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Exfoliation helps to remove dead skin cells, product buildup, and excess sebum that can cause inflammation, fending off potential bacteria that if not treated could damage the follicles and cause hair loss. A dry flaky scalp is usually a symptom of something else, so even though scalp scrubs sounds like a spa treatment for your hair, consider these evaluation step before using one.


Sometimes a dry scalp is a negative reaction to harsh detergents in your shampoo. Consider trying a sulfate-free shampoo, and if you are already using one, try a gentler option like a moisturizing shampoo.  Maybe your scalp does not like cleansers with foaming agents like cocamidopropyl betaine, so try a suds-free shampoo or shampoo bar.

Read moreDr. Kari Talks ACV, Baking Soda, Dr. Bronner’s, and Shampoo  

Rinse thoroughly

Another precaution is ensuring that the shampoo is thoroughly rinsed from your scalp before moving on to your conditioning step. Product residue can definitely cause scalp and skin irritation. Remember to apply shampoo directly to your scalp and do not use too much, as it can be challenging to rinse out. It is helpful to transfer your cleanser to an applicator bottle for direct scalp application, especially if you have dense hair.

Read more: These Detergents Could Be What’s Causing Your Itchy Scalp

Are you greasing your scalp?

Greasing the scalp implies applying a petrolatum or mineral-oil based product to the scalp to reduce flakes and itchiness. Well, this is probably exacerbating the problem. Those ingredients are highly comedogenic, meaning they block the pores. If you grease your scalp out of habit, stop for a while and see what happens. Many people do it to encourage hair growth, but that purpose is best addressed with blended oils including tea tree oil, peppermint oil, and rosemary oil to stimulate hair growth. Be cautious when using these products, as using them directly on your skin can have an adverse effect like burning. You want to dilute these (and other essential oils”> with a carrier oils like jojoba oil and coconut oil before application.

Read more: Ask Dr. Kari: Should You Grease or Oil Your Scalp?

Visit a health care professional

Sometimes what you may think is mild dandruff may actually be a scalp condition like psoriasis and seborrheic dermatitis, which require medical examination. Sometimes chronic conditions such as these will require medicated or prescription shampoos and treatments to manage, so a scalp scrub may not be that effective. If you are noticing flakes only a few days after washing, then schedule an appointment with a dermatologist or trichologist for a scalp analysis, diagnosis, and the proper treatment.

Read more: Best Drugstore Shampoo Guide for Your Scalp Condition

DIY Quick Scalp Scrub

For a quick scalp scrub, mix two tablespoons of brown sugar with jojoba oil and tea tree oil. Massage into the scalp then rinse well with cold water. Do this one a week to keep the scalp healthy and free of buildup. Be mindful of the physical exfoliants that you are using. Make sure that the sugar, salt, or even apricot kernels are not too coarse, as you could be making microscopic abrasions to your scalp.

Read more: How to Get Rid of Scalp Flakes Without Scratching

How do you treat your dry, flaky scalp?

This article was originally published in June 2011 and has been updated for grammar and clarity.

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