Yes, You Need a Scalp Scrub, So Here Are 14 to Try

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If you haven’t yet tried a scalp scrub, get on it, stat. After all, your scalp is just like the rest of your skin—dead cells can pile up and pores can get clogged. Plus, there’s also tons of residue that builds up from the styling products we use day in and day out.

“The skin on the scalp needs some dedicated TLC. Regular exfoliation can help remove product residue and environmental pollutants that can build up and potentially even affect how well your hair is growing,” explains Shelly Aguirre, a stylist at Maxine Salon in Chicago.

The easiest way to exfoliate your scalp? A scalp scrub, of course. It doesn’t have to be a complicated process; simply use one once or twice per week, massaging it into your scalp for a few minutes before shampooing and conditioning as usual. It’s a quick and easy shower routine add-on, but one that will pay off when it comes to how your scalp feels and how your hair looks.

Try any one of these best scalp scrubs on the market and see for yourself.

Best Overall: Christophe Robin Purifying Scalp Scrub with Sea Salt

5
Cristophe Robin Purifying Scalp Scrub with Sea Salt

Courtesy of Nordstrom

What We Like
  • Deeply cleansing

  • Fresh scent

  • Adds volume

  • Removes product buildup

What We Don't Like
  • Could aggravate sensitive scalps

Byrdie Editorial Director Faith Xue stashes this in her shower. The formula actually pulls double-duty as both a scrub and shampoo. Sea salt gently scrubs off impurities and product build-up, while sweet almond oil soothes the skin. Finally, it's a universally foolproof pick that's ideal for all scalp concerns—from flakes to oiliness to dryness—and works on all hair types and textures.

Active Ingredients: Salt, carbohydrate complex, bisabolol | Size: 8.5 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

What Our Testers Say

"In a word, wow. This stuff is no joke. Upon application, Christophe Robin's Purifying Scalp Scrub is super creamy and frothy, so it’s pretty easy to work it through the hair and scalp." — Emily Algar, Product Tester

Best Runner-Up: Philip B. Peppermint Avocado Scalp Scrub

Philip B. Peppermint Avocado Scalp Scrub
What We Like
  • Feels refreshing on the scalp

  • Gentle enough for sensitive scalps

  • Helps balance an oily scalp

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

Yes, this is pricey; there's no sugar-coating that. But even the teeniest amount works wonders, which means you’ll get plenty of use out of the one (big) jar. The sea salt granules are not too big that they’re scratchy but still big enough that you can feel them doing their thing.

The same goes for the peppermint and eucalyptus oils in the mix. It’s enough to give it that refreshing, spa-like feel without being too tingly or overpowering. Also nice: The witch hazel water in the formula further helps balance out the skin on your scalp, which is great if you tend to get oily.

Active Ingredients: Salt, avocado, peppermint and eucalyptus oils, witch hazel | Size: 8 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Drugstore: Nexxus Clean & Pure Scalp Scrub

Nexxus Clean & Pure Scalp Scrub

 Courtesy of CVS

What We Like
  • A little goes a long way

  • Strengthening formula

  • Removes product buildup

What We Don't Like
  • Can be drying

A little bit of this formula goes a long to exfoliate and break down any product build-up. It’s free of parabens, dyes, and sulfates, making it a great pick for those with sensitive scalps since all of the above can potentially be irritating. Plus, you only have to use it once a week to reap the benefits.

Active Ingredients: Sugar, sweet almond oil, hydrolyzed elastin | Size: 11.2 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Dual Exfoliant: Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Happi Scalp Scrub

Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Happi Scalp Scrub

 Courtesy of Sephora

What We Like
  • Nice packaging

  • Gentle formula

  • Removes product buildup

What We Don't Like
  • Can be difficult to apply

This option, from the beloved skincare brand’s first foray into haircare, uses both chemical and mechanical ingredients to really up the exfoliating power. There are alpha- and beta-hydroxy acids (AHAs and BHAs) plus a unique type of plant-based exfoliating beads. They’re gentler than the commonly used crushed nuts and seeds but way more environmentally friendly than synthetic microbeads. Not to mention that it’s also specially formulated at an optimum pH of 3.7 to keep your scalp healthy.

Active Ingredients: AHAs and BHAs, marula oil, mongongo oil | Size: 6 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Splurge: Oribe Serene Scalp Exfoliating Scrub

Oribe Serene Scalp Exfoliating Scrub

Courtesy of Oribe

What We Like
  • Softens hair

  • Scalp feels hydrated

  • Great scent

What We Don't Like
  • Small bottle

Trust us: It’s worth shelling out the pennies for this guy. It boasts two both chemical and physical exfoliating ingredients: alpha-hydroxy acids to dissolve dead skin and soft polymer beads to slough them off. Plus, it contains a litany of different plant-based extracts that offer antioxidant protection and help soothe the scalp.

Byrdie contributing writer Kaleigh Fasanella is a fan, calling it, “a critical part of her routine,” and pointing out that it works especially well on thin and fine hair. Aguirre, who’s also a fan, agrees, saying it’s her go-to recommendation for clients. Although it's a powerful formula, she says that it's still gentle on all hair types.

Active Ingredients: Watermelon, lychee, edelweiss flower extracts, polymer beads, AHAs | Size: 4.2 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best for Dry Scalps: TPH by Taraji Never Salty Sugar Hair & Scalp Scrub

TPH by Taraji Never Salty Sugar Hair & Scalp Scrub
What We Like
  • Hydrating formula

  • Good value

  • Easy to apply

What We Don't Like
  • Could aggravate sensitive scalps

This aptly-named product relies on sugar crystals, a naturally more moisturizing option than the salt, to do the exfoliating duties. It also contains coconut oil to keep the formula nice and hydrating while still buffing off dead, dry skin and flakes. We give bonus points for the duo-tubed applicator that helps you ensure the formula is targeted straight onto the scalp. Happy shoppers—with all hair types and textures—repeatedly rave about how well it works.

Active Ingredients: Sugar, apple cider vinegar, coconut and peppermint oils | Size: 6.7 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best for Oily Scalps: Philip Kingsley Exfoliating Weekly Scalp Mask

Philip Kingsley Exfoliating Weekly Scalp Mask
What We Like
  • Not overly drying

  • Feels cooling on the scalp

  • Helps relieve itching

What We Don't Like
  • Not the best value

Aguirre lauds this pick for containing zinc, a mineral that helps to deep clean the scalp and reduce excess sebum. There are also oil-dissolving beta hydroxy acids in the mix that add a boost without being overly drying or stripping. The olive oil in the formula helps to balance the moisture levels in both the hair and scalp, explains Aguirre. And, true to the name, you only need to use it once per week to see the results.

Active Ingredients: Vitamin E, menthol, olive oil | Size: 2 treatments | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best for Sensitive Scalps: R+Co Crown Scalp Scrub

R+Co Crown Scalp Scrub
What We Like
  • Gentle formula

  • Helps balance an oily scalp

  • Removes product buildup

What We Don't Like
  • Contains butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT)

According to Aguirre, choosing a gentle formula is paramount if you have a sensitive scalp. Luckily, this one fits the bill. “It relies on an ultra-fine ivory palm seed powder that helps exfoliate build-up, gently,” she says. It also contains kaolin, a mineral-rich clay that helps draw out impurities without ever being too aggressive, she adds.

Active Ingredients: Sugar, salicylic acid, kaolin | Size: 5 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best for Curly Hair: Ouidad Heavy Lifting Bubbling Scalp Mask

Ouidad Heavy Lifting Bubbling Scalp Mask

 Courtesy of Ulta

What We Like
  • Foaming, bubbling texture

  • Helps preserve curl shape

  • Hydrating formula

What We Don't Like
  • Contains BHT and dyes

Since curly hair is more prone to dryness, you want to ensure that the products you're using aren't going to be stripping. This scrub fits the bill as it transforms from a gel to foam as you work it into your scalp. By letting it bubble up for two minutes before rinsing, the pineapple extract and white charcoal deeply cleanse and get rid of impurities that can lead to flakes and dryness. Meanwhile, hydrating hyaluronic acid and vitamin E ensure that it doesn’t dry out your curls.

Active Ingredients: White charcoal, hyaluronic acid, linseed | Size: 7 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best for Easy Application: Jupiter Purifying Mask

Jupiter Purifying Mask
What We Like
  • Can be used daily

  • Foam thoroughly coats hair and scalp

  • Feels cooling on the scalp

What We Don't Like
  • Not the best value

Scalp scrubs can be notoriously tough to apply—and messy. That’s why we appreciate this super easy-to-use, foam formula. It’s called a mask because you use it as such. Simply squirt out a dollop of the mousse-like texture and leave it on damp or dry hair for up to five minutes for a thorough exfoliation that leaves both your scalp and hair feeling totally fresh and clean.

Active Ingredients: Volcanic ash, argan oil, biotin | Size: 5 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Shampoo: Briogeo Scalp Revival Charcoal + Coconut Oil Micro-Exfoliating Shampoo

Briogeo
What We Like
  • Can be used daily

  • Feels cooling on the scalp

  • Removes product buildup

What We Don't Like
  • Not as intense as other options

For those who like combining multiple steps of their beauty routine in one, this cleanser-scrub hybrid is ideal. Its formula features binchotan charcoal (a very high-quality type of charcoal), which pulls out impurities, as well as panthenol and peppermint, spearmint, tea tree, and coconut oils. Use it as you would any shampoo, making sure to really work it into your scalp, then follow with conditioner.

Active Ingredients: Charcoal powder, tea tree oil | Size: 8 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Shampoo, Runner-Up: Davines SOLU Sea Salt Scrub

Davines SOLU Sea Salt Scrub
What We Like
  • Removes product buildup

  • A little goes a long way

  • Boosts shine

What We Don't Like
  • Can be difficult to rinse out

As another two-in-one, consider swapping out your standard sudser for this formula. The salt-based shampoo not only deeply cleanses and purifies your hair but also has the added benefit of thoroughly removing residue and dead skin. It’s a great choice for those with fine hair, as it adds a beautiful texture and volume in the process, too.

Active Ingredients: Sea salt | Size: 8.5 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: Yes

What Our Editors Say

"I use this salt scrub from Davines whenever my scalp needs a really deep cleaning, and it never lets me down. It leaves my scalp feeling squeaky clean and my hair looking fuller and bouncier every time.” — Karli Bendlin, Associate Editor

Best Multi-Tasker: OUAI Scalp & Body Scrub

OUAI Scalp & Body Scrub

Courtesy of Amazon

What We Like
  • Great scent

  • Luxe packaging

  • Hydrating formula

What We Don't Like
  • Contains BHT

Not totally sold on buying a separate scalp scrub? We present you with this one-stop-scrub-shop instead, a go-to for Byrdie Associate Editor Holly Rhue. You can, quite literally, use it from head to toe. Credit exfoliating sugar crystals coupled with hydrating coconut oil, which come together in a formula that works just as well on your scalp as it does on dry elbows and knees. And in true Ouai fashion, the sophisticated scent (a mix of rose, cedarwood, and musk) is totally satisfying.

Active Ingredients: Sugar, coconut oil | Size: 8.8 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Tool: ColorProof Evolved Color Care Scalp Cleansing Brush

ColorProof Evolved Color Care Scalp Cleansing Brush
What We Like
  • Feels soothing to use

  • Removes product buildup

  • Helps relieve itching

What We Don't Like
  • Could aggravate sensitive scalps

If you thought using a scrub was satisfying, just wait until you try this specially made brush. The long, flexible bristles work to exfoliate, boost circulation, and deep clean your scalp. Use it to comb through your hair after applying shampoo and/or conditioner. As an added benefit, it feels like you’re getting the most amazing scalp massage.

Final Verdict

The Christophe Robin Purifying Scalp Scrub with Sea Salt and Philip B. Peppermint Avocado Scalp Scrub (view at Dermstore) have tied for our first place favorite. Both are effective and invigorating sea salt formulas. If you’re looking to streamline your routine, consider using a shampoo-scrub hybrid once a week instead of your standard sudser.

Both the Briogeo Scalp Revival Charcoal + Coconut Oil Micro-Exfoliating Shampoo (view at Dermstore) and Davines SOLU Sea Salt Scrub (view at Amazon) fit the bill. (Just make sure to use a good conditioner after the fact.) And while technically not a scrub, we also love the ColorProof Evolved Color Care Scalp Cleansing Brush (view at Amazon) as an alternate method of (mess-free) scalp exfoliation that also generally feels delightful.

What to Look for in a Scalp Scrub

The Type of Exfoliant

Most formulas rely on mechanical exfoliating ingredients, such as salt or sugar, that physically buff off the dead skin. Some may pair these with chemical exfoliants, such as alpha-hydroxy acids, to further the effect.

The Instructions

Aguirre points out that it’s important not to overdo it when it comes to scalp exfoliating. While doing so once a week is a good general rule of thumb, she advises that you always follow the directions of the particular product you’re using when it comes to frequency.

FAQ
  • What are the benefits of scalp scrubs?

    Scalp scrubs can help alleviate issues such as dryness, flakes, and itching, particularly when they’re caused due to a build-up of dead skin cells and/or product residue. They also help create a healthy environment for hair growth.

  • Do scalp scrubs promote hair growth?

    The short answer is no (because there are very few ways to actually grow new hair). But healthy hair starts with a healthy scalp, and using a scalp scrub can help make sure your scalp and the hair you’re growing are healthy.

  • Are scalp scrubs safe?

    Yes, as long as they’re used as directed.

Why Trust Byrdie?

Byrdie contributor Melanie Rud has over a decade of experience in the beauty industry, writing for some of the biggest magazines and websites out there. Plagued with an oily scalp since the beginning of time, she relies on a scalp scrub weekly. 

Meet the Expert

Shelly Aguirre is a stylist at Maxine Salon in Chicago. She specializes in precision cuts as well as extensions and is known for helping teach her clients about the best ways to embrace and style their own hair texture.

According to our Diversity Pledge, 15% of products in our newly-published market roundups will feature Black-owned and/or Black-founded brands. At the time of publishing, we were not able to find enough scalp scrubs from Black-owned and/or Black-founded businesses to meet this percentage. If you know of one we should consider, please email us at contact@byrdie.com and we will evaluate the product ASAP.

Article Sources
Byrdie takes every opportunity to use high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
  1. Thring T, Hili P, Naughton D. Antioxidant and potential anti-inflammatory activity of extracts and formulations of white tea, rose, and witch hazel on primary human dermal fibroblast cellsJ Inflamm. 2011;8(1):27. doi:10.1186/1476-9255-8-27

  2. Sanchez N, Fayne R, Burroway B. Charcoal: An ancient material with a new faceClin Dermatol. 2020;38(2):262-264. doi:10.1016/j.clindermatol.2019.07.025

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