MSN December 2, 2021



13 Best Scalp Scrubs for Shiny, Healthy Hair, According to Stylists


These amazing exfoliators clear away build-up, reduce residue, and promote hair growth.

Ready for a hair reset? If your strands are looking limp, dull, or don’t have the bounce they normally do—or you just can’t get that “clean feeling” no matter how many times you wash your hair, a scalp scrub may be exactly what your mane needs.

“A scalp scrub exfoliates any dead cells and breaks up product build-up that may be a problem for some people,” says Shelly Aguirre, a stylist at Maxine Salon in Chicago.

Scrubs clean your scalp with physical exfoliating ingredients (like sugar or salt) or chemical exfoliants, like hydroxy acids (such as glycolic or salicylic acids). Think of a scrub as a necessary step in your healthy hair routine. “Just like you would use an exfoliator for your face, a scalp treatment helps hair follicles to remain healthy, clears away build-up, reduces residue, and promotes hair growth,” says Matilde Campos, a Los Angeles-based celebrity hair stylist.

Now is actually the perfect time to start using a scalp scrub, especially if you live in a colder climate. The dryness of the winter months leaves many people with a flaking scalp that they think is dandruff, but many times just it’s dry skin, says Aguirre. (If you notice flakes when wearing a black shirt or a sweaty workout makes your head itch, you could be dealing with a dry scalp.)

That said, scrubs are not right for everyone, cautions Marcela Silveira, a hair stylist and VaultBeauty member. If you have skin conditions that affect your scalp, such as psoriasis, acne, eczema, or cuts or sores, avoid scalp scrubs, she says, as they can be too abrasive on sensitive areas and make these conditions worse.

How to choose and use the best scalp scrub

Narrow down your goals: Before buying a product, “check to see what your scalp is in need of. There are many different products and natural options for all hair types,” says Campos. Do you need more moisture? Is your hair fragile? Do you dye your hair, and therefore need a color-safe product?

  • If you use a lot of hair products: A physical scrub with salt or sugar may be more efficient at breaking up and removing build-up, says Marusco.
  • If your scalp is sensitive: Choose gentler exfoliating products, like plant extracts, polymer beads, or glycolic acid, recommends Aguirre.
  • If greasiness is a problem: A charcoal scrub is a great option for greasy hair types, as it helps absorb oil, says Marusco.

Find your right texture: Some scrubs only exfoliate, so you’ll need to wash them out with a separate shampoo. On the other hand, others are a scrub-shampoo hybrid, and they lather up nicely. This allows for an all-over treatment, but it’s ultimately a texture preference. Think about what you’d prefer.

Follow the directions: Don’t overuse a scalp scrub, says Campos. The product label will advise how often to use these, and it’s typically a weekly treatment.

Skip it before the salon: If you color your hair, don’t use a scalp scrub before your appointment, as it can leave you prone to irritation from the coloring process, says Aguirre.

Now that you know what to look for, check out the following expert-approved and top-rated exfoliators:


Delightful Detox Charcoal Shampoo Scrub

Love Beauty and Planet

Coconut husk does the scrubbing action, coconut oil nourishes, and charcoal helps keep the scalp squeaky clean. The added menthol gives you that tingly “I’m awake” feeling as you suds up, all while leaving behind a pleasing citrus-y scent. Reviewers say this one transforms the shower into a spa-like experience.


Perfect Shine Clarifying Scalp Scrub


Safe for color-treated hair and with enough foaming action to penetrate waves, curls, and coils, this sugar scrub lifts build-up, improves scalp health with probiotic-rich sake water, protects with antioxidant grape stem cells and pearl extract, and fortifies with strand-plumping hyaluronic acid. Reviewers rave about how effective this is at whisking away flakes, calming irritation, and leaving hair soft—never stripped.


Serene Scalp Exfoliating Scrub


With the brand’s famous “my hair smells so good” fruity-floral scent (thanks to protective antioxidants watermelon, lychee, and eldelweiss flower), this scrub uses a blend of alpha hydroxy acids from sugar cane and citrus to lift off dead cells and cleanse the scalp. “Oribe has cornered the market on using actual natural ingredients that can aid in addressing the dryness as opposed to just covering it up,” Aguirre says. We love it so much, it was named “best scalp treatment” in our 2020 Healthy Beauty Awards.


Never Salty Sugar-Based Scalp & Hair Scrub

TPH by Taraji

This vegan, sulfate-free scalp scrub was designed with natural hair in mind, but it works great for all textures. It comes with a duo-touch applicator, which you can use directly on your scalp to really work the product in. Apple cider vinegar clarifies, sugar crystals break up build-up, and squalane oils offer much-needed moisture.


Cleansing Purifying Scrub with Sea Salt

Christophe Robin

Recommended by Marusco, this two-in-one treatment acts as both a scalp scrub with sea salt and a shampoo that rids hair of its history of leave-in products. Greasy hair types will appreciate how this scrub reduces oil production while maintaining the right amount of hydration with sweet almond oil. It’s color-safe, too.


Scalp Revival Charcoal + Coconut Oil Micro-Exfoliating Shampoo


Charcoal unplugs hair follicles while coconut oil moisturizes. The minty-meets-tea tree oil scent is enough to perk you up in the shower, all while causing a pleasing tingling that feels clean while relieving itchiness. This scrub is also free of harsh sulfates, so it works for all hair types, from straight to wavy to coily.


T.L.C. Happi Scalp Scrub

Drunk Elephant

T.L.C.’s signature blend of AHAs includes glycolic, tartaric, lactic, and citric acids to gently exfoliate. Plus, it leaves hair looking better than before with marula and vitamin E-rich mongongo oils that enhance shine. Reviewers say that it brings an instant just-left-the-salon refresh to their scalp, and those who have dandruff are impressed at how regular use lessens flaking.


Exfoliating Scalp Treatment


This scrub, recommended by Campos, is ideal for normal hair (the not-too-oily but not-super-dry types). The lightweight crème texture feels like the most luxurious foam going in, but its papaya and pineapple fruit enzymes expertly dissolve dirt, dead cells, and product build-up.


G.Tox Himalayan Salt Scalp Scrub Shampoo


This is the top pick of Holly Dear, a Dallas-based professional stylist and founder of House of Dear. The scalp scrub is made of Himalayan pink salt to break up residue while feeling really good. Vitamin E-rich moringa oil and rosehip oil nourish skin and strands. This one foams up well and a little goes a long way, so the tub lasts a long time. In addition to calling it “magic,” reviewers also say that their hair hasn’t looked better in decades.


Scalp & Body Scrub


Sugar crystals exfoliate, coconut oil moisturizes, and added probiotics support a healthy skin microbiome. Since it lathers up well, it applies evenly around your scalp. Even better, you can also use this scrub on your body to soften up from head-to-toe for an ultimate in-shower, self-care experience. 

Scalp Inergy Gentle Exfoliating Scrub


Little sugar crystals break up build-up and boost blood flow to hair follicles to get them the nutrients they need for healthy locks. Ginger root refreshes your scalp, while wheat proteins fortify hair fibers. Reviewers say that this is really effective in removing gunk, so using the scrub allows them to go several days between shampoos. 

Scrub Énergisant Purifying Scalp Scrub


Sea salt expertly tackles oiliness, while salicylic acid keeps keeps follicles clear. Reviewers said that, while this was a splurge, it was one that really changed the health of their hair for the better. The particles are small enough to get through even thick hair and delivers that clean, blow-out look. 

Peppermint Avocado Scalp Scrub


Developed by a celebrity hairstylist, this formula is both luxurious and effective. Peppermint gently invigorates the scalp while avocado nourishes and moisturizes. The amount of water you add to a dollop determines how lather-foamy it gets.