• pinterest logo
  • twitter logo
  • facebook logo
Scalp Exfoliation: Everything You Need to Know

Scalp Exfoliation: Everything You Need to Know

  • pinterest logo
  • twitter logo
  • facebook logo

When you’re having a gorgeous hair day, you deserve to be worry-free about a flaky, itchy scalp. While dandruff is typically harmless, it can be uncomfortable or have an impact on one’s self-esteem. Keeping a clean, moisturized & healthy scalp not only leads to healthy hair, but it can also prevent hair loss & promotes hair growth. If you’re concerned about the appearance of shedding flakes, you may be interested in scalp exfoliation to help improve scalp health

Regular scalp exfoliation can help prevent the build-up of oil, excess sebum, dead skin cells, or hair products. When these things build up around the hair follicle, you can risk folliculitis if left untreated for an extended period of time. Folliculitis occurs when the hair follicle becomes inflamed & infected. When severe, this can lead to hair loss. Your hair follicles also contain your sebaceous gland which produces sebum, complex oils containing cholesterol & fatty acid, which feed bacteria & fungi. This can lead to acne or infection. Exfoliating your scalp & using natural hair care products helps to reduce scalp buildup & maintain healthy hair.



A scalp exfoliant can be either chemical or physical. If you physically are exfoliating dead skin cells, you may simply take a comb or brush to a flaky scalp & manually remove dandruff. If you’re wondering how to get rid of dandruff, there are quite a number of options. Manual exfoliation may also include the use of a scalp scrub, with small grainy particles like baking soda that physically slough off dead skin cells.

However manual exfoliation on your scalp, just like on your face, is not without risk. When not using the necessary precautions, a physical exfoliant can be too aggressive & cause minor cracks or tears on the surface of the skin. Be gentle & take your time.Cracks in the skin of the scalp can actually yield a way to allow fungus or yeast to seep below the scalp & bloodstream. Candida, a commonly known yeast, can enter the body through cracks in the scalp & spread to other areas of the body. 

A slightly more gentle form of exfoliation is chemical exfoliation. Several brands carry a form of salicylic acid, a chemical exfoliant often found in skin care, in shampoos & conditioners. While this may be helpful to those seeking to balance an oily scalp, salicylic acid can be drying & unfavorable for curly, coily & tight textures. Unless specifically recommended by a physician, we recommend gentler remedies followed by shampoo & conditioner for natural hair. 



Many home remedies have become so popular & trusted that they have expanded into professional hair care. The leading solution? Tea Tree Oil. This ingredient is found in several popular scalp treatments, but you can also use pure tea tree oil on its own. It’s recommended that you do not put Tea Tree Oil on broken or irritated skin.  

Mix Tea Tree Oil & carrier oils such as Jojoba Oil or Argan Oil to prevent the Tea Tree Oil from being too potent. Apply to your scalp & hair. Allow it to stay in your hair for 20 minutes. Then rinse out thoroughly with a clarifying shampoo. Tea Tree Oil may tingle, but discontinue use if you notice any prolonged discomfort or scalp irritation.

Many also swear by Apple Cider Vinegar. The validity behind the claims of its healing properties is still under-researched.  Some believe that it can control bacteria & fungi on the scalp that can lead to conditions that cause flaking such as seborrheic dermatitis. Apple Cider Vinegar is packed with vitamins & minerals that are good for hair. Some also believe it contains AHAs which aid in scalp exfoliation & has anti-inflammatory properties that help heal itchy scalps.

We do know, however, that Apple Cider Vinegar is acidic, so it is believed to balance dull alkaline hair. But if you opt for this solution, be sure to rinse it out thoroughly with a clarifying shampoo, so that it doesn’t stay in the hair. While the acidic properties can be good for creating shiny, balanced curls, remember: pure Apple Cider Vinegar hasn’t been clinically proven nor formulated specifically for hair. Using a shampoo & hydrating conditioners that are free of SLS / SLES will help ensure that you cleanse your scalp without stripping your hair of its natural oils. 

If you are interested in a manual exfoliator there are several recipes for DIY scalp scrub. For coilies & tight textures, hydration is critical. So it is recommended that you steer clear of salt-based scrubs & seek out sugar-based scrubs instead which will provide more moisture to the hair & scalp. 



If you use any stripping topicals or natural ingredients at home, we encourage you to follow your hair care treatment by moisturizing your strands, focusing on the ends. Try a deep conditioning scalp treatment to infuse more hydration, an oil serum to seal in moisture, or a Scalp Serum to re-moisturize your scalp itself once clean. 



Try this recipe for an exfoliating scalp scrub that you can make at home.


  • Half a Bottle of Jojoba Oil Blend 
  • 3/4 cup sugar 
  • 5-10 drops of Scalp Serum
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Manuka honey

Ultimately, we recommend maintaining a healthy scalp by employing a regular hair care routine using a Clarifying Shampoo to thoroughly cleanse your scalp & apply a Scalp Serum to keep your scalp moisturized & calm. Finding a shampoo & conditioner for natural hair is a good place to get started. Ingredients such as Lavender Oil & Peppermint Oil have been known to have anti-inflammatory properties that can be helpful for irritated scalps. 



Like a scalp exfoliator, detoxing the scalp is the process of removing impurities, excess oils, & product buildup from the scalp. Similar to how a body detox helps eliminate toxins, a scalp detox focuses on creating a healthier environment for hair follicles to thrive. It involves using natural ingredients & techniques to cleanse, nourish & balance the scalp for better overall scalp health.

A scalp detox usually uses ingredients like:

  • Natural Oils: Nourishing oils such as Coconut Oil, Jojoba Oil, or Argan Oil can help moisturize & hydrate the scalp. Massaging the oils into the scalp can also improve blood circulation, promoting nutrient delivery to hair follicles.
  • Clay Masks: Using clay masks, often mixed with water or apple cider vinegar, can help draw out impurities & excess oils from the scalp. Clay has absorbent properties that can effectively cleanse the scalp.
  • Tea Tree Oil: Since Tea Tree Oil is known for its antibacterial properties, it can help control bacteria & fungi on the scalp & help reduce flaking & itching.
  • Apple Cider Vinegar: Apple cider vinegar's acidic nature helps balance the scalp's pH levels, promoting a healthier environment for hair growth. It may also aid in exfoliation by gently dissolving dead skin cells

If you’re looking to incororpate a detoxifying treatment with ingredients known to help exfoliate into your hair care routine, consider our Deep Scalp Detox. Formulated with Tea Tree Oil, Pink Clay & Lemon Peel Oil, our detoxifying serum helps balance pH levels & remove dirt, dead skin & product buildup without stripping your hair’s natural oils.



It is important to note that scalp exfoliation is not recommended for everyone. It’s important to start with scalp cleansing first. If you have a sensitive scalp or an active infection such as ringworm, lice, or open cuts & sores on your scalp, a chemical or physical scalp exfoliant could be too harsh for you. 

To be clear, PATTERN is not a medical company & we are not medical experts, but some forms of dandruff may also require the medical assistance & consultation of a doctor. Sometimes dandruff is not merely caused by a dry scalp, but rather a scalp disorder such as psoriasis, seborrheic dermatitis, eczema, or a yeast infection. 

Do not attempt to exfoliate your own scalp if you notice: 

  • a red or purple rash
  • cracks in the skin
  • patches where your hair has broken off just above the skin
  • areas that appear soft, moist & white
  • white, pus-filled pimples

If you have sensitive skin, you may find over time that both physical & chemical scalp exfoliation is too harsh. If you experience any discomfort, irritation, or swelling, discontinue exfoliation. If the discomfort continues, speak with your doctor. Consult your physician or dermatologist to determine if scalp exfoliation is right for you.


  • pinterest logo
  • twitter logo
  • facebook logo

Reviewed by Ashley Ludgood

With over 12 years of experience in the beauty and fashion industry, Ashley Ludgood brings a wealth of expertise to her current role at PATTERN. Her insights have been featured in reputable publications like American Salon Magazine, American Spa Magazine, and Skin, Inc. Ashley has also shared her knowledge at conferences, including Face & Body, demonstrating her ongoing commitment to contributing to the industry. Having been an integral part of the team at PATTERN for nearly 4 years, Ashley continues to make significant contributions. Holding a degree in Journalism from Northwestern University, she remains passionate about her field. Among her favorite products, Ashley turns to the PATTERN Styling Cream, Moisture Milk, and the Cleansing Shampoo as her go-to essentials.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.


  • leave-in conditioner
    #1 Bestseller
    Tracee's Favorite

    Leave-In Conditioner

    moisture-rich & soft curl definition

    #1 bestseller seals in moisture & adds extra hydration to wet or dry hair while providing curl definition &...
    Regular price $28.00
    Regular price $28.00 Sale price $28.00
  • natural hair serum
    Great for Braids

    Scalp Serum

    calm, moisturize & soothe your scalp

    Tingly, hydrating serum that soothes your roots & gives your scalp a sense of relief from tight protective styles...
    Regular price $28.00
    Regular price $28.00 Sale price $28.00
    Add to cart