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You likely scrub your face and probably your body, but what about your scalp? Well, add it to the list of places that can benefit from a good sloughing session. After all, your scalp is just like the rest of your skin—dead cells can pile up, 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.
And here’s the thing: Not addressing these issues can quickly start to impact your hair. Strong, healthy hair can only grow in a healthy environment. Regularly shampooing is important for sure, but don’t forget that shampoo is meant for your strands and not the scalp. Enter the importance of a scalp scrub, made specifically to target the skin on your head. 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 in droves 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: Cristophe Robin Purifying Scalp Scrub
Byrdie Editorial Director Faith Xue stashes this in her shower, a formula that actually pulls double-duty as both a scrub and shampoo. Ideal for all scalp concerns—from flakes to oiliness to dryness—this also works on all hair types and textures, a universally foolproof pick. Sea salt gently scrubs off impurities and product build-up, while sweet almond oil soothes the skin.
Best Dual Exfoliant: Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Happi Scalp Scrub
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, plus a unique type of plant-based exfoliating beads; they’re gentler than the often-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 help keep your scalp healthy.
Best Splurge: Oribe Serene Scalp Exfoliating Scrub
It’s worth shelling out the pennies for this guy, trust. 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 also contains a litany of different plant-based extracts that offer antioxidant protection and soothe the scalp, too. Byrdie contributing writer Kaleigh Fasanella is a fan, calling it, “a critical part of her routine,” and pointing it that it works especially well on thin and fine hair.
Best Multi-Tasker: Ouai Scalp & Body Scrub
Not totally sold on buying a separate scalp scrub? We hear you, and 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 obviously totally addicting.
Best for Curly Hair: Ouidad Heavy Lifting Bubbling Scalp Mask
Since curly hair is more prone to dryness, you want to ensure any product you’re using isn’t going to be too stripping; this newbie fits the bill. Different than the straightforward scrubs, this transforms from a gel to foam as you work it into your scalp. Let it bubble up for two minutes before rinsing, allowing pineapple extract and white charcoal to deeply cleanse and get rid of impurities that can lead to flakes and dryness. Hydrating hyaluronic acid and vitamin E ensure it doesn’t dry out your curls.
Best for Oily Scalps: Drybar On the Rocks Charcoal Scalp Scrub
If you’re constantly dealing with oily hair, it’s more likely than not because your scalp is oily, too. Charcoal is a common ingredient in skincare made for oily skin, and the same goes for your scalp; here, it acts as a magnet, pulling out excess oil and other grime lodged deep in pores. There’s also micro-fine sugar and a blend of AHAs for added exfoliation. Both your scalp and hair will feel super clean after just one use.
Best Shampoo: Briogeo Charcoal + Coconut Oil Scalp Scrub Shampoo
For those girls who like combining multiple steps of their beauty routine in one, this cleanser-scrub hybrid is ideal. Binchotan charcoal (a very high-quality type of charcoal) pulls out impurities, while peppermint, spearmint, and tea tree oils tamp down itchiness and irritation. Also nice: The addition of strand-strengthening panthenol. Use it as you would any shampoo, making sure to really work it into your scalp, then follow with conditioner.
Best Natural: Goop G.Tox Himalayan Salt Scrub Shampoo
Another shampoo-scrub mash-up, we greatly appreciate this pick’s clean ingredient list, free of any questionable chemicals. But equally as pleasing is the luscious whipped texture that transforms into a light foam as you work it into wet hair, choice for anyone who doesn’t love the gritty, dry feel of many other scrubs. Himalayan salt sloughs off anything that needs sloughing, and rosehip and moringa oil work to purify hair. The scent (all derived from essential oils) is also delightful, an invigorating combo of herby rosemary, citrusy orange, and fresh peppermint.
Best for Dry Scalps: Kristin Ess Instant Exfoliating Scrub
Banish flakes, fast, with this formula. It uses sugar as a slougher rather than salt, great if you have a dry scalp since the former is also moisturizing. There are also added hydrating ingredients in the mix—think sweet almond, sunflower seed, and avocado oils—as well as a strengthening complex that delivers added benefits for your strands. The pointed tip on the bottle also makes the targeted applications at the scalp easier than ever.
Best Tool: Colorproof Scalp Cleansing Brush
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.
Best Budget: RE-Fresh Scalp Scrub Exfoliating Scalp Scrub
Generally speaking, scalp scrubs tend to fall on the pricier side. That’s why we appreciate this rare wallet-friendly find. Especially great for oily or greasy scalps, it both exfoliates and purifies, removing dead skin and excess oil in one fell swoop. While it’s super effective, it’s still gentle enough that you could use it daily if you really wanted.
Best Drugstore: Nexxus Clean & Pure Scalp Scrub
A little bit of this formula goes a long way, exfoliating and breaking down any product build-up. It’s free of parabens, dyes, and sulfates, 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.