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The Really Gross Reason You Need to Exfoliate Your Scalp ASAP

Your dry shampoo addiction is doing more than helping you fake freshly washed hair -- it's doing some gnarly things to your scalp
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To say that dry shampoo is the best thing to enter my life may sound like I'm being hyperbolic, but I'm really not. This heaven-sent elixir has saved me many times: When I'd rather spend an extra half-hour sleeping, not primping; after a sweaty workout and I have to be at work ASAP; when my hair is looking lackluster and needs a boost of texture and volume. But underneath its magical exterior lies a dark side. A really dark, really icky side that involves scalp acne, dandruff and irritation.

Turns out, dry shampoo can disrupt the ecosystem of your scalp. "The delicate acid mantle on your face is identical to [the one on] your scalp, which is easily disrupted by products like dry shampoos, especially if the scalp and hair is not shampooed after frequent use," says Christyn Nawrot, Phyto National Educator. In other words, say hello to dandruff, excessive oil, unpleasant odor, clogged pores and even fungus and bacteria.

"Remember, scalp is skin and requires the same care as your face," says Dr. Francesca Fusco, Clear Scalp & Hair dermatologist. Washing your hair too infrequently leads to the buildup of dead skin.

How frequently you should wash your hair really depends on your hair texture, says Bosley Professional Strength Trichologist and Director of Education, Michelle Blaisure. "With coarser and curlier textures, it is common to only shampoo maybe two times a week or less, as oil helps to keep hair smoother." People with finer hair usually shampoo more often to get rid of oil, or they use dry shampoo to make their style last.

Unfortunately, doing what's best for your hair isn't always what's best for your scalp. "If your scalp pores become clogged, it can contribute to a kind of scalp acne called folliculitis," Fusco says. "This folliculitis can be bacterial or yeast in nature and if it goes without treatment can lead to increased shedding (i.e. flakes)." Cue the collective "Ew."

"Think of it this way: You'd never skip washing your face [editor's note: only when we're really, really lazy], and you'd also never replace face cleansing with a wipe or blot of a powdery sponge," she explains. That certainly puts my dry shampoo addiction in perspective. But, there is hope for us lather-averse, dry shampoo devotees. That salvation comes in the form of a scalp exfoliant.

"Exfoliating the scalp removes dead skin cells and encourages healthy skin turnover, creating the ideal environment for healthy hair growth," says Anabel Kingsley, a Philip Kingsley trichologist. Read: a healthy scalp means health, resilient and shiny hair. She recommends exfoliating your scalp once a week, especially if you like to go days without shampooing. Here, six scalp exfoliants that will help you get the hair of your dreams -- without the nasty side effects.

Image via Imaxtree

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A DIY Scalp Scrub
"Mix together a tablespoon of coarse sugar with your regular shampoo," says Fusco (she recommends Clear Scalp & Hair Nourishing Shampoo, $7.49). This gentle exfoliant won't leave a residue or dull your hair color, and it rinses out easily, making it a solid option for all hair types.

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A Clay Mask for Your Scalp
Dessange Paris Balancing Pre-Shampoo Mask, $11.99

See ya, greasy hair. This pre-shampoo treatment is inspired by the personalized scalp treatment at the brand's flagship salon on the Champs-Elysees, and it uses clay to purify the scalp and suck up excess oil while removing acne-causing toxins. You apply it to dry hair with the included applicator, and let it work its magic for five to 10 minutes before rinsing. French-girl hair for a bargain price -- I'm in.

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Time for a Head Massage
Kerastase Chronologiste The Gommage, $44

This scrub takes a little more work on your part than a mask -- but it feels so refreshing and leaves hair silky soft. While you're in the shower, but before you shampoo, apply it to damp hair and massage, much like you would a face or body scrub. The micro-fine scrubbers whisk away flakes and give your scalp the detox it's been craving. (Bonus points if you can get your S.O. to do the actual massaging.)

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Choose Your Own Adventure
Phyto Phythéol Dry Hair Moisturizing Scalp Exfoliating Shampoo, $26 and Phythéol Oily Hair Scalp Exfoliating Shampoo, $26

A gentle exfoliating shampoo will cleanse your hair effectively without stripping it of your natural oils, says Nawrot. Phyto's new shampoo comes in formulas for both dry hair and oily hair. Both whisk away dandruff flakes (a culprit behind scalp acne) and excess oil; the one for dry hair has extra moisturizing properties and the one for oily hair has ingredients that gently de-grease.

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