologist, hair stylist, and creator of the blog Crown Worthy, to get the scoop on everything you’ve ever wanted to know about exfoliating your scalp. Whether you have dark brown hair, long hair, or curly hair, you’ll want to continue reading. 

What are the benefits of exfoliating your scalp?

The primary benefit of exfoliating your scalp is very similar to the benefits of exfoliating your skin—to help buff away dry spots and flakes.

If your scalp is desperately in need of these benefits, you’re in luck! Emmanuel says it is safe for anyone to exfoliate unless you have open cuts, wounds, or bruises on your scalp. If you are unsure whether or not you’re a good candidate for scalp exfoliation, make an appointment with a dermatologist or trusted hair stylist. 

What is the best way to exfoliate your scalp?

Much like exfoliating your face, there are two ways to exfoliate your scalp: physical and chemical. Physical exfoliants are products like scrubs and scalp brushes that help buff away flakes, dry patches, excess sebum, and product build-up. Products that work as chemical exfoliants are formulated to break down flakes, dry patches, excess sebum, and product build-up without scrubbing your scalp.

Whether you choose a chemical or physical exfoliant, be sure to exfoliate your scalp before your shampoo your strands. The shampoo will wash away all of the excess sebum, product buildup, and flakes the exfoliant removes from your scalp. 

How often should you exfoliate your scalp?

Each scalp has different needs, so your exfoliation schedule will vary based on what’s best for your scalp. A trusted stylist should be able to help you come up with the ideal schedule for you and your scalp, but if you’re wondering where to start Emmanuel has some suggestions.

If the scalp is extremely clogged, once a week is best until you notice the scalp has improved, then you can try to exfoliate once a month to maintain...Moderate buildup on the scalp can be exfoliated two times a month. If you do not have buildup, you can still exfoliate every three months to, but a regular shampoo will work too.

Maintaining the proper exfoliation schedule is important because it is possible to over exfoliate your scalp.

“Much like the skin on your face, the scalp will feel dry, tight, and a little raw if you over-exfoliate with the wrong product. Try not to use products with coarse exfoliating ingredients that can cut the skin and cause the scalp to feel sensitive,” Emmanuel explains.

If you do get a little scrub happy, lay off the exfoliant and heavy hair products for a few weeks.

If you’re looking to incorporate a scalp exfoliator into your hair care routine, check out two of our favorites from the L’Oréal portfolio of products.

Mizani Scalp Care Exfoliating Pre-Shampoo Treatment

This exfoliating pre-shampoo treatment helps lift and remove excess buildup from the scalp. The formula, infused with eucalyptus oil, aloe and avocado oil, works as the first step in the Scalp Care professional treatment towards caring for the scalp. Follow with Mizani Scalp Care Shampoo. .
Mizani Scalp Care Exfoliating Pre-Shampoo Treatment, available in salon. 

Kérastase Chronologiste Soin Gommage-Rénovateur

This revitalizing scalp exfoliating care is designed as a pre-cleansing care to exfoliate the scalp and fiber before shampooing.

Kérastase Revitalizing Soin Gommage-Rénovateur, available in salon.

Interested in personalized advice about exfoliating your scalp? Use our salon locator to book an appointment with a stylist near you.