Is A Scalp Exfoliant Right For You? An Expert-Approved Tip On Finding The Right One
Jamie Schneider is the Beauty & Wellness Editor at mindbodygreen, covering beauty and wellness. She has a B.A. in Organizational Studies and English from the University of Michigan, and her work has appeared in Coveteur, The Chill Times, and Wyld Skincare.
When it comes to optimal hair care, scalp health is a must. While most people might target split ends or frizz when discussing hair care woes, the scalp is arguably most crucial for caring for your hair—it's where the hair follicles lie, after all. Scalp inflammation is real, and it's no joke; ignoring the issue can even lead to scarring or hair loss.
Needless to say, it's as important as ever to make sure your scalp is healthy, eliminating any excess oil or product buildup suffocating the follicles. Enter what many beauty brands have dubbed the scalp detox: a way to exfoliate your hair follicles and lift up any excess gunk.
A note on scalp exfoliants: As with the face, you need to find the right one for your skin type.
Before diving into it, you should know that there are generally two types of scalp exfoliants, just as there are for our face. First, there's the chemical exfoliant: This can be salicylic-based without any texture, yet it has the ability to lift up excessive oil and buildup. Then you have the physical exfoliants: These are the familiar granular scrubs with particles you can squish between your fingers.
Here's the thing about scalp exfoliants: Different hair types require different types of scalp treatments, just as different skin types need different skin care products. Someone with oil-prone skin will likely use products with stronger acids than someone with dry skin, no? Same goes for your scalp.
For thicker hair & an oily scalp.
If you sport a thick mane and an oily scalp, chances are you're prone to some buildup. In that case, Reslan recommends you go for a bit more aggressive exfoliant, like a scrub. The more potent the exfoliant, the better it'll be for your follicles. Especially if you wash your hair less frequently than average, you might want to even use a deep-cleansing shampoo along with your scalp exfoliant. Sometimes, a gentle wash just won't cut it.
For finer hair & a sensitive scalp.
This combo, Reslan suggests, should go with a less harsh exfoliant—you might even want to stick to a clarifying shampoo and call it a day. If you find yourself washing your hair every other day, you could incorporate a weekly or biweekly scalp exfoliant, especially if you're using a sulfate-free shampoo. As we know, sulfate-free shampoos are sometimes too gentle to lift up all the buildup, so throwing a scalp exfoliant in the mix will ensure healthy hair. "That will make up for the fact that your hair might not be perfectly clean," Reslan explains.
It's important to note that these are just two combinations of the many, many hair-scalp types that exist out there (you could have an oily scalp with thin hair, some thick locks with sensitive follicles, medium-fine hair with buildup; you get the idea). That said, you have a variety of options depending on your exfoliating preferences.
The good thing is, the more you educate yourself on your scalp type, the more you can tailor products to your specific scalp's needs. It's essentially the same as your face; as Reslan puts it, "You know your face better than anybody—how sensitive your skin is, how often you can do a peel, or how often you can exfoliate. You have to be just as conscious when it comes to your scalp."
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Jamie Schneider is the Beauty & Wellness Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.A. in Organizational Studies and English from the University of Michigan, and her work has appeared in Coveteur, The Chill Times, and Wyld Skincare. In her role at mbg, she reports on everything from the top beauty industry trends, to the gut-skin connection and the microbiome, to the latest expert makeup hacks. She currently lives in New York City.