Exfoliation is the cornerstone of a gorgeous complexion, but it may also be the root of lustrous, healthy hair. And while it's easy to overlook what you can't see, the health of your scalp can have highly visible results. Neglecting to exfoliate can lead to dull hair, clogged follicles, and itchy, flaky skin. Exfoliating regularly can help hair grow naturally thicker, shinier, and less oily. To experience the cleanest, healthiest scalp—and the stunning hair benefits that come with it—read on to learn how to exfoliate your scalp in just a few simple steps.
Why Exfoliation Matters
According to Lucy Vincent, beauty expert and founder of Sans Ceuticals, "Exfoliation is essential for keeping the hair and scalp in top condition. Exfoliation removes scalp buildup, allowing our natural oils to keep the hair and scalp nourished and healthy. Our natural sebum keeps everything in check, preventing dry scalp. It also allows oils to nourish and protect our hair's mid-lengths and ends. On the flip side, an overproduction or buildup of sebum on the scalp can feed the Malassezia furfur yeast that can lead to dandruff, hence exfoliation is key."
Whether or not dandruff is a concern, exfoliation can still yield powerful results. As Vincent points out, "Removing dead skin cells also encourages cellular turnover on your scalp allowing for fresh, healthy new cells to surface."
Use an Exfoliating Brush
Adding a scalp exfoliating brush to your arsenal of beauty tools might just be the best decision you ever make. To use one, simply massage the bristles on the scalp while the hair is dry. Use circular motions, pressing firmly but gently—too much pressure can irritate the scalp. Cover the full surface area of the scalp, and be sure to use a brush that's specifically intended for the scalp in order to avoid tangling your hair.
Use an Exfoliating Cleanser
Using an exfoliating brush should ideally be followed by a scalp treatment or cleanser, such as Sachajuan's Scalp Treatment. These tend to be gentle and restorative and help to clear away any debris loosened by the brush. However, if you don't have time to exfoliate with a brush, a quick alternative is to opt for a textured cleanser that actually exfoliates the scalp, such as Aveda Invati Exfoliating Shampoo ($23). As a note, it's best to choose between exfoliating with a brush and simply using an exfoliating cleanser—using both back-to-back can make the surface of the scalp feel dry or rough.
Choose (and Use) Your Products Wisely
How often you need to exfoliate will depend on how much product you use and what you're using. As Lucy Vincent notes, "Another factor in favor of exfoliation is the removal of product buildup such as hair spray, gel, and other styling products."
For most people, it’s a good idea to exfoliate your scalp about once a month. To get the most out of the process (and to limit the amount of time and energy you’ll need to invest in exfoliating regularly), opt for scalp-friendly products that hinge on natural ingredients and are as kind to your hair as they are to what’s underneath. If you want to make your own exfoliant, mix a bit of clarifying shampoo with equal parts of a natural exfoliant, like salt. Add a few drops of essential oil to the mix—tea tree is stimulating and fights against dandruff.
How often should you exfoliate your skin? Here's what a dermatologist has to say.