TikTok Swears By Using Glycolic Acid To Treat Dandruff, But Is It Safe For Our Scalp?

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The struggle between your dry scalp and products designed to help is a tale as old as time. For anyone who has ever dealt with dandruff or worries about noticeable flakes in their hair, searching for something that will fix the problem feels like a constant treasure hunt — and some people are still hoping to find that treasure. There are numerous products on the market that offer relief, ranging from grocery store brands to high-end treatments, but everyone's scalp is different, and these might still be letting you down. One of the best parts of the ever-growing beauty industry is that people are finding new uses for serums and creams that have been around for years.


Enter: glycolic acid. A serum that has predominately been assigned for facial purposes might just be the answer for dry scalp. According to Healthline, glycolic acid has been used to help remove older skin cells, penetrating the dead layers to rejuvenate and resurface the skin. When applied, this serum can cause the face to peel, helping to get rid of build-up that might be causing acne, uneven texture, or a dull complexion. While this product is a favorite for many skincare connoisseurs, people on TikTok are recommending it as a scalp treatment too. But does it really help with dandruff, and is it safe for this purpose?

What is dandruff and what causes it?

Dandruff is usually associated with one of several conditions. The skin can become irritated and flake off if your scalp is too dry or oily. Similarly, if you use certain products that negatively affect your scalp, dandruff can form as a result. If you head over to Google and type in "flakey scalp," the auto-fill will pop up with several searches regarding solutions and queries, indicating just how widespread dandruff issues are worldwide. Not only is it uncomfortable, but worrying about noticeable white flakes all day can be exhausting, not to mention a self-esteem drag.


Many people opt to use dandruff shampoos like Head and Shoulders or Nizoral. MayoClinic recommends alternating gentle products with medicated ones to ensure the scalp doesn't get irritated by the intense ingredients of the latter. However, not all dandruff shampoos work for everyone, and finding alternative methods is a constant goal for those with flakey scalps. Itching and rubbing only cause more flakes, but it can be challenging to leave your head alone when the discomfort is high. So, it's no surprise people are turning toward glycolic acid to solve their dandruff woes.

TikTok claims glycolic acid helps — but does it?

New trends are constantly popping up all over TikTok — this time with a "fix" for flakes. While the idea of using glycolic acid on the scalp isn't entirely new, the suggestion gathered more traction this time. The mega-viral TikTok video above, shared by @sagszn, proves just how popular the trend has become. In fact, the hashtag #GlycolicAcidScalpTreatment has gathered over one million views. And get this: It actually works.


The popular brand The Ordinary offers a glycolic acid that already had rave reviews across the skincare community and BeautyTok, but some people began using it on their scalp. Because this serum is known for exfoliating the skin, many users felt it could also help get rid of buildup and flakes, too. The tiny molecules that help make up the glycolic acid can easily slip through and around hair strands, targeting the dry, dead cells on the scalp and removing them.

Because there are so many stressors that can trigger dry scalp and flakes, it's important to care for this area in a safe but effective way. According to Coast Southwest, using a chemical exfoliator like glycolic acid can actually prove more beneficial than a scrub because the chemical option works to dissolve and sever old or dead skin cells from the rest of the surface. In doing this, the glycolic acid helps to completely freshen up and clear the scalp of residues, getting rid of flakes and the potential for more to arise.


Is this trend safe?

The biggest question attached to this trending hack: Is it safe for your scalp? Yes! Glycolic acid is safe to use on your hair, but it is vital to use it in moderation. If you plan to grab The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution and want to apply it directly to your scalp, this should only be done once a week and for shorter amounts of time. You'll want to let the serum sit for 20 minutes the first time you try this trick and see how your scalp reacts.


This treatment is all about trial and error since everyone's skin interacts differently with this potent product. Over-using glycolic acid on the scalp can actually make it more sensitive and even produce more flaking. Your hair can also suffer from too much of this product, becoming weaker and less healthy from the chemicals. In moderation, the AHA molecules exfoliate and help to hydrate, but they can also have adverse effects if one was to use too much too often.

How to use glycolic acid to fight dandruff

The biggest perk of swapping out other dandruff treatments for this one is that it offers a better overall result. Scrubs or dandruff solutions usually help rid the scalp of flakes but can lead to dry skin that continually needs to be treated. Glycolic acid not only dissolves and removes existing flakes, but the chemicals also help repair and moisturize the surface of the scalp to keep irritation and dryness away.


The TikTok video above showcases two methods for implementing glycolic acid into your hair care routine: before and after a shower. If you want to implement glycolic acid into your hair care routine before your shower, you'll want to apply it to the scalp and leave it on for 30 minutes. After that, the TikToker recommends shampooing and conditioning as usual. Her second hack has users apply the product after washing their hair, then spritzing the treated areas with rose water before continuing the rest of their hair routine. The rose water is meant to help lock in hydration.

There are also several products on the market that were created specifically with scalps in mind, and they are great for people who might find glycolic acid made for the complexion too harsh on the scalp. The Inky List sells a scalp scrub formulated to give all the benefits of this hack without the concern over reactions or side effects. The good news is that this treatment will have your hair looking luscious and flake-free, so it is a hack worth trying!