Everything You Need to Know About Scalp Exfoliation Straight From a Dermatologist

Exfoliation is the well-known secret to smooth skin and a glowing complexion, but it’s also the key to stronger, longer strands.

While most people invest in deep conditioning treatments and ultra-hydrating routines, few actually focus on the root cause of dull tresses and clogged follicles: the scalp. Healthy hair begins at the scalp, and your scalp needs a little TLC. Regular scalp exfoliation totally transforms tresses, stimulating hair growth, banishing dandruff, and adding natural shine.

We sat down with Dr. Jessica Wu M.D., Los Angeles dermatologist and the author of Feed Your Face, to find out more about the benefits of scalp exfoliation. Read on for her expert breakdown of why– and how– you should be exfoliating your scalp.

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Scalp exfoliation reduces build up and irritation

We know skin exfoliation increases circulation and smooths the surface. Exfoliation does the same for your scalp- with some serious benefits. “Exfoliating your scalp regularly can help keep your scalp smooth and clear by removing sebum (scalp oil), dead skin cells, and product residue that build up on your scalp and could cause irritation.” Dr. Wu explains. A little bit of build up can have nasty side effects. “Scalp buildup can also lead to overgrowth of yeast, the leading cause of dandruff” Dr. Wu adds. A simple thing like exfoliation can help tackle chronic scalp conditions like dandruff and dermatitis.

Exfoliation stimulates hair growth

The benefits of exfoliation are two-fold. Removing build up and impurities not only alleviates scalp suffering, it also creates the ideal environment for hair growth. “In severe cases of dandruff, dead scalp cells can accumulate and develop into thick, scaly patches” Dr. Wu says, “these patches can trap the hair in the follicles, making it difficult to grow.” Regular scalp exfoliation removes these layers of dead skin, unclogging the follicles and helping the hair grow normally.

Via ColorProof

Try a scalp scrub or shampoo brush

New to scalp exfoliation? Don’t worry, the process is pretty simple. Your approach to scalp scrubbing will depend on your hair habits. “If you often use product in your hair and have buildup, I recommend a physical scrub containing salt or sugar” Dr. Wu says. She suggests using products by Christophe Robin or Ouai while you exfoliate. Dr. Wu also recommends trying a scalp massager or a shampoo brush to aid your exfoliation (we love ColorProof’s cleansing scalp brush).

If you’re suffering from itchiness, flakes, or oiliness, you may want to take a different approach. “Try a scalp mask with physical exfoliators, such as Philip Kingsley Exfoliating Weekly Scalp Mask, which contains salicylic acid (a BHA, or betahydroxy acid) to loosen flakes, along with zinc which helps to control oil and is a natural antiseptic to fight yeast overgrowth.” Dr. Wu. recommends.

Via Sephora

Exfoliate at least once a week- especially if you have a flaky scalp

So just how often do you need to exfoliate? “Once to twice a week, especially if you have flaky scalp.” Dr. Wu says. And this goes for everyone. “Some of my patients with flaky scalp are afraid to exfoliate; they’re often afraid to wash their hair more than once a week because they see flaky scalp and think it’s caused by dryness” Dr. Wu continues, “while dry scalp can certainly cause flakes, it’s much more common for flaky scalp to be caused by “seborrheic dermatitis,” a type of dandruff caused by overgrowth of a type of yeast that lives on scalp oils. This is why your scalp can look “dry” while your hair is oily.” Yeast feeds on scalp oils, dead skin, and product residue, causing inflammation and flakiness.

To combat this issue, Dr. Wu suggests exfoliating at least once or twice a week and shampooing at least every other day if you have flaky scalp. This will remove oils and surface debris, reducing flakiness without drying out your strands.

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