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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 consultant Sophia Emmanuel, an International Association of Trichologists Certified Trichologist, hairstylist, and creator of the blog Crown Worthy, to get the scoop on everything you’ve ever wanted to know about exfoliating your scalp.

Is exfoliating your scalp good?

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 hairstylist.

Good hair day by @martaoria.

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.

Good hair day by @martaoria.

When 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,” she explains. “Moderate buildup on the scalp can be exfoliated two times a month. If you do not have buildup, you can still exfoliate every two to three months, 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.

What is the best scalp exfoliator?

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

At Home

Kérastase Scrub Apisant Soothing Scalp Scrub

This relaxing scalp scrub for all normal to dry hair and scalp types, even sensitive scalp is formulated with jojoba oil, vitamin B5, and sweet orange essential oil.

Kérastase Scrub Apisant Soothing Scalp Scrub, $50.00 MSRP

Kérastase Scrub Énergisant Purifying Scalp Scrub

This deeply purifying and energizing scalp scrub is formulated with sea salt, vitamin B6, and salicylic acid to help oily scalps.

Kérastase Scrub Énergisant Purifying Scalp Scrub, $50.00 MSRP


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. Your stylist will complete your service with with Mizani Scalp Care Shampoo and Conditioner.

Mizani Scalp Care Exfoliating Pre-Shampoo Treatment, available in salon.

Kérastase Chronologiste Soin Gommage-Rénovateur

This revitalizing scalp exfoliant is designed as a pre-cleansing treatment to exfoliate the scalp and hair 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.

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