By Amber Katz

Published on September 23, 2018

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Illustration by Phuong Nguyen

We do so much in the name of beauty. After all, is it even a Sunday if we haven’t engaged in some level of self care? We’ve positively doused our faces in manuka honey, put avocado in our hair; we’ve taken oil baths for hydration and implemented DIY lymphatic drainage to make our faces look more awake. DIY beauty treatments are wallet-friendly, natural, and come with the peace of mind of knowing exactly what ingredients are going on your skin and hair. The more you know how your body reacts to natural ingredients, the less you need to spend on expensive, packaged products that have potentially been sitting on shelves for months.

Skin care tricks abound, but the next thing to hit beauty world is scalp scrubs, and they’re super simple to DIY. All it takes is a little lemon juice, olive oil, and sea salt—all of which you likely already have in your kitchen. Salt and oil remove any dandruff or dry flakes without drying out the scalp, while the fatty acids in olive oil coat hair, providing necessary moisture and protection against damage, while the lemon juice dissolves any product residue.

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The Recipe

The mixture is easy to create from items in your pantry and refrigerator. All you need is 2 tablespoons of sea salt, 1-2 tablespoons of lemon juice, and 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil. To create your scrub, mix salt, lemon juice, and oil together in a bowl, then wet your hair and massage the scrub into your scalp for several minutes. Rinse well, and then shampoo and condition as usual. If you have the time, apply a deep-penetrating hair mask after you shampoo instead of conditioning. Let it sit on your hair under a shower cap for up to an hour while you attend to some chores. I like wearing a hair mask while I food prep for the week ahead and clean out my purse.

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Scrub In Lieu Of Shampoo

While the instructions recommend that you shampoo after your scalp scrub, you don’t necessarily have to. A scalp scrub is also a great way to transition to a no-poo (that’s no-shampoo, just conditioning or using a cleansing conditioner instead) lifestyle without resorting to traditional hair cleansers you purchase at a store. Best of all, they’re effective! “Scalp exfoliating is crucial not only for ridding you from buildup of product, natural oils, and sweat, but they also require a more mindful application,” says Serge Normant stylist Matt Fugate. So, basically, the act itself of massaging the scrub onto your scalp is a mini spa treatment in itself that you can enjoy in your shower.

“Scalp exfoliating is crucial not only for ridding you from buildup of product, natural oils, and sweat, but they also require a more mindful application”

 

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Ravishing Results

The best part of the scalp scrub process is the instant gratification. After doing this treatment, I saw immediate results. My hair was softer, shinier, and more manageable without having to use my go-to leave-in conditioner to detangle before blowing it out. I like to mix up this treatment before a big night out for cleaner, shinier hair. Keep in mind, however, that dirtier hair holds an updo or half-up style better, so your super clean hair isn’t ideal the day of the event. You can do the treatment the day or night before, or employ my trick to getting my hair to hold a look even if it’s super clean: Just spray the roots and length of your hair with a good dry shampoo, like Klorane Dry Shampoo With Oat Milk. The product imparts a little texture, giving your style grit, while soaking up oil while you dance up a storm. You can also do a scrub after a big event as a method to rid your scalp of the particularly dirty extra product build-up.

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A Biweekly or Weekly Indulgence For Your Scalp

SmarterSkin Dermatology Dermatologist Dr. Sejal Shah notes that how often you exfoliate depends on your scalp type and the exfoliant being used. She generally recommends once every 2 weeks or once a week. “Maybe if you have a very oily scalp or use a lot of hair products, you can go up to twice per week,” she says. One thing to note: Not all flakes are created equal. “If you suffer from dandruff or seborrheic dermatitis, exfoliating will not necessarily make you flake-free, so you may need a separate treatment to achieve that,” she explains. In other words, don’t give up on your regularly scheduled dandruff treatment shampoo if you’re afflicted, but you can add in a scrub in addition to it.

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Release Tension

Like a mini facial massage, or partaking in a good jade roller session on your face, the act of just applying a scrub to your scalp can relax you. You know how a good scalp/head massage during a routine salon appointment can positively change your day? Think of a scalp scrub as the at-home version of that. Take a moment, relax, and enjoy while you scrub it up in the shower. To amp up the aromatherapeutic benefits of your scrub, add a little essential oil of your choice. We like lemon, eucalyptus, peppermint, or rosemary for a spa like experience.

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Allow Your Follicles To Breathe

If you were to look at your follicles under magnification, you’d see that there is dirt, oil, sweat, and debris clustered around the follicle. Cleansing with a shampoo helps remove this, but getting it all off periodically is the work of a physical, granular exfoliant. We’ve found that using a scrub before a regularly scheduled shampoo can even extend your blowout by up to an extra 24 hours. This is a great trick pre-vacation when you have a long flight ahead of you and want to arrive as fresh as possible. Try it before you head out for a long weekend, and leave your hair products and blow dryer at home.

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Stimulate Hair Growth

Sure, there are umpteen hair-growth supplements on the market but a simple scrub can also help your hair grow faster and longer, if that is the goal. Exfoliating the scalp manually helps slough off more than dead skin cells and leftover product debris. It’s now believed that scrubbing your scalp can also remove excess DHT, a hormone that induces hair loss, while at the same time promoting the growth of new follicles.

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Scalp Care Is Hair Care

Think of your scalp as an extension of your face. You wouldn’t neglect your face, would you? There’s skin under that head of hair of yours and it deserves a little TLC, too. Not only does this natural scalp scrub feel like a head massage when you apply it, it also helps you get rid of product buildup on your scalp and hair follicles. It happens to all of us: Regular use of conditioners, hair gels, hair spray, dry shampoo, and other products can make your hair dull and flat. Scrubbing your scalp at least once a week detoxifies and deep cleanses the scalp and follicles so you can start anew.  

Less Stripping Than Clarifying Shampoos

Fugate notes that using a scrub is different than simply washing your hair with a clarifying shampoo. “[The former] just strips the hair clean, usually not targeting the scalp and follicles, which is the most under-appreciated area of our body,” he explains.

“…Using a scrub is different than simply washing your hair with a clarifying shampoo.”

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Or, Try A Vinegar Rinse Instead

You can also reap the benefits of exfoliation by applying a simple apple cider vinegar rinse. Not only is apple cider a natural exfoliant, it’s also an antiseptic which helps to cleanse the scalp. It also improves shine while deep cleansing. “Opt for a half a shot glass or so of ACV mixed with shampoo,” Fugate recommends. And don’t forget: “Get it on your head and not in your eyes,” he says. So tilt that head back when you apply it to your hair. You can use a vinegar rinse up to twice a week for a super shiny mane.

“Not only is apple cider a natural exfoliant, it’s also an antiseptic which helps to cleanse the scalp.”

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You Don’t Have To DIY

While it’s more wallet-friendly to create your own scalp scrub from items in your kitchen, it’s by no means the only route to a scrubbed scalp. Ready-made scalp scrubs are readily available. We love this mermaid-esque Dead Sea version sold on the Enter The Mermaid’s Lair Etsy shop. Another one to try is our beauty editor’s favoriteChristophe Robin Cleansing Purifying Scrub With Sea Salt. IGK Cleansing Walnut Scalp Scrub is a salt-free iteration that cools as it cleanses your hair and scalp. Two great drugstore options are L’Oreal EverFresh Micro-Exfoliating Scrub, which retails at under $10, and Burt’s Bees Cranberry And Pomegranate Sugar Scrub for $13.  

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Bonus: All of these store-bought scrubs are formulated to cleanse as well, so there’s no need to lather up with a separate shampoo after.

 

See more helpful haircare tips:

What’s The Difference Between $3 and $30 Shampoo?

No-Poo Shampoo: What It Is and Why You’ll Love It

Changing This One Thing Will Improve Your Hair Immediately