Scalp Build-up: Could this be the reason your hair won't grow?

We’ve all found a few dead-skin flakes in our hair or on our shoulders, and dismissed it as just a bit of dandruff (a condition also known as seborrheic dermatitis)

Dandruff is a common condition that can cause the skin on your scalp to flake. But it’s also possible you could be dealing with something else entirely….

Scalp build-up can often cause a flaky scalp. But the good news is it’s an easily treatable condition. Because it shares many of the same symptoms as dandruff it's commonly mistaken for it but it's causes can be completely different!

Instead of flaking caused by inflammation (the cause of dandruff), with scalp build-up, flaking is caused by a build-up of things that can cause flakes such as:

  • hair-care products

  • skin cells

  • sweat

  • oils

  • a combination of the previously listed substances

Can scalp build-up cause hair loss?

The big question…. And in short yes it can. Scalp build-up can cause hair loss if left untreated and the dead skin, oil, and sweat to clog your hair follicles. This can lead to an uncomfortable condition called folliculitis.

Folliculitis causes inflammation of the hair follicles that sometimes results in an infection with severe cases of folliculitis causing crusty sores that don’t seem to heal. These sores can cause permanent hair loss and scarring.

So if you’re wondering whether scalp build-up is causing your flaky scalp, here’s what you need to know….

What causes scalp build-up?

There are different causes of scalp build-up and it’s important to know which one you’re dealing with.

This will not only help you find the right treatment but it will also arm you with the knowledge of how best to prevent scalp flaking in the future.

There are two types of Scalp Build-Up

- Natural Build-Up

- Product Build-Up

Natural build-up

Natural build-up on the scalp involves several factors:

Dead skin cells

The skin cells covering your body are constantly dying and re-growing. When they die, they’re supposed to shed and new ones grow to replace the old ones.

But for some people, the dead skin cells do not shed fast enough, and this can lead to a build-up on your scalp. A build-up of dead skin cells will usually cause a lot of flakes to fall from your scalp.


The scalp produces a natural, waxy oil called sebum from glands beneath the skin. Some people produce more of this oil than others.

Sebum plays an important role in protecting your skin from infection and helping keep it moist. However, when the body produces too much sebum, it can build up on your scalp.


In addition to sebum and dead skin, your scalp produces sweat and this can also add to your scalp build-up.

Some people naturally sweat more than others. If you’re especially active, you might also sweat more than most people. A sweaty scalp often causes greasy hair and may give off an unpleasant odour.

Product build-up

Residue from hair products is the other likely cause of scalp build-up.

Many hair products contain waxy substances that can stick to your hair and scalp if not thoroughly rinsed out when you wash it.

How to get rid of scalp build-up

If you’re dealing with scalp build-up, there’s a number of things you can do at home to reduce the flakiness, discomfort, and odour that it can cause:

Finding the right shampoo and conditioner for your hair type

If you want to choose the shampoo that’s can help minimize scalp build-up, it’s important to consider your hair type. Shampoos are sold in numerous formulations:

  • average hair

  • dry and damaged hair

  • oily hair

  • deep-cleaning

  • baby

  • medicated

If you’re not sure which shampoo is best for your hair type, take a look at the ingredients list. The higher an ingredient is on the list, the more abundant it is in a shampoo.

Here’s a list of hair types and the primary shampoo ingredients you should look for in each:

  • average-to-dry hair: shampoos with laureth sulfates, which remove some sebum from the hair. In fact, no matter what your type of hair if can avoid shampoos / conditioners with SLS (sodium lauryl/ laureth sulfates you’ll do your hair and scalp wonders.

  • dry or damaged hair: shampoos with sarcosines, ammonioesters, alkanolamides, sodium lauraminopropionate, ivy agave, and silicone, which cleanse the hair without removing a lot of sebum and won’t dry it out

  • If you have sensitive skin, you should avoid shampoos that contain:

- formalin

- parabens

Regular and thorough washing

If you use hair-care products, it’s also important to wash your hair regularly and thoroughly to get rid of build-up. You may want to wash it every day or every few days, depending on your hair type.

Some anecdotally suggest that average-to-oily hair can be washed every 1 to 2 days, while dry-to-damaged hair can be washed every 3 to 4 days.

What does a thorough wash look like?

Here are some tips to prevent build-up and keep your hair clean:

  • Rinse your hair completely before adding shampoo. Shampoo lathers up better on wet hair and also spreads more easily, which allows you to use less product.

  • Mix your shampoo with water first. Before rubbing shampoo on your hair and scalp, you might want to try adding a little water to it. This helps make it easier to spread and reduces the amount of shampoo you use.

  • Use lukewarm water for your first rinse. Warm water helps open up the outer part of each hair (the cuticle) so shampoo can get inside and best remove dirt and oil. This also helps conditioners and products work better.

  • Focus on your scalp. Your hair ends are more likely to dry out from shampooing and are usually the cleanest parts of your hair. Focus on shampooing your scalp, as this process will most effectively clean your hair without drying it out.

  • Be gentle. Avoid harshly scrubbing your hair with a back-and-forth or circular motion, as this can cause breakage. Wash from the roots to the end of your hair gently with your fingers and palms. Do not scrub your scalp with your nails, as this can cause topical level injuries that can turn into uncomfortable scabs and sores.

Apple cider Vinegar

Apple Cider Vinegar has disinfectant properties but unlike a lot of disinfectants, it’s also kind to your skin and safe to use in correct doses. By using a product that contains Apple Cider Vinegar you can safely remove product build-up while rebalancing your scalp’s pH levels and maintain a healthy ‘growing’ environment for your hair.

Our Purifying Scalp Scrub is specifically designed to have optimum levels of Apple Cider Vinegar, helping you to maintain a healthy scalp and hair!

Keeping your hair detangled

Brushing your hair daily can help keep your hair detangled. This may reduce and break up scalp build-up. A bristle brush is a great tool for keeping hair tangle-free.

Suitable for all hair types, bristle brushes are made from either natural (boar) or synthetic bristles that help distribute oils more evenly throughout your hair. This can also help reduce scalp build-up.

Many people with coarse hair prefer brushing their hair when it’s wet. This can be helpful, but be sure to wash your hair in lukewarm water and not cold water, which may contribute to frizzing and breakage.

When brushing your hair, be gentle. Brush from the ends up to your scalp in small sections, ending at the roots.

Exfoliate your scalp

You’re probably familiar with how to exfoliate skin on your arms, legs, and other parts of your body. But have you ever thought about exfoliating your scalp?

Turns out exfoliation can help reduce your scalp build-up if done once a week. In fact, Trichologists actually recommend scalp exfoliation for healthy people without active scalp infections, such as ringworm, any open sores, or lice!

Our Purifying Scalp Scrub contains Himalayan Pink Salt, a naturally occurring exfoliator that helps remove product build-up and natural build-up without any detrimental effects to your hair or scalp! We recommend using our Scalp Scrub once a week for maximum effects.

Can you prevent scalp build-up?

The best way to treat scalp build-up is to stop it before it starts. If you’re prone to scalp build-up, here are some anecdotal preventive measures you can take:

  • Avoid excessive use of products. Hair products can be a great tool for keeping hair healthy and styled. But it’s possible to have too much of a good thing. When using products, apply them sparingly and pay attention to how your hair and scalp react to them i.e. if you find your scalp gets more greasy after washing, it may be that your shampoo is stripping your scalp of too much sebum / oils and may be worth changing to something kinder.

  • Wash your hair after exercising. When you work out, you sweat through your scalp. This can contribute to scalp build-up if you let it sit. Prevent build-up by washing your hair after each workout.

  • Keep your hair healthy. Protect your hair from drying out. This means avoiding the use of harsh chemicals and heating treatments like straighteners without suitable protection.

  • Maintain a healthy hair routine. Even if you don’t notice scalp build-up, regular scalp scrubbing and detoxing will help keep your hair and scalp healthy!

Try Our Purifying Scalp Scrub Today!

If you think you're suffering from Scalp Build-up why not try our Purifying Scalp Scrub and see (and feel!) the difference it'll make to your hair and scalp today!