Winter can be pretty rough on our skin—especially for those who live somewhere with forced-air heating. This is true not only about the skin on our faces, hands and arms, but also on our head. That’s right: the scalp. And up there, dry skin = dandruff. If you’re not a fan of the usual dandruff shampoos, or they just aren’t cutting it, you may want to give another method of exfoliating your scalp a try. Here’s what to know.
Who might benefit from scalp exfoliation
Everyone’s skin—including their scalp skin—is different, so exfoliating may not be helpful for you. In fact, like exfoliating the skin on your face, it may not be something your scalp responds well to. But for others, it can something useful for clearing out the dirt, oil, product and other debris that can build up in your hair and on your scalp.
So how can you tell if you might benefit from scalp exfoliation? Certainly, the most obvious clue is that you have dandruff: either dry flakes that fall off on their own, or bigger, stickier flakes that stay on your hair and/or scalp. Another is that your hair “hurts” at the root—something that is caused by inflammation from dirt, oil and product build-up.
How to exfoliate your scalp
Not surprisingly, there are a ton of tools and products out there now to help you maintain your scalp health. But that doesn’t mean all of them work or are necessary (more on that below). MindBodyGreen broke down several of the options out there.
Shampoos and scrubs
The classic dandruff remedy is using shampoo with tea tree oil or salicylic acid, which gets rid of the built-up oil and debris. There are also scalp scrubs, which work similarly to the ones you use on your face and body by loosening up the dead skin on the scalp so you can wash it away.
But be sure to get a scrub that is safe for your scalp (and has small granules), and be gentle. And regardless of what you’re using to exfoliate, use your fingertips and not your fingernails, which can scratch your scalp and cause additional problems.
Finally, Marcia Brady was onto something with her hair-brushing: that’s another way to usher the dead skin and other debris out of your hair (though it’s not going to get rid of the oil). If brushing isn’t something you normally do, you might want to start it, at least occasionally.
And of course, there are plenty of specialty scalp brushes (also called “scalp massagers”) available, if you want to go that route. These are typically smaller, round (with a handle on top), and have bristles made of silicon or plastic. MindBodyGreen has a dedicated guide to using scalp brushes, if you need some guidance.
A quick reminder
Having said all that, not everyone needs to go out of their way to exfoliate their scalp. And either way, you don’t (and shouldn’t) have to go out and buy a bunch of new haircare products and feel gross if you don’t. Like most other similar health/beauty treatments, do what works best for you and don’t feel pressured to drop cash on unnecessary stuff.