DIY,  Shower Stories

Make Homemade Scalp Scrub To Remove Buildup

Exfoliation is an important part of our skincare routine. In fact, most of us go a little bit crazy (me included!) and invest in a whole bunch of exfoliation goodies like loofas, body brushes, scrubbing gloves, electronic exfoliation devices, etc. We use them all over our body (feet, knees, elbows, face, lips, and other areas) to buff away old, dead skin in desperate hopes to get glowing, softer-feeling bodies! While we are so caught up exfoliating all parts of our body, we forgot one very important place to exfoliate: our scalp! 

To have healthy hair, you have to have a healthy scalp. An unhealthy scalp means that there is an accumulation of dirt, oil, debris, and even mineral buildup from water. This clogs up the hair follicles, making hair dull and brittle, and your scalp dry and itchy. Harsh chemicals from your shampoo add to this havoc and you are left with more of a mess on your head than you could ever imagine!

So how do you fix this situation? Well, clarifying shampoos are your best bet to really give your hair and scalp a proper cleanse. However, they are quite expensive and they don’t really do much in the exfoliation department; meaning they don’t exfoliate the scalp to remove the dead skin cells properly. Alternatively, there are salons that offer exfoliation services but this can also be quite heavy on the wallet.  

So, what do you do?

Make your own clarifying scalp scrub at home! I mean, why not? It is simple; it is cheap and I bet you already have all the ingredients in your kitchen! 

Homemade Scalp Scrub Recipe

Let us begin by learning what ingredients we need, how to make the scrub and finally how to use it on the scalp. There will be so many ways to make a scrub but this is the way that worked best for me. I wanted to create a very simple but effective scalp scrub that did what it was supposed to. However, please use responsibly and do a patch test of any ingredient you are unsure of or using for the first time just to ensure you do not have any allergies to it. 

This post may contain affiliate links and I may earn a small commission when you click on the links to make a purchase, at no additional cost to you. I only recommend products I would use myself and all opinions expressed here are my own. You can read my full disclosure here.

What You Will Need

INGREDIENTSEQUIPMENT
1 TBSP Olive OilSmall Bowl
2 TBSP Brown Sugar or Raw Cane SugarSpoon
4 Drops Tea-Tree Essential Oil

Method

1. Take a small bowl and add brown sugar. 

2. Add olive oil to the sugar and mix well until it is a gooey, pasty consistency. 

3. Add the tea-tree oil and combine everything together. 

Voila! Your scalp scrub is ready for use! How simple was that??

How To Apply To Scalp

Wet your hair with warm water. Scoop a little amount (maybe a tablespoon) of mixture in your fingers (not palm) and apply it to the scalp. Begin at the hairline and slowly make your way to the middle and back of the head ensuring you have reached all parts of the scalp, adding more mixture as needed. Pay special attention to the particularly dry and itchy areas. Remember to use circular motion and moderate pressure when scrubbing to effectively remove dead skin, dirt, and product or mineral buildup. Be sure not to use your nails when scrubbing as this could cause unwanted cuts and bleeding to occur, which could then lead to scalp infections. 

After you have scrubbed all areas of the scalp for a few minutes, rinse the mixture out of your hair. Wash your scalp and hair with a sulfate-free shampoo or use a clarifying shampoo to really make sure no harsh chemicals or residue is being left behind. Condition your hair afterwards, as you normally would. 

Ingredient Spotlight

Now that we know how to make the scrub, I always like to talk a little bit about the key ingredients and what makes them stand out with the qualities they bring. 

Brown Sugar

Sugar is considered to be a natural exfoliant. But there are many different kinds of sugars out there on the market. Not all of them are gentle enough for skin. Out of all sugars, brown sugar is known to be the softest. Having said that, when used on the skin (scalp included, as it is an extension of our skin), it naturally exfoliates excess dirt, oil, and other buildup from the scalp. It also helps to unclog the follicles and improve blood flow to the scalp in order to stimulate new hair growth. Brown sugar contains glycolic acid (an alpha hydroxyl acid) that helps to keep the scalp healthy by fighting off bacteria from accumulating. Best of all, brown sugar is a natural humectant. This means that it absorbs and retains moisture into the scalp and protects it from destructive toxins, keeping it well-nourished, glowing, and healthy. Brown sugar also rinses away easily in water.

Olive Oil

While sugar lifts away the dead skin flakes and dirt from the scalp, olive oil drenches the scalp with deeply penetrating nourishment. It is known to be one of the many oils that repair hair from its root to tip, making each strand softer and shinier. Aside from making hair healthy and shiny, olive oil is effective in preventing scalp dryness, itchiness and dandruff. It is rich in Vitamin E that helps to naturally moisturize the scalp, making it healthy and well-nourished. The antibacterial and antifungal properties of olive oil help to eliminate dandruff-causing microbes and other toxins that harm the scalp. The mono-unsaturated fatty acids in olive oil coat the scalp by penetrating deeply so that rough and dry hair is softened and remains protected. 

Tea-Tree Oil

Tea-tree oil has antiseptic and antifungal properties that help with relief from psoriasis, dermatitis, and other scalp conditions. This oil effectively helps to fight off many types of bacteria, fungi, and even viruses. These types of infections tend to cause itchiness, dandruff, and all sorts of nasty irritations on the scalp. Tea-tree oil helps to soothe the scalp from these inflammations. It is commonly found as an important ingredient in most anti-dandruff shampoos. 

Keep in Mind: Please be very careful when using an essential oil in its pure form as it may cause a serious rash or other allergic reactions. Always dilute essential oils in a carrier oil (for this recipe, I have used olive oil as a carrier oil) and always perform a patch test before you use it for the first time to ensure you do not have any allergies to it. 

Common FAQs

Here are some questions I think you may have after learning about this homemade scalp scrub. I will do my best to address them but if I miss anything, feel free to drop me a line in the comments section below and I promise I will get to it as soon as I can. After all, I really am not a mind-reader! 

Can I Use the Scalp Scrub Daily?

No. It is not safe to scrub your scalp using this recipe everyday. While a daily massage is important to revive blood flow to the follicles, a scalp scrub can be quite abrasive for daily use. It may inadvertently strip the scalp of its natural oils and may cause hair breakage at the roots due to repeated scrubbing. I would recommend using the scrub once in two weeks if you have normal to dry scalp and once a week if you have very oily hair or hair that is prone to getting greasy easily. 

Can I Use Baking Soda Instead Of Sugar?

I have seen a lot of beauty bloggers promote the use of baking soda as part of their no poo/low poo hair care routine. Hey, I am all game for that kind of lifestyle and all power to those currently abiding by it! Personally, I have not (and probably will not) use baking soda to clear out my scalp; and since I have never used it, I can not recommend it. Please do your due diligence and research on the said topic.

Not to get too scientific, but baking soda has a high pH value (pH of about 8.5; same as hard water), while hair’s natural pH is around 4.5-5.5. Anything that changes the pH dramatically is going to have seriously negative impacts as well. ACV is often recommended as a final hair rinse to restore hair’s natural pH after using baking soda. To me, that’s putting hair through avoidable damage. For that reason, I chose to go for a scalp scrub without baking soda. If baking soda works for you, however, by all means, go for it! Just make sure you adjust or restore pH levels of hair afterwards. 🙂

Can I Use Another Essential Oil?

Yes. It may be difficult to find tea-tree oil in some places. In that case, you can replace this with another essential oil of your choice so long as it targets your specific hair concern. Personally, I love the benefits of tea tree oil and how effective it is with the other ingredients in this scrub. However, my other suggestions would be: 

Jojoba oil: adds moisture to dry scalp 

Lavender oil: helps with scalp acne or seborrhea

Chamomile oil: helps with scalp sores

Rosemary oil: cleans the scalp and promotes new hair growth faster

You can also read a longer list of my recommended essential oils for hair here. 

Can I Store it For Future Use?

Yes. You could store it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 months if you decide to make a bigger batch. I personally like to make smaller batches that I could use immediately or in a week’s time. Keep in mind that when you are refrigerating, please allow for mixture to come to room temperature before you apply it to your scalp. Cane sugar will most likely keep its form as the mixture warms up to room temperature but brown sugar may not (sorry, but I have not tested this). In which case, it might be ideal to use raw cane sugar if you would like to be able to use the scrub multiple times in the future. 

Don’t Scratch, Scrub!

When was the last time you thought of exfoliating your scalp? If you are scratching your head, this means it is time to scrub! Before you reach for an expensive shampoo or go out for a professional service to give special attention to your head, why not make the scrub at home? Give this easy and simple scalp scrub recipe a try to get rid of dandruff and itchiness from your scalp. Allow your scalp to breathe! Detox your scalp! You will be surprised how clean and refreshed your scalp will feel after you have scrubbed away all that dead skin flakes and buildup. If you are exfoliating other parts of your body, why leave out the scalp? Give it some TLC it deserves and watch how your hair shines and bounces with life!

Feel free to leave your questions and feedback in the comments down below!

As always, I love hearing from you and am always happy to help in any way I can!

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10 Comments

  • LineCowley

    I did not know that it was important to exfoliate your scalp, so found this to be a very helpful post. The recipe is indeed very simple and I will try it as soon as I have got the tree tea oil. Can one make the scrub with coconut oil rather than olive oil?

    Is there any specific reason why you should spread the scrub with your fingers and not your palm?

    • Sasha

      Yup, scalp exfoliation is just as crucial as exfoliation of any other part of our body. You can use another carrier oil, so long as you have no allergies to it and it pertains to the problem you are trying to target. I just love olive oil for it’s deeply penetrative abilities and this is why it is so impactful in this scrub. 

      Spreading the scrub with fingers is easier and a lot less messier as opposed to doing it with your palms. But you could definitely go ahead and use your palm if that is what you prefer. The whole purpose is to exfoliate- do you exfoliate your face with your palms too?

  • Cogito

    Hi Sasha. Very interesting article. Normally I would do exfoliation in cosmetic saloon, but now with pandemic situation and everything closed your post is extremely helpful. I had no idea that doing this in home is so easy, and so common things as brown sugar can be used. It is very inspiring and Im looking forward to test your recipes and advices in practice. And it will allow to safe some many as well. Thank you !

    • Sasha

      Me too! I loved getting my scalp exfoliated by my hair stylist but due to Covid everything is closed- what a bummer! Do give this scrub a try and you will love it for how easy and simple it is. Definitely will save a good amount of money as well! 🙂

  • Christine

    I love this! I am so going to make this! Although I had read before that brown sugar was good for exfoliating I didn’t know that it was also a natural humectant. I always buy brown sugar for my tea, and I have olive oil as well. So, all I need is tea tree oil, or I may get rosemary oil. What’s the best place to buy these oils online?

  • Sylvia

    Hi Sasha, Again, an excellent article.
    I must admit it never came to my mind to scrub my scalp, but of course, why not? I know brown sugar and olive oil from scrubbing my body before I shower. They are great ingredients, and my body’s skin looks fantastic this way.
    But I am always shy to use products on my scalp and hair. This has to do with me having fragile hair that is getting oily relatively quick, and if I do certain things with my hair, it looks oily, even I have washed it.
    I have to clean it daily, and I tried to change it, but it didn’t work for me.
    You have such a beautiful website with great articles; I learn so much. And the main point is that you love sustainability, the same as me.
    I use many sustainable skincare products, and they are helping very much. I eat a lot of olive oil, which is very healthy for the body, and I will use it now on my scalp.
    Do you think that my thin hair is becoming thinner and oilier after using olive oil? Would you recommend another oil for my scalp?

    • Sasha

      Hello again Sylvia! Loved your super sweet comment! 🙂

      So glad to hear that sustainable skincare is working great for you. I have never looked back since I started taking sustainability seriously. My health started to improve drastically and its rewarding to know that I’m improving the world we live in as well. What a win win! 🙂

      In regards to your question about your hair getting thinner- I would say: no, i don’t think olive oil is making it thinner. However, I would think that it may cause your hair to get oily quicker as it is “heavier” oil. I would suggest you sub it out for something lighter like perhaps Jojoba or Avocado oil. These would be better on your scalp and not weigh your hair down. Let me know what you think or if you have more questions. Would be happy to help:)

  • Monique Richie

    Hello Sasha, thank you so much for this interesting article. I also think that a healthy scalp leads to healthy and beautiful hair. Of course, healthy nutrition is also important for the body. Especially by the nails and hair, you can see if someone eats the right stuff. I am with you Soda is not so good as Brown Sugar. You not only scrub the scalp, but your hair is also involved. Soda can damage and dry out your hair quickly, especially when you color your hair. For me, Soda is a no-go.
    I am gonna try this out. Thank you so much.
    Best regards Monique.

    • Sasha

      Hi Monique! Thank you for your valuable insights! Yes, nutrition goes hand in hand with healthy hair- for sure! So glad to read that you agree with baking soda being a bit on the harmful side for hair. I would love for you to try this and see what you thought of it- good luck! 🙂

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