Are you guilty of exfoliating your skin religiously every week but ignoring your scalp? Same, same. But now, it’s time to bring the exfoliation game to your scalp for hair growth. 

Turn out, your scalp is pretty important when it comes to your hair growth—and that’s an understatement[1]. Your scalp contains about 100,000 hair follicles from which each strand of your hair grows. Without a healthy scalp—and healthy hair follicles—strong hair growth is virtually impossible. For those of us who struggle with hair growth, whether you have dry, oily or normal hair, scalp exfoliation could be the missing link in boosting hair wellness.

Since your scalp is such an integral part of your hair’s life, keeping it healthy could just keep your hair healthy—so how might you be able to do that? Welcome to your primer on scalp exfoliation for hair growth!

How Does Exfoliating Your Scalp Help Your Hair?

Similarly to exfoliating your face, exfoliating your scalp helps remove dead skin cells and other debris on your scalp. This other debris could include the buildup of excess oil and leftover hair care products, which can clog hair follicles and inhibit hair growth.

Exfoliating your scalp can help clear away dead skin cells and toxins to encourage healthy new cells, as well as prevent clogged hair follicles. Since clogged hair follicles can cause inflammation—which hinders hair growth—this is definitely something you want to avoid [2].

Another one of the benefits of scalp exfoliation for hair growth is that you’re basically giving your head a massage. Massage has been shown to increase blood circulation, which can help deliver more nutrients to your scalp and help improve hair thickness and growth [3].

Chemical vs. Physical Scalp Exfoliation

Similarly to your skin, there are two kinds of exfoliation: chemical (think of a glycolic peel) and physical (think of your favorite sugar scrub). While chemical exfoliation uses a chemical or enzymes to help remove debris, physical exfoliation requires you to actually scrub your scalp with a mildly abrasive substance such as salt, sugar, coffee or clay.

So which one is right for you? There are chemical exfoliants designed for people with sensitive and dry skin, but in general, physical exfoliants may be better picks for those with sensitive or irritated scalps. Oily skin can benefit from either physical or chemical exfoliants, especially ones with a detoxifying base such as clay or charcoal.

For dry and sensitive skin, sugar-based exfoliants can be beneficial, but salt may be too harsh. Dry and sensitive skin types may also want to go with an oil-based exfoliant, as the oil can help nourish your scalp, keeping it moisturized, and act to make the exfoliant itself more gentle on skin. In fact, some research indicates that oil—particularly coconut oil—can help prevent protein loss in hair [4].

Who Should Exfoliate Their Scalp?

While scalp exfoliation won’t be strictly necessary for everyone, it could be particularly beneficial for people who:

  • Use a lot of hair products
  • Have really dry or really oily hair
  • Are seeing poor hair growth
  • Experience dandruff or flakiness

However, people who have any open wounds on their scalp or an infection such as ringworm should avoid exfoliation until the problem is cleared up. Remember, you never want to exfoliate on open wounds!

How do you know something’s wrong with your scalp? It may be tight, itchy, flaky, red or unusually greasy or dry. Scalp health requires a comprehensive approach—it’s not just about what you eat, but includes protecting your scalp from the sun, using the right products and now, your new BFF, exfoliation!

How to Exfoliate Your Scalp Properly

Just like with regular skin exfoliation, you shouldn’t exfoliate your scalp more than once or twice a week. Don’t over exfoliate, as this can lead to irritation. Before exfoliating, be sure hair is still wet but clean. Then, separate your hair into sections, which will help you to get as much of the scrub directly onto your scalp as you can

Use your fingers to apply the scrub or chemical exfoliant and gently rub into your scalp. Be careful not to use your fingernails, even if you’re tempted to scratch a dry, itchy scalp—you might irritate or even harm skin, leading to redness and irritation later on. For positive effects, you don’t need to be harsh—instead, be gentle and give your head a nice massage.

Once you’re done, go ahead and rinse the exfoliant out (or follow your specific product’s instructions) and enjoy a healthier-looking, brighter scalp to support hair growth!

Do You Exfoliate Your Scalp?

Have you tried scalp exfoliation for hair growth? If so, do you use a chemical or physical exfoliant? Let us know what your experience has been and if you’ve seen any results from this practice!