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Who, What, Hair

Is exfoliating your scalp the answer to better hair?

February 6th 2018 / Ayesha Muttucumaru Google+ Ayesha Muttucumaru / 0 comment


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It can help manage greasy roots, calm flaky skin and boost hair growth

Scalp care - it’s hardly the most glamorous of subjects to talk about. However, it could hold the key to a healthier head of hair. “The scalp is the bedrock for the hair follicle, and if it is not in good condition the chances of you experiencing problems with hair growth and health increase significantly,” says trichologist, Anabel Kingsley. “In fact, research has proven that a flaky, itchy scalp can cause and/or worsen hair loss in certain individuals.”

Why exfoliate?

To remove dead skin cells, debris, product, sweat and sebum, our scalp can benefit from being treated in a similar way to how we treat the skin on our face - and exfoliation forms a key part of the regimen. Providing a deeper clean that goes beyond the realms of a run-of-the-mill hair wash, it increases cell turnover and, by removing build-up, it clears the way for better absorption of the products that you put on top.

Which one's for you?

It’s a category that’s seen noticeable growth over the last couple of years and there’s now an impressive breadth of textures and formulas to choose from. Much like its facial counterparts, products range from physical exfoliators (such as scrubs) to chemical exfoliators that contain AHAs (such as glycolic acid) and BHAs (such as salicylic acid) which can be found in shampoos, leave-in treatments and masks.

Determining the one that’s best for you depends on your scalp type and personal preference. Scrubs tend to be more abrasive than acids because of their coarse particles, so sensitive scalps are best advised to proceed with caution. Is there anyone who should avoid scalp exfoliation altogether? "Psoriasis sufferers and those who suffer from some types of eczema," says trichologist, Iain Sallis. "It can stimulate the skin to produce more flakes."

How often should you exfoliate?

Again, it depends on your scalp type but also the exfoliating product used. For leave-in treatments or masks, a general rule of thumb would be to use them once a week. If you have a scalp that tends to get oily quickly though, you might be able to tolerate exfoliating twice a week. Avoid over-use though as this can end up making flaking worse in some cases. Application recommendations differ from product to product so it’s definitely worth checking the label first and proceeding with caution to begin with.

The best scalp exfoliators

Best for oily scalps with dandruff: Philip Kingsley Exfoliating Scalp Mask, £17 for 75ml


If you have an oily scalp and dandruff, this is for you. Containing betaine salicylate, alongside soothing aloe vera and zinc to help regulate oil production, it provides both short and long-term benefits.

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Best for dry scalps: London Labs Scalp Refresher Duo, £26 for 2 x 20ml


This two-step kit found in the beauty halls of Liberty London covers both exfoliation and aftercare very well indeed. Its peel works gently to slough off dead skin cells, while its mask enriched with moisturising prickly pear oil and calming fumaria officinalis extract helps keep irritation to a minimum. AHAs such as glycolic acid tend to be a better fit for dry scalp types due to their water-binding ability which can help improve skin hydration.

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Best for regular degreasing: Nanogen Thickening Hair Treatment Shampoo, £8.99 for 240ml


One for more regular use if you have an oily scalp, this shampoo contains a well-balanced cocktail of exfoliating and soothing ingredients to aid healthier hair growth. Containing salicylic acid to more deeply cleanse, calming chamomile, strengthening beta-glucan and redensifying peptides, it aims to increase volume and thickness over time. It can also be used as a shampoo swap for your usual go-to once or twice a week.

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Best scrub for oily scalps: Christophe Robin Cleansing Purifying Scrub with Sea Salt, £39 for 250ml


One of the best scalp scrubs around for those who prefer to dabble in a touch of physical exfoliation, its lathering nature makes it feel less abrasive than other scrubs on the market. Creating a rich paste that stimulates circulation when massaged in, it helps cut through residue and sebum to leave oily scalps feeling refreshed and rebalanced.

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Best for cutting through product build-up: Grow Gorgeous Scalp Detox Exfoliating Treatment, £28 for 190ml


Containing natural castor oil beads, white willow bark extract and pomegranate fruit enzymes to shift dry skin, this scrub provides a multi-faceted approach towards scalp exfoliation. Feeling instantly cooling, it paves the way for better absorption of the ingredients from the brand's other offerings. These include growth-stimulating biotin in its Hair Density Shampoo Intense and caffeine in its Hair Growth Serum Intense.

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