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Scalp Exfoliation: Why is it important and how to do it

Just like skin, our scalp also needs to be exfoliated regularly and properly. An expert shares insights on everything about scalp exfoliation from its benefits to side effects, and some recipes to get you started!

Just like skin exfoliation is important for your skin health, hair exfoliation is also an important practice you can add to your haircare regime. Even though our body has its natural ability to replace dead skin cells, sometimes exfoliation helps by accelerating the process by helping us get rid of the old dead skin. The same is true for the scalp.

In scalp exfoliation, you may use physical or chemical exfoliants to remove excess skin cells, oil, grime, and dandruff from the scalp. Nowadays, people vouch for scalp exfoliation as an effective remedy for healthier, shinier hair from the roots to the tips. If reading any of this piques your interest, then this one is for you.

Health Shots got in touch with Dr Meera Adhikari, a Certified Cosmetologist and Trichologist, to understand everything about scalp exfoliation.

scalp exfoliation
Scalp exfoliation offers numerous benefits, and here are some of them!

How to exfoliate your scalp?

To keep your scalp healthy and free from buildup, exfoliation is key. Our expert shares two main methods: physical exfoliation and chemical exfoliation.

1. Physical exfoliation

• Textured scrubs: Look for products with ingredients like sugar, sea salt, or charcoal. These gently scrub away dirt, oil, and dead skin, leaving your scalp refreshed.

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• Scrubbing combs: Use specially designed brushes or combs to massage your scalp, removing buildup and promoting circulation. These can be used in the shower or on dry hair.

2. Chemical exfoliation

Look for shampoos with exfoliating ingredients. Seek out shampoos labelled for dandruff or itchy scalp. They often contain ingredients like salicylic acid, coal tar, zinc pyrithione, selenium sulfide, or ketoconazole. These chemicals dissolve dead skin cells and reduce flakiness.


1. Start with a small amount of product to test for any adverse reactions.
2. If you experience irritation or allergies, discontinue use and consult a doctor.
3. Follow product instructions for best results.

Benefits of scalp exfoliation

Scalp exfoliation offers several advantages for both your hair and scalp health, and here are some of those:

1. Removing dead skin cells

Exfoliation as a process, skin or hair, clears away dead skin cells, allowing for healthier skin renewal. Removal of dead skin cells from the scalp makes room for newer and shinier hair.

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2. Removing product buildup

No matter how hard we try, it gets difficult to completely eradicate product buildup from the scalp through normal shampooing. “Scalp exfoliation eliminates residue from hair products, preventing clogged follicles,” says the expert.

Scalp exfoliation
Say goodbye to dandruff with scalp exfoliation! Image courtesy: Freepik

3. Improving blood circulation

Massaging action involved in the process of scalp exfoliation increases blood circulation on the scalp.

The expert adds, “Enhanced circulation to the scalp promotes nutrient delivery to hair follicles. Alongside, it stimulates follicles, potentially encouraging hair growth”.

Also read: Try these 2 easy DIY scalp scrubs that can legit make your hair grow faster

4. Reducing dandruff

Exfoliation of the scalp removes dirt, grime or excess oil from the scalp which is mostly the breeding ground of dandruff. Thus, this process helps alleviate dandruff by removing flakes and balancing scalp oils.

5. Preventing scalp conditions

A well-exfoliated scalp translates to a healthy scalp. This may reduce the risk of scalp issues such as itching and inflammation.

6. Improving hair texture

When we exfoliate our scalp, it unclogs pores by removing all the dirt and leaves hair feeling softer and smoother by unclogging follicles, says the expert.

7. Helping product absorption

A clean scalp is always better equipped to absorb all the scalp products and get nourished properly with whatever we feed to our scalp. So, exfoliation preps the scalp for better absorption of nourishing hair products.

Homemade scalp exfoliants

The expert reckons the following natural scrub recipes are easy to make and are extremely effective for a healthy scalp.

1. Coffee scrub

Combine 2 tablespoons of ground coffee, 1 tablespoon of granulated sugar, and 1 teaspoon of olive or coconut oil. This versatile scrub can be used on both the face and body.

2. Honey scrub

Mix 3 tablespoons of coffee with half a cup of yoghurt (or milk for dry skin) and add 1 teaspoon of honey. Apply to the face, gently scrubbing in circular motions for 10 minutes before rinsing with cold water and patting dry.

Side effects and risks of scalp exfoliation

While scalp exfoliation can offer benefits, overdoing it or being too aggressive can lead to adverse effects, some of which are:

1. Scalp irritation: Excessive exfoliation may irritate the scalp, causing discomfort.

2. Dryness: Aggressive exfoliation can strip the scalp of natural oils, leading to dryness.

3. Flakiness: Over-exfoliation may exacerbate flakiness and dandruff.

4. Increased sensitivity: Too much exfoliation can make the scalp more sensitive.

5. Hair damage: Rough handling during exfoliation can damage hair strands.

6. Skin tearing and bleeding: Harsh exfoliation techniques can cause skin damage and bleeding.

Additionally, frequent exfoliation may prompt the scalp to overproduce oil, exacerbating oily scalp issues.

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