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At this point, you are probably aware of the wonders that regular exfoliation can do for your skin – be it face or body. But, is it necessary for you to incorporate a proper scrub-and-cleanse for your scalp as well?

The truth is, many are not as informed of the multitude of advantages scalp exfoliation brings for your scalp – which is ironic, seeing that most of us are willing to spend an exorbitant amount of time and money on priming and styling our tresses with products and salon services, all while neglecting the roots. In the long run, this can spell trouble to both your hair and scalp.

Lucky for you, it’s not too late yet to get in on this because you’ve landed in the right place to arm yourself with all the information you need on scalp exfoliation. Here’s everything you need to know, below.

Why is scalp exfoliation necessary?

scalp exfoliation how should you exfoliate your scalp photo source darya ogurtsova unsplash

Photo source: Darya Ogurtsova/Unsplash

First and foremost, you need to understand that just like our skin, there are dead skin cells and sebum buried in the midst of our hair follicles along our scalp area. Scalp exfoliation gets rid of these impurities along with excess oil through the use of physical or chemical exfoliants – this can help prevent scalp buildup, the precursor to everybody’s biggest hair enemy – dandruff.

Since a healthy scalp is instrumental in the growth of healthy hair, it plays a large part in keeping your locks looking nourished and healthy. Without regular exfoliation, hair follicles get clogged which eventually leads to flat, dull hair, the thinning and weakening of the hair strands, and even an itchy scalp.

How do I tell if I need to exfoliate?

scalp exfoliation signs you need to exfoliate your scalp photo source nordwood themes unsplash

Photo source: Nordwood Themes/Unsplash

If you’re looking for clues that it’s time for a scrub-and-cleanse, there are telltale signs you can keep an eye (and feel) out for.

  • You can feel the buildup: This may sound quite obvious, but it’s worth noting regardless. Sometimes when you’ve gone long enough without proper exfoliation, you can start to feel a waxy, gunky film covering your scalp – it’s, unfortunately, the natural yet gross blend of oils and dead skin cells.
  • Your scalp itches: Another very common sign of buildup is you have an increased urge to scratch your scalp.
  • You see flakes: Flakes are generally caused by three factors – dryness, dandruff or buildup. Product buildup tends to cling on hair strands and can feel somewhat sticky, whereas dandruff flakes are larger, and the powdery flakes from a dry scalp are smaller and lighter.
  • You have flat hair at the roots: If your hair is looking a little more lifeless at the root or weighed down all over, it’s usually because the oil and product buildup at the root are pulling your mane down.
  • Your hair “hurts”: This phenomenon is quite real and is actually caused by inflammation at the root. It happens when all the buildup around your follicle opening starts to slowly suffocate your hair root, and causes inflammation that you can physically feel when you’re moving your hair around. Said inflammation also affects the quality of your hair growth as well.

Can everyone exfoliate their scalp?

scalp exfoliation can everyone exfoliate their scalp

The short answer: yes. Scalp exfoliation is especially beneficial for those with dandruff, dry skin or oily hair as they’re more prone to scalp-related problems.

That said, people with sensitive skin may find certain chemical or physical exfoliants to be too harsh for their scalp and should exercise extra care in seeking the right products. The best practice you can follow is to check the labels and opt for options developed for sensitive scalp (we’ve got just the product to recommend, read on to find out what it is).

If you have an active infection, lice or an open cut, you should completely avoid exfoliating your scalp as it may worsen your existing condition. Bear in mind that you should also limit direct sun exposure on your scalp as much as possible after exfoliating. If you need to go outdoors, make sure you wear a hat or use sunblock for the scalp and hair.

How should you exfoliate your scalp?

scalp exfoliation why is scalp exfoliation necessary photo source helena ije pexels

Photo source: Helena Ije/Pexels

Typically, you need to use scalp-exfoliating products on wet, just-shampooed hair. If it’s a physical scrub, comb through and separate your hair into sections before using fingertips to apply the product.

If it’s a chemical exfoliant, start by placing the product directly on the head, then use small circular motions and your fingertips to gently lift the dead skin cells off the scalp before rinsing with water. Whether you’re using your fingers or a gadget, ensure that you’re ultra-gentle when exfoliating your scalp to avoid irritation.

In any case, it’s best to refer to the instructions printed on the label of your product of choice. For sensitive scalp, however, it may be a little tricky because most products in the market are often not suitable for sensitive scalp – they are generally either physical exfoliants that use microbeads or formulas made with exfoliating ingredients that are too harsh for delicate scalp.

With this in mind, leading hair and scalp expert PHS HAIRSCIENCE created a product that all scalp types, including sensitive scalp, can use to exfoliate for healthy scalp and hair. Keep reading to learn about the ADV Elixir, plus what we think of the award-winning formula!

PHS HAIRSCIENCE ADV Elixir: What you need to know about it

phs hairscience adv elixir edited

Photo by Daily Vanity

Developed in a serum format, PHS HAIRSCIENCE ADV Elixir is a unique scalp primer that offers effective yet gentle exfoliation that even ultra-sensitive scalp will appreciate.

Powered by deep-cleansing rice stem cells, antioxidant-rich and antibacterial green tea extract, growth-supporting Panax ginseng root extract, and a rebalancing Patent 5 Complex, the formula helps to dislodge stubborn impurities in the scalp and unclog hair follicles effectively so that the scalp is left cleansed, rebalanced, and prepped for better nutrient absorption – this is essential for healthy, optimal hair growth.

ADV Elixir is an at-home weekly treatment that you can use once a week if you have a normal to oily scalp – those with a hyper-sensitive scalp can use it once every two weeks instead. For those with very oily scalp, it’s recommended to use the scalp primer twice weekly for one month before switching to once every week.

To use, start with unwashed hair and apply a generous amount of ADV Elixir directly to the scalp in sections before massaging it in for 10 minutes. After that, shampoo as usual to rinse it out and follow up with your conditioner.

Daily Vanity reviews: First impressions of PHS HAIRSCIENCE ADV Elixir

phs hairscience adv elixir texture edited

Photo by Daily Vanity

I’ve recently started using scalp scrubs to keep oiliness at bay so trying an exfoliating scalp primer for the first time, I had no idea what to expect of it.

What I was sure about though is that, based on the product description, ADV Elixir essentially helps me kill two birds with one stone – exfoliate my oily scalp and prep it for the subsequent steps in my haircare routine. And with it being validated by Daily Vanity readers as the Best Purifying Treatment at the Daily Vanity Beauty Awards 2021, I was even more excited to give this formula a try.

As per instructions, I used it once a week and sectioned my hair accordingly before applying the serum directly to my scalp. Most scalp scrubs that I tried required me to dip my fingers into the tub to pick up the product for application (which can be a little unhygienic), so I really appreciate the dropper packaging that ADV Elixir comes in – it just makes the whole administration process so much easier and almost mess-free.

I say almost only because the texture is a little runny – it is a serum after all – so the product may end up dripping on your face as you move along to apply the scalp primer on other sections. But, it’s not a dealbreaker for me as I can easily clean it up without any major issues. For those who are concerned about fragrance, the formula does come with a noticeable scent but personally, it is not overpowering for the nose at all.

Additionally, I was made aware of a cool, icy sensation that may come with the product post-massage, and I felt it in certain areas of my scalp that are a little more irritated than others – it was both soothing and refreshing at the same time which I really love!

When it came time to wash the serum off my scalp, I did it without any hassle and the best thing about the ADV Elixir for me is that I didn’t need to double cleanse my hair afterwards (I do this whenever I wash my hair on alternate days to get rid of dirt and grime).

While it does require me to spend an extra 10 minutes in the shower, I personally think it’s time well spent because what I get in return is soft, tangle-free tresses that don’t feel dry at all! Even though I’m one of the countless time-starved urbanites in Singapore, I am willing to chip in this additional time to incorporate ADV Elixir in my weekly haircare routine because using it feels more like a pampering, indulgent experience for my scalp rather than a chore.

Extra tips you can practise to take better care of your dry, sensitive scalp

phs hairscience adv elixir and adv soothe mask edited

Photo by Daily Vanity

In addition to using ADV Elixir in your haircare routine, here are five other habits you can follow to treat your scalp right. After all, your scalp is skin just like the rest of your body and should be treated as such.

  • Do not over-exfoliate: While the ideal exfoliation frequency differs from one individual to another, most experts will tell you to stick to it once every week. That’s because you’d want to exfoliate just enough to increase cell turnover and reveal fresh new skin.
  • Be gentle, please: This is really us stating the obvious but seriously, try to make sure that you do not use your fingernails to massage the scalp exfoliant on your scalp – this, along with over-exfoliation can damage your skin, disrupt your scalp microbiome, and trigger inflammation too.
  • Watch the water temperature in the shower: Turning the heat up on your water is a big no-no, simply because water that’s too hot can irritate and even damage your scalp. With excessive exposure, your weakened scalp can become vulnerable to further damage from factors that irritate it, like styling products or dandruff-causing microbes. Stick to warm water instead.
  • Hydrate your scalp: You wouldn’t do a potent face peel and not apply a moisturiser after, so don’t do the same with your scalp. After exfoliation, be sure to hydrate your scalp with a scalp mask in the shower (more on this in the next point) or post-wash with a scalp oil or serum.
  • Use a scalp mask: This may be an additional weekly step in your regimen but using a scalp mask regularly can help minimise redness and itchiness on your scalp while providing intense moisturisation at the same time. Since it’s vital that you hydrate your scalp after exfoliating, you can follow up with a scalp mask in place of a conditioner to save time and reap more benefits. We especially like the PHS HAIRSCIENCE ADV Soothe Moisture Scalp Mask (pictured above), which helps to nourish and soothe the scalp with red bell pepper and longleaf pine extracts while inhibiting scalp sensitivity and regulating scalp microflora to reduce flare-ups.

PHS HAIRSCIENCE ADV Elixir and PHS HAIRSCIENCE ADV Soothe Moisture Scalp Mask retail for S$238 and S$120 respectively. You can find them at all PHS HAIRSCIENCE stores and online.

Save S$100 when you purchase the PHS HAIRSCIENCE ADV Elixir in specially curated bundles from now until 13 June.

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This article is brought to you by PHS HAIRSCIENCE.