Why It's Important To Add Scalp Exfoliation To Your Haircare Routine

We're always searching for new ways to upgrade our hair game. Although it's easy to fall into a routine of buying products specifically for your hair, we should also consider the source of our hair – the scalp. While many haircare products focus on repairing already damaged and unhealthy hair strands, focusing on the scalp can help your hair grow healthy from the root up.

Scalp care was once an afterthought in the skincare industry, but now, the "skinfication" of haircare is on the rise. Companies like R+Co and Oribe have rolled out new lines featuring ingredients meant to target scalp issues. "Over the years, people started spending lots of money on skincare, but were still washing their hair with [the equivalent of] dish soap," R+Co co-founder Howard McLaren shared with Glossy. "Millennials have become more transparent with brands about what they want and have dug deeper into the ingredients in their hair care and skin care."

To understand the importance of scalp care, think about what would happen if you never exfoliated your face. As consultant dermatologist Rachel Burns explained to Byrdie, oils and dead skin would build up, possibly leading to clogged pores and acne – an undesirable outcome. The same can happen if you neglect to exfoliate the skin on your scalp. Therefore, scalp exfoliation is an essential step to add to your haircare routine in order to leave your hair looking and feeling amazing.

The benefits of scalp exfoliation

According to Healthline, you can choose either a physical or chemical exfoliant to clear away undesirable elements, like dead skin cells and oil. Just like your face, your scalp sheds cells, but sometimes it needs help getting rid of those excess pieces of skin, which is where exfoliation comes in.

When extra pieces of skin stay on the scalp or styling products don't come out after washing, buildup can occur. "... exfoliating helps to keep the scalp free of buildup," board-certified dermatologist Debra Jaliman told Byrdie. This buildup can cause irritation to the scalp and block hair follicles. "Scalp exfoliation helps to create a healthy environment for the hair to grow by cleaning out anything that might be clogging or blocking the follicles," said certified trichologist Gretchen Friese in an interview with Real Simple. When hair grows healthier, it looks the part, gaining that desirable sheen.

Dr. Jaliman also indicated that scalp exfoliation is especially beneficial for those with dry skin or dandruff. It not only removes the extra skin but also prevents it from coming back in full force. Sometimes, a flaky scalp is caused by a lack of moisture. By exfoliating, you're unclogging the follicles and allowing natural oils to break through and hydrate the scalp.

How to exfoliate your scalp

Scalp exfoliation is not a one-size-fits-all solution. While it is recommended that everyone exfoliates their scalp every once in a while, it is particularly important (and highly recommended) for those with oily hair, dry skin, and dandruff. However, it is important to note that over-exfoliating is possible and can irritate the skin. Speaking to Real Simple, Dr. Friese recommended exfoliating one to two times per week maximum.

Whether you choose a chemical or physical method to exfoliate the scalp depends on your personal preferences. Physical scalp scrubs often include oatmeal, sugar, or salt to manually slough away excess skin and build-up. While it doesn't provide the same benefits and ingredients, a clarifying scalp brush is another option for manual exfoliation. Chemical scalp exfoliants often include common skincare ingredients such as tea tree oil and glycolic acid.

One of the most popular chemical exfoliant options seems to be salicylic acid, as it is commonly added to clarifying shampoos. "Because salicylic acid is a keratolytic agent, meaning it exfoliates dead skin cells by breaking cell-to-cell adhesion, it can remove scaly, flaky skin and thus improve the appearance of dandruff," board-certified dermatologist Dr. Rachel Westbay told Who What Wear. No matter the method of exfoliation you choose, it is an essential part of a healthy haircare routine.