In beauty and haircare, I think we leave a lot of things to assumption. And that's mostly because we forget the mechanisms that help us look our best - our cells and follicles.

It's the little things like:

  • "I can use this mascara from 2 years ago."
  • "My beauty blender doesn't need a wash yet."
  • "My shampoo will take care of my scalp."

Without properly letting follicles and skin cells get in on clean, bacteria-free beauty, you make it harder for those things to regenerate:

AKA: get growing locks and glowing skin.

Reality check:

You likely won't develop skin infections or lose your hair if you do any of those things above; but we're here to get things working at their best!

So, when it comes to scalp buildup:

We need to go deeper than a regular shampoo because it could be contributing to your problem.

Now, where do we go from here?

Read below for a full routine upgrade in how to clean scalp buildup.

What is Scalp Buildup?

A quick check-in in case you're not sure what your buildup situation really is.

Keep an eye out for dandruff or dry skin flaking because those can be caused by a few things that are a little different than scalp buildup.

But generally, excess scalp stuff is caused by a mixture of these:

Can scalp buildup cause hair loss?

In short:


If left untreated, you hair follicles can become clogged;

Making growth difficult and shedding common.

This is called folliculitis and it's seen in more severe cases of buildup.

But, even without a full blown case of folliculitis, hair will have trouble growing into its best self.

And we can't have that.

Read Next: How To Treat Sebum Overproduction at Home

redhead girl wearing halo hair extensions without scalp buildup
Wearing The Medium Halo in col. #33

Your New Routine:

Commitment issues? No prob.

Steps in this routine can be used in tandem or you can implement just a couple parts depending on your scalp's needs.

You won't need to complete this circuit every wash in most buildup cases.

So do what works for you, when it works for you.

We suggest:

Do this routine every 2 weeks to keep buildup at bay.

The Pre-Wash:

Pre-shampoo treatments have become a hot topic this last year.

And for good reason!

Giving your scalp some benefit-packed action before showering gives your hair a head start in whatever you need it to do:

There's deep conditioning masks, scalp treatments, and detoxifying scrubs that can do a lot.

But, when finding one that's best for how to clean scalp buildup, we suggest these workhorse ingredients:

Tea tree oil, baking soda or salt, and apple cider vinegar.

You can make your own or just combine these three (recipe found here).

And then apply to a dry scalp, give a good massage to your roots, and leave on for 10 minutes pre-poo.

Why are these ingredients good for cleaning scalp buildup?

Baking soda and salt help physically lift all that accumulated stuff with granular exfoliation.

While tea tree oil and apple cider vinegar (ACV) are some of the best natural anti-bacterial products out there.


ACV is probiotic and anti-humectant so you'll get added moisture and shine.

The Shower:

Once you're in the shower, things are business as usual with a couple upgrades.

Sub in a clarifying shampoo into your regular shower routine.

We love any of these (and they're just as beloved in the reviews too):

  • dpHUE Apple Cider Vinegar Soothing Shampoo: a gentle power combo of ACV, lavender, aloe, and ginseng root extract
  • Davines Purifying Shampoo: contains dandelion root extract (a natural antimicrobial) plus hydrating glycerin
  • Shea Moisture African Black Soap Bamboo Charcoal Deep Cleansing Shampoo: a super buildup-fighting formula with charcoal, tea tree oil, and willow bark extract, along with soothing oils like argan and jojoba

While these shampoos are gentle, they shouldn't be your go-to every time you wash, unless you have consistent buildup or very oily hair.

Which, in that case, seek professional advice as it could be a more serious skin condition.

This is because:

While we love getting rid of scalp buildup, astringent shampoos or too much detox in general can make it hard for good oils to come through naturally.

As well:

If you're grabbing a shampoo that has exfoliating properties already in it;

You can skip the pre-wash exfoliation ('cause you're getting it here!)

Read Next: 5 Harmful or Toxic Ingredients in Shampoo

braided halo hair extensions on girl wondering how to clean scalp build up
Wearing The Medium Halo in col. #613

The Rinse:

You're in the shower.

Hair is washed, conditioned, and your scalp is detoxed.

You managed to remember to shave BOTH legs.

Things are good.

Now take it to the finish line with an over-achieving rinse:

DIY Nourishing Rinses:

For both scalp health and hair health, finishing your shower with any of these at-home recipes can give you a ton of noticeable benefits.

  • ACV + water: 1 part ACV, 5 parts water will make this less smelly and more gentle to your locks
  • Rosemary water: make your own by boiling water with rosemary in a saucepan, then steeping for 15-30 minutes (cool down before using)
  • Lemon + water: mix juice of 1 lemon with 2 cups of water

Read Next: 10 Hairstyles For Oily Hair So You Can Skip Wash Day

The Post-Shower Treatment:

The pièce de résistance to a healthy scalp is a post-shower serum.

Perfect for when you're right out of the shower;

A natural, oil-based serum can go deep in detox in 2 ways:

  1. Pores and follicles are more open post-shower and can absorb better due to the warm water
  2. All the wetness on your scalp will help things seep in ever deeper

Using oils like tea tree, peppermint, or chamomile are ideal here.

They aren't heavy moisturizers like jojoba or coconut oil so they won't undo all your just-finished cleansing.

Still: less is more.

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