The 16 Best Scalp Scrubs of 2023

Our best overall pick is Christophe Robin Purifying Scalp Scrub with Sea Salt

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Best Scalp Scrubs

Stocksy / Design by Tiana Crispino

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.

To find the best scalp scrubs on the market, we conducted hours of research—evaluating each option on their active ingredients and benefits. After consulting our editors and experts and looking through dozens of formulas, we landed on these top-rated picks.

Ahead, find the best scalp scrubs on the market for a clean, healthy scalp.

Best Overall

Christophe Robin Purifying Scalp Scrub with Sea Salt

5
Christophe Robin Purifying Scalp Scrub with Sea Salt

Nordstrom

What We Like
  • Deeply cleansing

  • Fresh scent

  • Adds volume

  • Removes product buildup

What We Don't Like
  • Could aggravate sensitive scalps

Former 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.

Reviewers love that their scalp feels rejuvenated and squeaky clean after use and that their hair overall feels healthier after adding this scrub to their routine. They also noted that it helped balance oil and that it doesn't strip freshly dyed hair color.

Price at time of publish: $19

Active Ingredients: Salt, carbohydrate complex, bisabolol | Size: 8.5 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes

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

Nordstrom

What We Like
  • Feels refreshing on the scalp

  • Gentle enough for sensitive scalps

  • Helps balance an oily scalp

What We Don't Like
  • Contains fragrance

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.

Price at time of publish: $78

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

Best Budget

Kristin Ess Instant Exfoliating Scalp Scrub

Kristin Ess Instant Exfoliating Scalp Scrub

Target

What We Like
  • Soothes dry, itchy scalp

  • Removes hard water deposits

  • Rebalances and hydrates

What We Don't Like
  • Reviewers note that the texture is very thick

As the name suggests, expect an instantly purified and rejuvenated scalp after using this scrub. Formulated with a special sugar complex and multiple plant oils, it removes product buildup and dandruff without drying out the hair. Many reviewers hail this is as the one product that got rid of their itchy, flakey scalp for good.

Price at time of publish: $15

Active Ingredients: Sugar complex, sunflower seed oil, mango butter, avocado oil | Size: 6.7 oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best Drugstore

Nexxus Clean & Pure Scalp Scrub

Nexxus Clean & Pure Scalp Scrub

Amazon

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.

Price at time of publish: $45

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

Best Dual Exfoliant

Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Happi Scalp Scrub

Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Happi Scalp™ Scrub

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. Its formula includes alpha- and beta-hydroxy acids (AHAs and BHAs) plus a unique type of plant-based exfoliating beads, which are 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.

Price at time of publish: $36

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

Best Splurge

Oribe Serene Scalp Exfoliating Scrub

Oribe Serene Scalp Exfoliating Scrub

Dermstore

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.

Price at time of publish: $52

Active Ingredients: Watermelon, lychee, edelweiss flower extracts, polymer beads, AHAs | Size: 4.2 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best for Dry Scalps

TPH by Taraji Never Salty Sugar Hair & Scalp Scrub

TPH by Taraji Never Salty Sugar Hair & Scalp Scrub

Walmart

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.

Price at time of publish: $14

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

Best for Oily Scalps

Philip Kingsley Exfoliating Weekly Scalp Mask

Philip Kingsley Exfoliating Weekly Scalp Mask

Neiman Marcus

What We Like
  • Not overly drying

  • Feels cooling on the scalp

  • Helps relieve itching

What We Don't Like
  • Small amount

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.

Price at time of publish: $30

Active Ingredients: Vitamin E, menthol, olive oil | Size: 2 treatments | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best for Sensitive Scalps

R+Co Crown Scalp Scrub

R+Co Crown Scalp Scrub

bluemercury

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.

Price at time of publish: $38

Active Ingredients: Sugar, salicylic acid, kaolin | Size: 5 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best for Curly Hair

Ouidad Heavy Lifting Bubbling Scalp Mask

Ouidad Heavy Lifting Bubbling Scalp Mask

Nordstrom

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.

Price at time of publish: $39

Active Ingredients: White charcoal, hyaluronic acid, linseed | Size: 7 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best for Easy Application

Jupiter Purifying Mask

Jupiter Purifying Mask

Amazon

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.

Price at time of publish: $29

Active Ingredients: Volcanic ash, argan oil, biotin | Size: 5 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best Shampoo

Briogeo Scalp Revival Charcoal + Coconut Oil Micro-Exfoliating Shampoo

4.2
Briogeo Scalp Revival Charcoal + Coconut Oil Micro-Exfoliating Shampoo

 Amazon

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.

Price at time of publish: $42

Active Ingredients: Charcoal powder, tea tree oil | Size: 8 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best Shampoo, Runner-Up

Davines SOLU Sea Salt Scrub

Davines SOLU Sea Salt Scrub

Amazon

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.

Price at time of publish: $45

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

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 and Body Scrub

4.8
Ouai Scalp and Body Scrub

Sephora

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.

Price at time of publish: $38

Active Ingredients: Sugar, coconut oil | Size: 8.8 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best Clean Formula

Ceremonia Papaya Scalp Scrub

Ceremonia Papaya Scalp Scrub

Sephora

What We Like
  • Doubles as a shampoo

  • Made with natural ingredients

  • Gentle

What We Don't Like
  • Reviewers note it has a strong smell

Made with naturally fortifying ingredients like avocado oil, papaya extract, and rosemary oil, this scrub from Ceremonia will cleanse efficiently while gently exfoliating and hydrating the scalp. It also doubles as a whipped shampoo to make streamline your wash day even more, and it contains pink Bolivian salt to give you a good scrub. We also love that the formula melts into the scalp easily to clean without stripping the hair.

Price at time of publish: $29

Active Ingredients: Papaya enzymes, pink Bolivian salt, avocado oil | Size: 8 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best Tool

ColorProof Evolved Color Care Scalp Cleansing Brush

ColorProof Evolved Color Care Scalp Cleansing Brush

Amazon

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.

Price at time of publish: $23

Active Ingredients: N/A | Size: 8 cm. | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Final Verdict

The Christophe Robin Purifying Scalp Scrub with Sea Salt and Philip B. Peppermint Avocado Scalp Scrub have tied for our first place favorite. Both are effective and invigorating sea salt formulas that efficiently purify and cleanse the scalp. We also love the more affordable Kristin Ess Instant Exfoliating Scalp Scrub because it exfoliates gently while removing flakes and product buildup.

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.

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. 

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.

Updated by Shannon Stubbs
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.
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Your Complete Guide to Scalp Care

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