Main content

Why I’m Obsessed With Scalp Scrubs—And How I Use Them In My Routine

photo of man with curly hair

If I’m honest, hair care wasn’t always a top priority for me. Of course, I want an amazing, luxurious head of hair, but I thought since I wear my hair short and, like many men, rely on styling products to mold the finished product into submission, that what I did before styling didn’t really matter much. “What’s the point if I’m just going to glop on some pomade?” I pondered. I barely cared what shampoo I was using, much less had ever heard of a scalp scrub.

Then two things happened that changed my perspective. First, I started to grow my hair longer and embraced my curly texture. As a result, I wasn’t using heavy styling products anymore in favor of lighter weight creams and gels. Once I made that switch, I noticed that my hair looked better when it was cared for. Right after washing, and for several days after, it looked shinier, fuller, and more buoyant. Second, I started to hear more about the skin-ification of hair—the idea that hair and skin are related and should be treated with a similar routine. Being obsessed with skincare, this was something I immediately understood. The moment I started thinking of my hair routine in those terms, it completely changed the way my hair looked and felt.

Still, it wasn’t until I tried a scalp scrub that my life (and hair) was truly changed. I didn’t realize how much scalp exfoliation could change my hair and—and more importantly, make my scalp feel better. After using a scrub once, I was hooked by the immediate difference in my hair—my greasy, limp curls were more buoyant and shiny with just one use. Now they’re an important part of my regular hair routine. With regular use, I’ve found scrubs have improved not just the quality and look of my hair, but how my scalp feels even on days I don’t scrub.  

Writer Garret Munce Scalp Scrub Review

The author’s hair before using a scalp scrub.

What are the benefits of scalp scrubs for hair?

Assuming that my scalp and hair aren’t connected was flawed thinking. A dermatologist once put it this way for me: Think of your scalp as soil and your hair as plants. Without healthy soil, plants can’t grow to their full potential. By taking care of your scalp, you’re making sure that your hair has all the advantages it needs to be healthy. Scalp scrubs come into play by clearing away debris like dead skin, product buildup, sweat, and dirt that can build up on the surface. 

Too much dead skin on your scalp can lead to dryness, flaking, and itchiness. Just like a scrub for your face, exfoliating your scalp with a scrub can help remove dead skin and smooth away irritating dry patches. Additionally, a scalp scrub can remove built-up sweat, oil, and products that can make your hair look dirty or greasy and help make cleansing more effective. Regular exfoliation, and the head massage that comes along with it, can also help increase circulation to the scalp and stimulate the hair follicles. That head massage, for me, is one of my favorite things about a scrub. Spending a few minutes massaging it into my scalp turns even a routine shower into something of a spa experience. 

Writer Garret Munce Scalp Scrub Review

The author’s hair after using a scalp scrub.

My Experience Using Scalp Scrubs

Since I started my scalp scrub journey, I’ve seen significant improvement in my hair, but it didn’t happen right away. The first step was finding the right scrub for my hair. Classic scrubs like Kérastase Scrub Energisant Deep Cleaning Fusio Dose Scrub use physical granules like sea salt to exfoliate, similar to the scrub you use for your face. Used in place of shampoo, a scrub like this can do double duty as an exfoliator and a cleanser (yes, time saver!). People with sensitive scalps may find large granules irritating, in which case a scrub specifically designed for sensitive skin like Kérastase Scrub Apaisant Deep Clean Fusio Dose Scrub is better (I use a gentler scrub when my scalp is feeling especially itchy).

But in my quest for the perfect scalp scrub, I realized that how to exfoliate your scalp also depends on what hair type you have. Granules that are too big get caught in my curly hair and are really hard to rinse out. For my regular scrub treatments, I began to gravitate toward scalp exfoliators like Mizani’s soon-to-be-released Wonder Crown Scalp Scrub, which have more in common with exfoliating toners than scrubs. Instead of using physical granules to remove dead skin and buildup, the gentle formula exfoliates away dead skin gently without rubbing. I found that applying it before my shampoo session left my scalp feeling just as good and my hair looking equally healthy as physical scrubs without still discovering scrub particles in my hair days later.

I’ve found that the best scalp scrub is one I’m able to use regularly and won’t leave my scalp feeling irritated. People with fine or medium hair might be fine with a scrub with more granules, but my curly hair needs something that can get down to the skin without getting caught in my strands. These days, my scrubbing routine is simple: I use one every two weeks (weekly during the summer to get rid of built-up sweat) before or in place of shampoo. I’ve even made a Sunday morning ritual out of it, and scrubbing my scalp has become an integral part of my #selfcaresunday routine. Now that my scalp is feeling better, and my hair is looking way healthier, I’m never going back.

Interested in more advice about how to use scalp scrubs in your hair care routine? Use our salon locator to book an appointment at a salon near you.

Orientation message
For the best experience, please turn your device