If you already have a body scrub and a face scrub in your collection, it might be time to add a scalp scrub to the mix. A scalp scrub helps to remove any buildup and product residue from your scalp, which promotes healthier strands. And in case you needed any more convincing, we tapped two dermatologists to share the benefits of a scalp scrub—plus, offer tips on how to choose the best one for your hair.
The 15 Best Scalp Scrubs for All Hair Types
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Meet the Experts:
What Are the Benefits of a Scalp Scrub?
A scalp scrub acts as an exfoliator for your scalp. As mentioned, the product aims to remove any buildup, excess oil and dead skin cells from the surface. “With people putting all sorts of products on their scalp daily, it builds up and some of it can be difficult to remove with shampoo alone. A scalp scrub can help to effectively remove buildup and get rid of dead skin cells,” explains Dr. Garshick.
Using a scalp scrub weekly can also help reduce dryness, itchiness and dandruff. Dr. Marcus notes that it can even encourage healthy hair growth by stimulating your hair follicles and increasing blood circulation in every wash. At a minimum: A scalp scrub can help refresh the scalp and prep it for your next step in your routine.
Can All Hair Types Use a Scalp Scrub?
Absolutely. Between hormonal changes, using haircare products regularly, an inconsistent diet and environmental stressors like the weather and pollution, everyone’s scalp goes through the ringer at times. So, whether you’re dealing with a dry, itchy or oily scalp, a scalp scrub may help alleviate some of those issues.
How to Choose the Best Scalp Scrub
For starters, you have two types of exfoliants to choose between: physical and chemical. Deciding which one to try will depend on your hair type, skin sensitivity and personal preference.
- Physical Exfoliants: These scrubs remove dead skin cells and strip away any excess oils from your scalp. The main ingredients are usually sugar, salt or charcoal (hence, its gritty texture). This option is great for oily scalps or those dealing with dandruff or flakes.
- Chemical Exfoliants: These types of scrubs have the same benefits as physical exfoliants. However, they’re gentler and most commonly use ingredients like glycolic acid, salicylic acid and lactic acid to get the job done. This option is great for sensitive and/or dry scalps.
How to Use a Scalp Scrub
Once you pick out a scalp scrub, follow the instructions on the label as closely as possible. Some might say to use it before shampooing, while others might want you to use the scrub in place of your shampoo. Regardless, you’ll want to use it all over your scalp, massaging the product in for about 30 seconds to a minute, before rinsing and continuing your wash routine. Tip: Invest in a scalp massager brush to really penetrate your scalp and get the best exfoliating experience.
When it comes to how often you should use a scalp scrub, both dermatologists recommend once a week (or twice a week if you have an oily scalp or seborrheic dermatitis). The number of times you use it per week is crucial because over-exfoliating can actually cause more harm than good. “It’s important to avoid over-exfoliation, which can irritate the scalp and lead to inflammation,” explains Dr. Garshick. “Additionally, if you tend to experience any scalp sensitivity, redness or flaking on the scalp, it’s always best to speak with a board-certified dermatologist prior to incorporating a scalp scrub into your routine.”
Need more guidance on what scalp scrub to add to your cart? We found the 15 best scalp scrubs in the market, according to reviewers, experts and editors.
Best Scalp Scrubs At a Glance:
- Best Overall: Christophe Robin Purifying Scalp Scrub
- Best for Dandruff: Kristin Ess Instant Exfoliating Scalp Scrub
- Best for Dry Scalps: Virtue Scalp Exfoliating Scrub
- Best Splurge: Philip B. Peppermint Avocado Scalp Scrub
- Most Nourishing: Drunk Elephant T.L.C Happi Scalp Scrub
- Best Salt Scrub: dpHUE Apple Cider Vinegar Scalp Scrub
- Best for Natural Hair: TPH by Taraji Never Salty Sugar Hair & Scalp Scrub
- Best for Sensitive Scalps: Kerastase Relaxing Soothing Scrub
- Best for Oily Scalps: R+Co Crown Scalp Scrub
- Best Sugar Scrub: NatureLab Tokyo Perfect Shine Clarifying Scalp Scrub
- Best Shampoo Scrub: Briogeo Scalp Revival Charcoal + Coconut Oil Micro-Exfoliating Shampoo
- Best Dual Exfoliant: The Inkey List Glycolic Acid Exfoliating Scalp Scrub
- Best Multitasker: Ouai Scalp & Body Scrub
- Best Clean Formula: Ceremonia Papaya Scalp Scrub
- Best for Irritated Scalps: Oribe Serene Scalp Exfoliating Scrub
- Why We Love It: Great for all hair types, vegan formula, color-safe
With over 800 5-star reviews, this scalp scrub is a crowd favorite for all hair concerns and we see why. Its key ingredient—sea salt—acts as a natural exfoliant, which can reduce itchiness, inflammation and any excess oil, removing any product buildup in the process. The treatment also promises to strengthen and detoxify your strands. For one PureWow editor, it was a complete game changer: “After just one wash, I knew I had found something special. Not only did it not leave any strong scent behind, but my hair also felt…clean. Deeply, thoroughly and miraculously clean. Even the problem areas near my crown felt completely oil-free!”
Best for Dandruff
- Why We Love It: Cruelty-free, clean ingredients, great for dry scalps
This scalp scrub helps to remove product residue and fight against flakes so you can finally say goodbye to dandruff. Its hydrating ingredients (which include a sugar complex) maintain your natural moisture, while refreshing your scalp. The scrub also features glycerin, sweet almond oil and squalene to strengthen and protect your strands.
“I really have a hard time with [dryness and flaking during] the colder months. I really love this product. It's easy to apply directly to the scalp with the tip applicator. It feels luxurious to rub into my scalp and my hair is noticeably healthier [with] no more flakes. I only use a small amount on top of my scalp and rub it in and it dissolves and I follow up with the micellar shampoo. If you have a dry and flaky scalp this product works,” says one Ulta reviewer.
Best for Dry Scalps
- Why We Love It: Cruelty-free, vegan formula, dual exfoliator
If you’re searching for a scrub to alleviate your dry scalp, look no further than this Virtue pick. The formula includes coconut, jojoba and Kalahari melon oils to condition the scalp. It also has fruit enzymes (aka papain and bromelain), beta hydroxy acid (BHA) and rice exfoliator to detoxify and cleanse the scalp without stripping away your natural oils. “[It’s] really a great clarifying and exfoliating product. [It] doesn't strip away [moisture from my] dry, thick hair! My hair feels INCREDIBLE after every [use],” adds one Ulta customer.
- Why We Love It: Natural ingredients, great for color-treated hair, great for dry scalps
Trust, the price tag is worth it for the ingredients alone. It’s formulated with sea salt for exfoliation and aloe leaf juice for hydration and nourishment. There’s also witch hazel and arnica flower extract to soothe and balance the scalp and a refreshing essential oil blend (aka avocado, peppermint and eucalyptus oil) that deliver a tingly sensation.
“I love this scalp scrub/exfoliator. There's nothing but good things to say [about it]. Leave it on for five minutes, and in the five minutes, you can feel the tingle and it's very nice. It smells like a dream, it’s velvety in texture and [overall a] fantastic product,” explains one Dermstore reviewer.
- Why We Love It: Clean ingredients, great for dry scalp, free gift with purchase
When ‘T.L.C’ is in the name, you know you’re in good hands. Featuring a nourishing blend of AHAs (aka glycolic, tartaric, lactic and citric acids), the scrub breaks down product build up and removes dead skin cells. The scrub also contains marula and mongongo oil to moisturize the scalp, add shine to your strands and overall smooth out your hair.
“I've had dry scalp problems since moving to Utah, especially in the winter. This is the only product that has worked! It makes my hair feel full and [clears up] the scabs. I use this about once a week, sometimes twice. I've tried coconut oil masks, apple cider vinegar scrubs, tea tree oil, etc. Nothing has "cured" it like this scrub. If you live in a dry area, try this!,” one Ulta reviewer recommends.
Best Salt Scrub
- Why We Love It: Natural ingredients, great for color-treated hair and dry scalps
If you’re searching for a physical exfoliant, this one by dpHUE should be on your radar. The main ingredient—Himalayan salt—exfoliates and removes anything that’s clogging up your scalp. The scrub also includes apple cider vinegar, aloe vera and avocado oil to soothe, soften and deeply cleanse the scalp.
“This is absolutely my favorite! I struggle with [a] dry scalp, but it also gets oily quickly. I use this product once or twice a week (depending on my scalp and the weather). I tend to get buildup easily which results in a dry, itchy scalp. It helps my scalp feel refreshed and gives it a deep clean. It is definitely worth the price and you don't even need a lot! I use about a quarter-sized [amount] and it definitely goes a long way,” adds one Amazon commenter.
Best for Natural Hair
TPH By Taraji
- Why We Love It: Black-owned, vegan formula, great for all hair types
This sugar scrub is all about unclogging and clearing up your scalp. The gentle formula (which features apple cider vinegar, coconut oil and peppermint oil) offers a soothing and stimulating exfoliation, especially for natural hair. Plus, the duo touch applicator helps target your scalp and roots—whether you’re rocking a protective style or your natural locks. “It felt so great on my scalp. It tingled during and long after [I washed] my braids, which helped me tremendously,” adds one reviewer.
Best for Sensitive Scalps
- Why We Love It: Hydrating ingredients, great for dry scalps, works for all hair types
When it comes to this scalp scrub, you don’t have to worry about further irritating or drying out your scalp. It’s formulated with jojoba oil and sweet orange peel to remove dead skin cells and clear through buildup, while madecassoside (a compound derived from the Centella plant) relieves irritation and vitamin B5 reduces dryness.
“This Kérastase Relaxing Soothing Scrub works wonderfully! It lifted away all of the dry flaky skin on my scalp, all while being gentle and soothing. Other scrubs that I have tried are just too harsh and left my scalp even more irritated than before. This scrub didn't leave my scalp irritated at all. In fact, my scalp has felt more hydrated and healthier,” adds one Sephora member.
Best for Oily Scalps
- Why We Love It: Cruelty-free, vegan formula, great for sensitive scalps
No one likes a greasy scalp that can lead to product residue, itchiness and/or flakes. This one from R+Co promises to clear away your hair woes after one wash. The scrub includes salicylic acid and kaolin clay to remove excess oils and balance your scalp once more. It’s recommended to use a quarter-sized amount to cleanse and add shine back to your locks.
“I have very fine, oily hair with dry ends. It’s really hard to find products that clean my hair without weighing it down and/or drying the ends. This scalp scrub is fantastic, not only do I absolutely love the scent but it [has] helped heal my scalp damage from hard water, and my hair is soft, not [weighed] down, and the ends feel smooth,” says one Amazon customer.
Best Sugar Scrub
- Why We Love It: 2-in-1, plant-based formula, great for dry scalps
This 2-in-1 provides all the benefits of a scalp scrub and a shampoo. Its gentle formula promises to remove impurities and promote strong, healthy hair. In it you’ll find grape stem cells, pearl extract, platinum fiber and hyaluronic acid to seal in moisture, add shine and repair your scalp. With over 1,886 5-star reviews, this sugar scrub is a hit for all hair types. “This is a great scalp scrub. I absolutely love it and it leaves my scalp feeling clean and refreshed. I try to space out my hair washing, so my hair doesn't get stripped and dry, and this gives my scalp the fresh clean start it needs to last days before my next wash. I love the scrubb[y] texture and that it foams up well when you add water. Very nice product and well worth the cost,” says one Amazon reviewer.
Best Shampoo Scrub
OK, we awarded this the best “shampoo scrub,” which we admit is a tad confusing, but that’s because it does the job of both phenomenally. Whether you have a dry, itchy or oily scalp, this pick by Briogeo is a treatment worth investing in once a week. Its blend of coconut oil, panthenol and tea tree oil work together to moisturize and soothe the scalp; Binchotan charcoal that clears away any buildup, dirt and oils. “This is hands down one of my favorite shampoos. It exfoliates your scalp, which is very helpful if you suffer from a dry/itchy/flaky scalp, and [it’s] great for providing moisture. I also love the scent. They say the scent is coconut, however, with charcoal, mint, and coconut oil as ingredients, to me it smells like mint chocolate chip,” adds one Amazon fan.
Best Dual Exfoliant
The Inkey List
Want the best of both worlds? This scalp scrub is both a physical and chemical exfoliant. One 10-minute treatment promises to remove product buildup, while encouraging healthy hair growth. You’ll find ingredients like glycolic acid and castor beads that protect, cleanse and restore your scalp. Plus, the nozzle applicator makes it easier to target any dry or oily areas.
“My hair type is 4c and I didn’t know I needed a glycolic acid exfoliating scalp scrub until I tried this product. I thought it would dry out my hair, but it didn’t! It’s so easy to use and it [definitely gets] rid of product build up [even after ] I hadn’t washed my hair in two weeks. It didn’t sting my scalp, [it’s] very gentle on the scalp and hydrating,” adds one Sephora reviewer.
Why crowd your bathroom cabinets with a million scrubs when you can invest in just one? This one is loaded with sugar crystals, glycerin and coconut oil to exfoliate and nourish your body from head to toe. Plus, the floral scent (bergamot, lychee, white musk and cedarwood) is a nice touch for shower time. “[I am] OBSESSED with this scrub. It’s great for the body and hair. [And it’s] the perfect consistency—large chunks of sugar with a gooey texture that also moisturizes the body. I use it daily,” says one Sephora customer.
Best Clean Formula
- Why We Love It: Latinx-Owned, clean ingredients, great for oily scalps
If you’re looking for a deep cleanse without the harsh ingredients, look no further than this papaya-infused scrub. It features Bolivian mountain salt for a physical exfoliation, papaya enzymes to remove dead skin cells and prickly pear extracts to add moisture and reduce frizz. “I never want to wash my hair with anything else. [I] didn't think it was possible to get that squeaky clean scalp feeling without chemicals, but color me obsessed,” shares one Sephora reviewer.
Best for Irritated Scalps
Yes, it removes any dirt, oil and buildup, but it’s the hydrating ingredients that have us adding this to our list. It’s infused with AHAs and fruit extracts to cleanse and nourish the scalp, so that it’s squeaky clean sans any irritation. “I’ve had seasonal psoriasis for years and nothing has helped. It’s extra bad this year so I decided to try [this]. I’m an Oribe fan and came across this [scrub]. I purchased [it] with the shampoo and my scalp is 95 percent better after one use. I’m shocked!” says one Amazon customer.