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Nix Scalp Buildup With This Comprehensive Scalp Care Routine

Healthy hair starts with a healthy scalp.
  • Naydeline Mejia
March 08, 2024

When it comes to your hair care routine, you likely give your mid-length and ends plenty of TLC. After all, super dry, split ends can have a pretty obvious impact on your hair’s appearance. But what about less visible areas like your scalp? If you haven’t been paying much attention to scalp care, it may be time to update your hair routine.

Here’s the thing: Many people don’t realize that your scalp health plays a big role in how your mane looks and feels. Simply put, in order to have healthy hair, you need to have a healthy scalp. Without the right scalp care routine, styling products (especially dry shampoos) can build up on your scalp and lead to hair concerns like itching, flaking, or oily roots.

Ahead, we’re explaining the basics you should know when it comes to caring for your scalp. We’ll cover how to build the ultimate healthy scalp routine and introduce you to some of our favorite scalp essentials, like scalp cleansers and conditioners.

What Is Scalp Buildup?

As the name suggests, scalp buildup occurs when dirt, oil, and grime accumulate on your scalp. This buildup can come from excess sebum (natural oils), hair products, dead skin cells, and even pollution, cigarette smoke, and pollen in the environment. When not properly removed, this buildup has the potential to impact your hair and scalp health and can influence how your mane looks. It can also weigh your hair down and clog your pores (your scalp is skin, after all).

What Causes Scalp Buildup?

When substances become stuck on your scalp, they can start building up over time. Scalp buildup can come from two different sources: natural sources (like natural oils on your scalp and the shedding of dead skin cells) and environmental sources (like styling products and air pollution or pollen). Regardless of what’s causing your scalp buildup, the consequences on your strands will likely be the same.

Scalp buildup will often flake off and eventually show up on your scalp or in your strands. This commonly happens if you don’t wash your hair frequently, and instead rely on dry shampoo and other styling products to revive your strands. While grabbing the dry shampoo when you’re in a pinch isn’t necessarily a bad thing, over time, these products accumulate.

Think about it: You wouldn’t want to leave layers of makeup caked on your skin for days at a time without thoroughly cleansing your skin. The same can be said for your scalp. So, the more products you layer on your scalp between washes, the more buildup you’re going to accumulate.

How To Get Rid of Scalp Buildup

So, you’ve decided you’re ready to develop a scalp care routine, but where do you start? Your scalp is still skin, so it needs plenty of care, just like the rest of your complexion. To help you get started, here are our top tips for reducing scalp buildup.

1) Exfoliate your scalp

If you’ve been neglecting your scalp, you probably want to start with a clean slate by getting rid of existing buildup. One way to do this is with a scalp exfoliating scrub. Just like your skin can benefit from a bit of regular exfoliation, so can your scalp!

Jump-start your scalp care routine with L’Oréal Paris Elvive Hyaluron + Pure Oil-Erasing Serum for Oily Hair. It’s made with a 6% exfoliating complex and helps minimize excess oils and impurities to help refresh your scalp. Apply the serum directly to your dry scalp before showering, massaging the formula in for about five minutes. Let it sit for about 15 minutes, then rinse and follow with shampoo and conditioner.

Alternatively, you could use a scalp scrub. Unlike scalp serums, which are typically applied to dry hair, scrubs are used on damp hair before you shampoo. After you hop into the shower, wet your hair and apply a liberal amount of scrub onto your scalp. Gently massage it on your scalp with your fingers. Then, rinse thoroughly and move on to your shampoo.

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2) Use a clarifying shampoo

Regular cleansing is one of the best ways to help get rid of scalp buildup, but you’ll need the right shampoo. We recommend reaching for a clarifying shampoo, like L’Oréal Paris Elvive Hyaluron + Pure Purifying Shampoo for Oily Hair. The skincare-inspired cleanser is uniquely formulated to remove up to 100% of scalp residue while hydrating your lengths and ends. It’s suitable for all hair types and can be used daily as part of your regular haircare routine.

Another option we love is the L’Oréal Paris EverPure Sulfate-Free Clarifying Shampoo with Antioxidants. This color-safe shampoo with antioxidants, vitamin C, and glycine is formulated to give your strands a detox after just one use. The sulfate-, paraben-, and dye-free formula works to deeply purify and cleanse the scalp and hair of dirt, product buildup, and excess oil—all without stripping your hair.

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3) Wash your hair with warm (not hot) water

Showering with extra-hot water can strip moisture from your hair, skin, and—you guessed it—your scalp! So, if you’re dealing with flaking and buildup caused by a dry scalp, it’s important to turn the water temperature down when you shower. Using lukewarm water to bathe can have positive effects on your skin, hair, and scalp—a win all around.

4) Don’t skimp on conditioner

Many people with oilier scalps skip conditioner because they worry it might make scalp buildup worse. In actuality, conditioner is an essential step in any healthy hair and scalp routine. Applying conditioner after shampoo restores much-needed hydration to your strands and helps keep your hair looking its best.

Ideally, your shampoo and conditioner should be part of the same hair care system. After lathering up, reach for either L’Oréal Paris Elvive Hyaluron + Pure Rehydrating Conditioner for Oily Hair or L’Oréal Paris EverPure Sulfate-Free Restoring Conditioner with Antioxidants, depending on which shampoo you used. Massage a quarter-sized amount of conditioner onto your hair (starting about an inch from the roots), leave it on for two minutes, then rinse.

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Scalp Care Tips To Help Prevent Buildup

Some people are going to be more likely to experience scalp buildup (like those with naturally oily scalps, for example). That said, there are several ways to help prevent scalp buildup, starting with these scalp care tips below.

1) Use the right dry shampoo formula

If you have oily roots, you’re probably no stranger to dry shampoo. While dry shampoo can help refresh your mane between washes, it’s important to choose the right formula for your hair type in order to minimize buildup. Next time you’re in need of a quick refresh, spray your dry shampoo of choice (sparingly) onto your roots, and voilà!

Pro tip: For some people, it may be a good idea to limit your usage of dry shampoo to one or two times per week. Always remember that, if you’re using dry shampoo, it’s essential to thoroughly remove it from your scalp during your next shampoo session.

2) Give yourself a scalp massage

Scalp massages shouldn’t be reserved for pamper sessions at the salon. In fact, treating yourself to a mini scalp massage at home can be beneficial for your hair follicles and scalp health. According to research published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), regular scalp massages can result in increased hair thickness. So, next time you’re in the shower, try giving yourself a massage for at least five minutes while your conditioner sits.

3) Opt for lightweight hair care products

When trying to avoid scalp buildup, you’ll want to use lightweight products that multitask without leaving your roots looking greasy. We recommend the L’Oréal Paris Elvive Total Repair 5 Protein Recharge Leave-In Conditioner Treatment. This lightweight leave-in formula with almond oil protein helps promote smooth, silky, and healthy-looking hair. With continued use, it also prevents the five major signs of hair damage: split ends, weakness, rough texture, dull tone, and dehydration.

To use, simply apply a small amount to damp hair. Gently work it through your strands or comb through to evenly distribute. You don’t have to rinse—simply go ahead and style as usual.

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4) Protect your scalp from the sun

Your scalp can get sunburnt, just like everywhere else on your body. Research has found that hair may offer some sun protection benefits for your scalp; however, it’s still important to take precautionary steps before heading outdoors. In addition to using sunscreen, you can also try protective hairstyles that hide your scalp from the sun’s harmful rays.

Pro tip: When wearing a hairstyle with a middle or side part, try dusting a powder sunscreen along your part to keep your scalp as protected as possible. Another easy option when you don’t have time to style your strands? A wide-brimmed hat!

5) Avoid tight braids and hairstyles

Anyone experiencing scalp sensitivity should generally avoid wearing tight hairstyles or braids, which can tug and pull on your hair. In fact, super-tight hairstyles aren’t only bad for your scalp—they may also lead to hair loss (known medically as traction alopecia), according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD).

Now, we’re not saying to never wear a tight hairstyle, but it may be ideal to stick to loose styles most of the time if you want to avoid running into any scalp issues. Try a low bun or loose fishtail braids, then secure them with soft scrunchies instead of firm elastics to help prevent breakage.

6) Don’t blow-dry too close to your scalp

Blasting hot air directly onto your scalp isn’t a great idea when caring for your scalp. The hot air from your blow dryer may be damaging to the skin on your scalp if you get too close. To help treat your scalp gently, hold the blow dryer a few inches away from your scalp and stick to the lowest temperature setting.

Pro tip: Don’t forget to use a heat protectant when drying your locks! We recommend trying the L’Oréal Paris EverPure Sulfate-Free Weightless Blow Dry Primer, Heat Protectant.

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