Scalp scrubs may have found their way into the beauty vernacular in recent months, but has one entered your bathroom cabinet yet? My guess is probably not, considering it has taken me this long to try one myself (and I'm a beauty editor). If you read my full rundown of my curly-hair routine, you'll know I already have a multistep, multiproduct process in place, and so finding the time (and the arm strength) to introduce an extra product wasn't exactly at the top of my agenda. But with the promise to help hair grow stronger and faster, as well as the power to kick dry, flaky skin to the curb, I just couldn't ignore these newfangled scalp scrubs anymore, so I pillaged a few tubs and tubes from the beauty cupboard and took them home for some rigorous experimentation (more on that later).
A few weeks later, I'm now kicking myself that I didn't jump on this scalp exfoliation bandwagon sooner. My hair has never been bouncier, my scalp has never been cleaner and where my curls used to droop a little at the roots, they are now propped up like never before. Is this the work of a scalp scrub? I asked Guy Parsons and Anabel Kingsley, who are both trichologists, to give me the lowdown on scalp exfoliation, so keep scrolling to find out if it's the answer to all our swishy hair dreams.
What is a scalp scrub?
Okay so first things first: A scalp scrub is what you think it is. Like an exfoliator for the face, it sloughs away all the dead skin and product buildup on the scalp. Some are grainy like a traditional face scrub, while others employ chemical exfoliants so they feel more like a cream or serum.
Why should you use a scalp scrub?
The scalp is where new hairs first experience life outside of the follicle, so ensuring that this area is clean and healthy will help each hair to go on to grow stronger and longer, whatever your hair type or texture. "Your scalp is a living, breathing ecosystem on top of your head, full of blood vessels, nerve endings and millions of skin cells," explains Parsons. "Follicles need to be clear, not blocked, so if you remove dead skin cells, then the unobstructed hair follicles will produce healthier hair." Kingsley agrees, "Being the environment from which hair grows, it is here where the optimisation of strands begins. A healthy scalp is vital to hair growth, and a healthy scalp is a clean scalp."
But not only can it be the answer for healthier hair, but a blocked scalp can have detrimental effects. "Blocked or oily follicles can stop producing growing hair altogether," Parsons warns, "and a scalp that is compacted with dead, unremoved skin cells is a bacterial breeding ground." Just imagining all the sweat, product buildup and general grime residing on your scalp is enough to make you want to start scrubbing immediately.
How do you use a scalp scrub?
Use like you would a face scrub: Wet hair, and use your fingertips to gently massage the exfoliant into the scalp in circular motions, lifting up sections of hair to ensure you cover the entire area. "Repeat the massage process two or three times, and leave for three to five minutes before rinsing," and then follow with your regular haircare routine.
How often should you use a scalp scrub?
Don't just wait until your scalp is dry and flaky to start scrubbing—according to Parsons, we should all exfoliate our scalps between once or twice a week: "Once for general maintenance, and twice if you are experiencing issues."
For Kingsley, cleansing the hair regularly is just as important. "Don't leave more than two days between shampoos. If you shampoo infrequently, your scalp is likely to become irritated, and you're also more likely to get blocked pores and pimples," she adds. Has that reminded you to get a new shampoo? These ones are great for dry hair, and these will give you the deepest clean yet, while this shampoo has over 9000 positive reviews on Amazon.
Which scalp scrub should I use?
Okay, so now you know you need one, you need to work out which one you're going to buy. Click through the gallery below to see which ones I really rate.
The favourite of all the scalp scrubs I tried, this one is extra gritty, so the clean feeling you experience after is unbelievable. Plus, it has this incredible smell like a niche perfume, I wish I could wear it all over my body. Unfortunately, it won't be available in the UK until 1 November.
As well as physical exfoliant particles, this scrub contains a small dose of AHA, which will gently nibble away at the dead skin cells on the scalp's surface.
The salt crystals act as a natural exfoliant while delivering skin-strengthing minerals right to the hair follicles. It also works brilliantly as a post-colour treatment if you experience a little bit of an itch from the dye. Being so grainy, however, means you need to really rinse thoroughly to get rid of it.
This creamy exfoliant also contains zinc to control further sebum production, emollients and enzymes to encourage the growth of new skin cells and betaine salicylate to slough away the dead skin cells.
It's the argan and apricot exfoliating particles in this formula that dislodge flaky skin cells, as well as buff away excess product buildup at the roots of your hair.