Exfoliating The Scalp for Different Conditions

September 14, 2022

Did you know exfoliating your scalp regularly can help maintain healthier and shinier hair? 


Scalp exfoliation is simply a process where additional effort is applied to improve the natural removal of dead skin cells on the scalp.


The benefits include a healthier scalp microbiome, lower prevalence of unhealthy fungus, bacteria, and Demadex, and a more balanced sebaceous output. 


However, as certified trichologist and founder of Advanced Trichology William Gaunitz, FWTS, shared with SHAPE, there are different ways to exfoliate the scalp based on concern. Here are three common issues:



Dandruff is caused by excessive amounts of yeast on the surface of the scalp which then leads to an inflammatory response of accelerated skin cell development and flaking. One of the best ways to handle this condition is to increase vitamin D3 internally which will allow the immune system to balance the scalp from the inside out.


Externally, no chemicals should be used as they tend to aggravate the scalp condition and possibly make matters worse. Topical shampoos including zinc would be the best option. You can manually exfoliate the area by taking the tips of your fingers and massaging the shampoo through your scalp for approximately 30 seconds, then let it sit prior to rinsing.


Oily Scalps Without Large Flakes

Oily scalps without large flakes should be treated differently than an oily scalp with large flakes, which would also be theoretically seborrheic dermatitis. Oily scalp without large flakes should be exfoliated manually without chemicals.


One of the best ways to do so is to take a Boar hairbrush and brush your hair and scalp. You should be brushing your hair daily and utilizing 50 to 100 strokes during each brushing. This action moves the oil throughout the scalp and allows the moisture to be manually balanced. As well, it removes any dead skin cells on the surface of the scalp during the process, encouraging a healthier scalp microbiome.

Oily Scalps with Flakes (Seborrheic Dermatitis)

Seborrheic Dermatitis is autoimmune and caused by an accelerated buildup of skin cells and an excessive amount of oil which can lead to a fungal infection of the area. This is an ideal situation to utilize salicylic acid to remove excess skin cells on the surface of the scalp to alleviate the amount of oil building up between dead skin cells.


This will reduce inflammation and theoretically begin to stabilize the condition. This is another scenario where improving internal levels of vitamin D3 would enhance recovery. This condition is oftentimes representative of a nutritional imbalance or an inflammatory aggravator that should be targeted to completely suppress the situation.

Although scalp exfoliation can be beneficial, it is possible to over-exfoliate your scalp, especially when utilizing retinoic acid for improved absorbability of topical applications like minoxidil. The expression “the more the merrier” does not apply to these circumstances. In fact, “less is more” when it comes to scalp exfoliation. Over-exfoliating can weaken the skin and cause inflammation which may lead to an excessive immune response resulting in flaking and scalp damage.


Those concerned about oiliness, dryness, and dandruff, may require additional scalp exfoliation to improve the scalp condition. Exfoliants like salicylic acid and retinoic acid should be used sparingly and only under the right circumstances. Manual manipulation of the scalp including scalp massages, scalp brushing, and correctly shampooing and conditioning is oftentimes a better solution compared to long-term chemical usage.


For more information about William Gaunitz, FWTS, and Advanced Trichology, visit www.AdvancedTrichology.com, and follow us on Instagram at @AdvancedTrichology.