15 best scrubs to shift dirt, pollution and product build-up on your scalp

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Chloe Burcham
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Should you be using a scalp scrub? The answer is probably yes. From shifting product build-up to washing away pollution, here’s everything you need to know about the humble hair scrub…

From body scrubs to skincare acids, our collection of exfoliators spans far and wide. But when it comes to the skin atop of our head, we’re often guilty of scrimping this key step. 

Designed to purify and refresh the skin on our heads, scalp scrubs are a great way to unclog blocked hair follicles and cleanse away any left over hair product, dirt and pollution (eg that leftover dry shampoo residue.)

Much like facial exfoliators, scalp scrubs work in different ways to slough away dead skin cells and product build-up. Some use physical, grainy exfoliators like salt, sugar or walnut shell powder while others employ chemical exfoliants like glycolic and salicylic acids.

Does my hair need a scalp scrub?

We often don’t see much of our scalp but that’s not to say it doesn’t go through a lot. Everything from seasonal weather changes to hormones, hair products and diet can cause issues for our scalp. An unhappy scalp can lead to dryness, dandruff, sensitivity, itching and over-producing oil as the skin tries to react and adapt to these fluctuations.

While scalp scrubs aren’t a prescribed solution for skin conditions like dandruff, they can help with symptoms and prevent scalp issues coming to a head in the first place. 

As well as thoroughly cleaning the scalp and shifting any leftover product build-up and dirt your shampoo may have missed, a good scalp exfoliation can also boost circulation and blood flow to the scalp resulting in healthier-looking, stronger hair. If you suffer from fine or limp hair, a scalp scrub is also a great way to refresh your locks, boosting volume from the root. 

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How to use a scalp scrub?

Much like facial exfoliators, a scalp scrub needn’t be used every single day. Instead, it’s best when worked into your hair care routine once or twice a week. 

Most scalp scrubs are designed to be used in the shower but some chemical scalp exfoliators can be applied to a dry hair and scalp before you wash your hair. 

For a physical, grainy scalp scrub: once your hair is wet, work the scalp scrub into your roots in small sections. Massage gently for 30-seconds to a minute before rinsing thoroughly away. After your scalp scrub is completely washed out, follow with conditioner.

What are the benefits of using a scalp scrub?

• Exfoliates and removes dead skin cells

• Boosts circulation and blood-flow

• Encourages hair growth

• Removes product build-up

• Promotes stronger, healthier hair

• Prevents dandruff

15 of the best scalp scrubs 

  • Drunk Elephant T.L.C Happi Scalp Scrub

    Designed to be massaged into the scalp and left for five to 10 minutes before washing off, this scalp treatment uses biodegradable cellulose beads to help exfoliate and detoxify the scalp. It’s a great option if you’re after fuller-looking hair from the first use. 

    Shop Drunk Elephant T.L.C Happi Scalp Scrub at Space NK, £30

  • Frank Body Caffeinated Scalp Scrub

    Everyone’s favourite coffee scrub, now for your hair. Made with natural ingredients like coffee, peppermint and rosemary, this exfoliating scalp scrub removes product build up and helps to detoxify your scalp. It also smells seriously refreshing. 

    Shop Frank Body Caffeinated Scalp Scrub at Frank Body, £13.95

  • Grow Gorgeous Defence Scalp Scrub

    Perfect for anyone living in polluted cities (read: London) this detoxifying scalp scrub helps to clean away stagnant pollution from your hair and scalp. It’s also gluten-free, vegan, SLS, alcohol and sulphate free. 

    Shop Grow Gorgeous Defence Scalp Scrub at Boots, £24 

  • Le Labo Scrub Shampoo

    Using a scalp scrub doesn’t feel all that luxurious until you discover Le Labo’s scrub shampoo. The fanciest scalp scrub around, it harnesses the exfoliating properties of black sea salt together with olive oil, avocado oil, basil and verbena for a seriously spa-worthy smelling experience. 

    Shop Le Labo Scrub Shampoo at Selfridges, £31 

  • Living Proof Restore Dry Scalp Treatment

    Think expert skincare for your scalp, this pre-wash formula uses a breakthrough vitamin B3 based microbiome balancing complex together with clinically proven actives like hyaluronic acid that work to balance your scalp’s natural ecosystem for long-term relief from itching and dryness.

    Shop Living Proof Restore Dry Scalp Treatment at Lookfantastic, £25 

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