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

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

March 8, 2021

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. 

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 

  • Ameloriate Clarifying Scalp Exfoliant

    This clever scalp exfoliator uses an infusion of lactic acid to help dissolve the bonds between old cells, revealing the healthier layer of skin beneath.

    Shop AMELIORATE Clarifying Scalp Exfoliant at Cult Beauty, £20

    Buy now

  • Bumble and Bumble Scalp Detox

    If you like to feel your product working, then you’ll love the unique fizzing action of this scalp foam. Cleansing micellar water helps to soothe any irritation, leaving the scalp fresh and ultra clean.

    Shop Bumble and bumble Scalp Detox at Lookfantastic, £26

    Buy now

  • Christophe Robin Cleansing Purifying Scrub with Sea Salt

    An oldie but a goodie, this was one of the OG scalp scrubs. It uses sea salt to cleanse, purify and restore balance to the scalp and is a particularly good one if you suffer from greasy locks. 

    Shop Christophe Robin Cleansing Purifying Scrub with Sea Salt at Lookfantastic, £30 

    Buy now

  • Coco & Eve Deep Clean Scalp Scrub

    Infused with cooling peppermint, Balinese volcanic ash, coconut shell and a combination of AHAs and BHAs, this seriously jam-packed formula sloughs away excess product and flakes – leaving your hair silky smooth and feeling lighter than before. 

    Shop Coco & Eve Deep Clean Scalp Scrub at Cult Beauty, £33.90

    Buy now

  • 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

    Buy now

  • 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

    Buy now

  • 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 

    Buy now

  • 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 

    Buy now

  • 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 

    Buy now

  • Ouai Scalp & Body Scrub

    Don’t want to add yet another product into your bathroom cabinet? Double up with Ouai’s scalp and body scrub. Designed to be used all over, this deeply cleansing and gently exfoliating sugar-based formula is the perfect weekly treatment for your scalp, hair and body. 

    Shop Ouai Scalp & Body Scrub at Feelunique, £32

    Buy now

  • Shea Moisture Green Coconut & Activated Charcoal Purifying & Hydrating Exfoliating Hair Mud

    A great option for textured or afro hair types, this exfoliating mud treatment helps to remove excess product build-up and rebalance oily scalps without disrupting your natural curl pattern or drying out your ends. 

    Shop Shea Moisture Green Coconut & Activated Charcoal Purifying & Hydrating Exfoliating Hair Mud at Naturalistic, £13.99

    Buy now

  • Sunday Riley Clean Rinse Clarifying Scalp Serum

    With its expert nozzle, this makes scalp exfoliating easy. Simply section your hair and apply the glycolic and salicylic acid-packed formula directly onto your scalp. Massage well before rinsing off in the shower. Rose clay, witch hazel, jasmine essential oil and vitamins F and B also work to keep your scalp in harmony. 

    Shop Sunday Riley Clean Rinse Clarifying Scalp Serum at Space NK, £42

    Buy now

  • The Body Shop Fuji Green Tea Refreshingly Purifying Cleansing Hair Scrub

    Instantly refresh your scalp and zap away excess oils with this purifying hair scrub. It harnesses Japanese green tea, mint menthol, salt crystals and honey to slough away impurities like dust, smoke, sweat and styling residue – leaving your hair soft, shiny and ultra clean. 

    Shop The Body Shop Fuji Green Tea Refreshingly Purifying Cleansing Hair Scrub at The Body Shop, £15 

    Buy now

  • The Inkey List Salicylic Exfoliating Scalp Treatment

    Formulated with 2% salicylic acid, this exfoliating scalp treatment helps to cut through stubborn oil and purge embedded impurities. Perfect for those suffering with stressed-out scalps or flaky skin, the balancing formula also contains 1% panthenol to help maintain moisture levels for soft, nourished hair and 2.5% FluidPure 8G to soothe redness and calm irritation.

    Shop The Inkey List Salicylic Exfoliating Scalp Treatment at Cult Beauty, £11.99

    Buy now

  • Umberto Giannini Grow Scrub Scalp Scrub

    Perfect for those wanting to grow their hair, this caffeine-rich formula helps to unblock hair follicles, remove product build-up and accelerate hair growth. Your scalp is left fresh and clean, while your hair is nourished, soft and ready to grow.

    Shop Umberto Giannini Grow Scrub Scalp Scrub at Boots, £9.25 

    Buy now

Main image: Getty

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