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Why Everyone Needs a Scalp Detox

April 12, 2022

6 Min read

While some fad wellness detoxes are unnecessary, a scalp detox is actually legit and has major benefits. Our scalp skin is similar to the skin on our face: It can become easily irritated, clogged, and dirty. So a scalp detox is a deep cleanse for the scalp, a way to coax out everything from product buildup to hard water residue without disturbing the delicate balance of natural oils. 

It’s like hitting the reset button on a part of our body that doesn’t get as much attention as it deserves. Think about it: You wash your hair frequently, but how much time do you spend on your scalp? On top of a lack of attention, the scalp can also be bombarded with product buildup and the effects of harsh ingredients.

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Because our scalp is lined with between 80,000 to 120,000 hair follicles, it’s also a direct line to our bloodstream. When we use products containing harsh ingredients, our scalp reacts, understandably, in a negative way. Here’s what you need to know about resetting and maintaining your scalp with a nurturing scalp detox.

Why should I do a scalp detox?

When the scalp is inundated with products, pollutants, and irritants from the environment, not only can your hair follicles get clogged, but your scalp skin in general may become itchy, red, or flaky. Everyone needs and can benefit from a scalp detox. 

“The scalp works the same way as your face. So, just as a facial detoxifies your skin of clogged pores, removing oil and sebum buildup and so forth, a scalp detox works the same way,” explains Gabriel Abrams at Numi and Company Hair Salon in Scarsdale, NY. As a result, “Hair growth improves tremendously when you clear the scalp of buildup. Hair follicles have room to flourish. For thin hair, that usually means cleaning the scalp of oily residue; and for thicker, coarser hair that means sloughing away dry dead skin cells,” adds Abrams.

What is a scalp detox?

To understand what a scalp detox is, it’s best to first understand what a detox in general is. The word “detox” itself is defined as, “a process or period of time in which one abstains from or rids the body of toxic or unhealthy substances.” 

For the scalp, that firstly means ridding your routine of hair care products that contain irritants or astringent ingredients that can build up on the scalp, causing damaged, dull hair and redness in skin. Some of the top ingredients to avoid include: parabens, sulfates, mineral oil, phthalates, and synthetic fragrance.

Why you should use a sulfate-free shampoo

Secondly, and more physically, a scalp detox means getting your hands in there and massaging a balancing and detoxifying scalp mask on your skin. A good scalp treatment will have ingredients to pull out impurities, cleanse and remove buildup, balance natural oils, and soothe and hydrate skin.

How does a scalp detox work?

A scalp detox isn’t like other detoxes; it’s not short-term. A scalp detox is something you build into your hair routine and keep up forever. Changing your approach to hair care by being more conscientious about ingredients and adding a weekly scalp mask will keep your scalp cleansed, hydrated, and balanced so hair growth and health can flourish. 

A good scalp mask contains highly concentrated, natural exfoliants and cleansers to purify the scalp of buildup and flakes, as well as hydrating, soothing ingredients to calm irritation and redness. The Prose scalp mask uses jojoba beads to gently slough away flakes and buildup, and is designed to be applied before any other products, as it perfectly primes hair for shampoo and conditioner.

What ingredients are good for a scalp detox?

Two of the best natural detoxifiers for the scalp are bamboo charcoal and wintergreen extract. These powerhouses will help remove buildup and balance the skin on the scalp. 

Other natural scalp detox ingredients include antioxidant-packed kale extract for oil control and scalp nutrition; jojoba beads for exfoliation and cleansing; super-absorptive pro-vitamin B5 for hydration; and soothing CBD powder, grapefruit oil, and pink clay to cool inflamed or irritated skin. For overall scalp health, probiotic-rich kombucha tea may promote anti-microbial and anti-redness effects to keep the skin on your scalp calm and copacetic.

How do I apply a scalp mask?

Once you’ve found a clean scalp mask that matches your hair’s needs, there’s a pro method for applying it to increase efficacy.

Why you should be using a scalp mask

  • Step 1: Brush or comb to detangle hair and ensure a smooth application. 
  • Step 2: Dampen hair and start by massaging the mask into your hairline, from your ear to the nape of your neck, with your fingertips. 
  • Step 3: Next, part hair from your temple to the nape of your neck. Massage the mask along the part with your fingertips. Keep making parts and massaging the mask in until you get to the other side of your hairline.
  • Step 4: Allow the mask to penetrate for five to 10 minutes, using a shower cap or steam for extra absorption.
  • Step 5: After the mask penetrates, use your fingertips to massage around your hairline, behind your ears, and at the nape of your neck, which are circulation-boosting hot zones, and rinse.

Zen Bonus: Finish your scalp massage by tracing your index fingers from your ears up to your crown and pressing down in the middle. This is a reiki massage technique to help you feel grounded and relaxed. 

How do I maintain a healthy scalp after I detox?

First, keep up with those weekly treatments! Second, invest in a clean shampoo and conditioner that’s tailored to your hair’s unique needs. You may also want to reduce the amount of times you wash your hair per week to reduce buildup and promote a healthy oil balance. “How often to shampoo will depend on the individual, but as the sebaceous glands in your scalp produce less sebum with age, the frequency of shampooing can be decreased,” says Dr. Hadley King, MD, a board-certified dermatologist. “And it’s important to use products that are hydrating and moisturizing. Avoid sulfates and other detergents that will strip the natural oils from the hair and leave it too dry.”

Try to avoid low-quality ingredients that can damage hair follicles and irritate scalp skin like parabens, triclosan, sodium lauryl sulfate (not to be confused with sodium lauroyl sarcosinate), dimethicone, and phthalates. Look out for these ingredients in hair styling products, too—especially ones that sit on your scalp, like dry shampoo. Opt for a clean dry shampoo that’s formulated for sensitive scalps with natural ingredients like witch hazel and oat flour.

And lastly, use the proper tools. The right brush can make all the difference in your hair care routine, helping to detangle and distribute the natural oils from your scalp to lengths, keeping your entire head hydrated.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

April Walloga is a beauty and lifestyle editor who’s written extensively on hair health and the root causes of hair loss. She is the former and founding editor in chief of Revelist.com and has been a lead editor at publications like Business Insider, Gotham magazine, and xoVain.com. In her spare time you can find her perusing what’s new at Sephora or enjoying Riverside Park with no less than her third cup of coffee that day.

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