The 5 Best Scalp Scrubs For Dandruff, According To A Doctor

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Best Scalp Scrubs For Dandruff
Bustle / Amazon

Exfoliation helps to remove flakes and dead skin on your face, but what about your scalp and hair? The best scalp scrubs for dandruff are specifically designed for scalp exfoliation and removes product build-up, boosts moisture, and reduces flakes. But unfortunately, not all of them are created equal. Finding an effective one all comes down to the ingredients — both what’s included and what’s not — according to the board-certified founder of a med spa.

The Expert

Jaimie DeRosa, M.D., is a Board-certified plastic surgeon and the and founder and Lead Facial Plastic Surgeon of DeRosa Center Plastic Surgery & Med Spa in Boston and Palm Beach. Dr. DeRosa is also an assistant professor at both Harvard Medical School and Boston University School of Medicine.

What To Look For In The Best Scalp Exfoliation Scrubs

According to Dr. DeRosa, “scalp scrubs can target some of the very causes of dandruff — dry or oily scalp and a build-up of hair care products, for example.” In order for them to be effective, however, they needs to have the right ingredients.

Apple cider vinegar (ACV) “is a great ingredient to look for in a scalp scrub, as its acidic nature helps to restore the scalp’s pH, remove excess product build-up, and rid one’s scalp of dandruff,” Dr. DeRosa wrote in an e-mail to Bustle. Sea salt is another great ingredient since it will “work to lift excess sebum/oil and products from the scalp.” Dr. DeRosa also says that a scrub with sugar can be a gentle option. Finally, “ingredients such as aloe vera, coconut, and avocado oils” can soothe and hydrate the scalp to reduce flakes in the future.

That said, some common ingredients can actually worsen dandruff — especially if you have a sensitive scalp — and according to Dr. DeRosa, “these include parabens, sulfates, and silicones.” They often contribute to dryness, irritation, clogged pores, and skin that’s stripped of its necessary oils, so it’s best to skip formulas that include them, according to Dr. DeRosa.

Shop The Best Scalp Scrubs For Dandruff

In a hurry? Here are the top picks for scalp scrubs.

  1. The Overall Best Scalp Scrub: dpHUE Apple Cider Vinegar Scalp Scrub
  2. The Best Budget Pick: Yes To Tea Tree Pre Shampoo Scalp Scrub
  3. A Gentle Reviewer Favorite: NatureLab Perfect Shine Scalp Scrub
  4. The Best Scalp & Body Scrub In One: OUAI Scalp & Body Scrub
  5. The Best Scrub & Shampoo In One: goop G.Tox Himalayan Salt Scalp Scrub Shampoo

1. The Overall Best Scalp Scrub

Notable Ingredients:

  • apple cider vinegar
  • pink Himalayan sea salt
  • aloe vera
  • avocado oil

Doesn’t Have:

  • parabens, sulfates, phthalates, gluten

“Its name basically says it all in terms of why it’s such a good scrub to treat dandruff,” Dr. DeRosa said about the dpHUE Apple Cider Vinegar scalp scrub with pink Himalayan sea salt. “The ACV helps to restore the pH of the scalp and get that skin healthy again, while the pink sea salt works to physically lift the excess build-up of dead skin, oils, and products off the scalp.” It also has aloe and avocado oil for hydration, plus it skips parabens, sulfates, phthalates, and gluten, which can be potentially irritating. In addition to being one of Dr. DeRosa’s direct recommendations, it has also earned an average 4.3-star rating from over 1,000 Amazon reviewers.

One reviewer wrote: “Ya’ll, I have been fighting with my scalp since I was born and nothing has worked. [...] After TWO washes I have no more flakes for the first time in my life!! I also highly recommend pairing this with the shampoo. And on top of it all my hair is so so soft and so shiny now!”

2. The Best Budget Pick

Notable Ingredients:

  • tea tree
  • apple cider vinegar
  • witch hazel
  • sage oil

Doesn’t Have:

  • parabens, SLS, silicones

While it’s not a direct recommendation from Dr. DeRosa, Yes To Tea Tree’s scalp scrub has many of the qualities she recommends: For one, it contains apple cider vinegar to help balance the scalp’s pH, plant oils for hydration, and sugar crystals for exfoliation. For another, the formula is free from parabens, sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), and silicones if you’re avoiding those. Reviewers also love that it’s cruelty-free and made from over 95% natural ingredients — but the best part? It costs less than $10 a bottle, and it’s easy to squeeze into your hand while you’re in the shower.

One reviewer wrote: “I have to admit, I was skeptical about this, but I immediately noticed a difference! Does wonders for oil build up and flaking!! Already bought 2 more bottles!”

3. A Gentle Reviewer Favorite

Notable Ingredients:

  • grape stem cells
  • pearl extract
  • platinum fiber
  • hyaluronic acid

Doesn’t Have:

  • parabens, sulfates, phthalates, gluten, mineral oil

It doesn’t have the primary ingredients Dr. DeRosa mentions, but the NatureLab Perfect shine scalp scrub does skip many potentially irritating ingredients — and according to its overall 4.6-star rating and 2,300-plus reviews, this cruelty-free formula works. Gentle platinum fibers exfoliate, grape stem cells nourish, hyaluronic acid moisturizes, and pearl extract boosts shine. Buyers have called it the “best scalp scrub out there” and a “miracle.”

One reviewer wrote: “I have had such a horrible dandruff problem for YEARS. I've tried everything: washing more, washing less, head and shoulders, t gel shampoo, just conditioner, hot water, cold water, scalp massagers, OTHER scalp scrubs... for me personally, this scalp scrub is a miracle.”

4. The Best Scalp & Body Scrub In One

Effective Ingredients:

  • sugar
  • coconut oil
  • probiotic blend

Doesn’t Have:

  • parabens, sulfates

If you want a multitasking scrub that you can use on both your scalp and your body, “OUAI Haircare Deep Cleansing Scalp and Body Scrub is another favorite,” Dr. DeRosa wrote. “Its blend of sugar and coconut oil helps to remove excess build-up from the scalp while calming and soothing the scalp. What’s great is that it works well for both oily scalps and those that are dry, and you can use the scrub on your body too.” It’s also cruelty-free, color-safe, and suitable for any hair type. Plus, shoppers rave about the scent, too.

One reviewer wrote: “This by far the nicest, most luxurious scrub I’ve used to deep clean my scalp and get rid of buildup. I do also love to use it on my arms and legs to keep them nice and soft. I haven’t had any reactions or dandruff from this scrub. Just try it, the scent is heavenly!”

5. The Best Scrub & Shampoo In One

Effective Ingredients:

  • pink Himalayan salt
  • cold-pressed moringa oil
  • unfiltered rose hip oil

Doesn’t Have:

  • parabens, petroleum, phthalates, SLS, SLES, PEGs, TEA, DEA, silicones, artificial dyes, or fragrances

Looking for something that takes the place of your shampoo to cleanse and exfoliate at the same time? “Goop G.Tox Himalayan Salt scalp scrub shampoo is a cleansing shampoo and scrub all in one,” Dr. DeRosa wrote. “The pretty pink Himalayan salts help to exfoliate the scalp while moringa oil and pure rose hip oil [...] purify the scalp and remove toxins too. Excess dead skin cells and hair product will be removed, leaving the hair and scalp healthy and smelling great.” It also comes in a gorgeous glass jar and is infused with rosemary, geranium, orange, and peppermint for a fresh, uplifting scent. It comes in two sizes.

One reviewer wrote: “When I want my hair to look, feel and smell amazing I use the Goop Beauty G tox. It never fails to lift my spirit.”


Dr. Jaimie DeRosa, double-board-certified plastic surgeon, founder and Lead Facial Plastic Surgeon of DeRosa Center Plastic Surgery & Med Spa