The Best Hair Products For Scalp Build-Up: 15 Solutions That Actually Work

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scalp build up

A lot of us deal with uncomfortable scalp build-up, and it’s not cute. This yucky layer of dirt and product residue coupled with dead cells can make our scalp feel itchy and weigh down our hair.

The secret is basically the same as dealing with buildup anywhere else on our skin: it starts with exfoliation. A clarifying shampoo can help, as does avoiding tangles and knots, which help to retain dirt, grime and product build up. Baking soda or apple cider vinegar rinses can help as well, but lucky for us, there’s a good amount of the best hair products out to do the work for us.

RELATED: Here's What's Happening When Your 'Hair Hurts'

Still curious about how to get rid of scalp build up? Let us help you!

1. Pai-Shau Replenishing Hair Cleanser

Pai-Shau's Signature Tea Complex is a blend of five steeped teas, each with its own benefit for the scalp and the hair. The formula blends green tea, white tea, black tea, pu-erh tea, and African red bush tea. White tea is a natural anti-inflammatory that helps to prevent conditions like dry scalp and dandruff, and green tea has exfoliation properties so it works to help prevent build-up in the hair and the scalp.

(Macy's, $26)

2. évolis™ Professional PROMOTE 3 Step System

This skin on your scalp is different from the skin on your face and body; it is thicker and contains more sebaceous glands, which secrete oil to protect your scalp. It's important to maintain a full-cleansing regimen, including a tonic specially formulated for the scalp. This 3-step system uses a formulation of active botanicals to gently cleanse away dirt and styling residue, promote scalp health, and even help your hair to grow longer!

(My Evolis, $121)

3. Drybar On the Rocks Clarifying Charcoal Shampoo 

Refresh your scalp and cleanse your hair to keep it bouncy and gleaming. The good stuff is in this product: activated charcoal. It purifies and deep cleans hair and scalp (absorbing 100-200 times its weight in impurities!). It also includes vegetable protein, which strengthens and reinforces chemically treated or damaged hair.


4. O&M Original Detox™ Shampoo

This color-safe shampoo is enriched with vitamin C and antioxidants to refresh and revitalize hair. It removes product build up and chlorine to leave hair looking and feeling squeaky clean.

(Sephora, $31.90)

5. Jack Black True Volume Thickening Shampoo

This shampoo boasts natural ingredients to help hair appear thicker while using potent body-building botanicals that naturally fight bacteria and dry, itchy skin. The shampoo also uses Tea Tree and Lavender Oils to soothe and protect the scalp for healthier regrowth, in addition to White Lupine to help revitalize.


6. CHI Power Plus Exfoliate Shampoo

The CHI Power Plus Hair Renewing System contains ingredients consisting of Nettle, Red Clover, and a rich blend of botanicals. This shampoo is specifically formulated to exfoliate, detoxify, and cleanse the hair and scalp by removing build up of sebum and impurities. Nettle contains chlorophyll, vitamins, and minerals that help to exfoliate and cleanse the scalp and hair of sebum.

(, $20)

7. Vitabrid C¹² HAIR Tonic Scalp Relief Set

This easy-to-use Vitamin C powder and tonic combo from Seoul is based on the creation of Vitabrid CG, a brand-new proprietary Vitamin C complex. Vitabrid CG has a profound effect breaking down keratin plugs, which clog the pores on the scalp. It also helps get rid of sebum. Meant for twice daily use, users enjoy a soothed, clean and moisturized scalp for 12 continuous hours.


8. 100% PURE Burdock & Neem Healthy Scalp Shampoo

A healthy scalp means you'll have healthier hair. This vegan purifying shampoo unclogs pores, stimulates circulation, and helps alleviate dryness, itching and flaking. The gentle formula is also hydrating, keeping all hair types healthy, nourished and vibrant. Plus, it's free of synthetic chemicals, artificial fragrances, chemical preservatives, sulfates, detergents, or any other harsh ingredients that can strip or dehydrate.


RELATED: Benefits Of Dry Brushing Your Skin (And How To Do It The Right Way)

9. Drybar On the Rocks Lightweight Replenishing Conditioner 

Pour on volume and shine. The gentle conditioner banishes frizz, unteases tangles, and softens without weighing hair down. Made with coriander, which seals and smooths the hair cuticle to boost shine, and Macadamia Nut Oil, which provides lightweight hydration while detangling and reducing frizz.

(Sephora, $26)

10. Color Wow Shampoo

Color Wow Shampoo is one of the best hair products for how to get rid of scalp build up because it gently cleans and removes all residue from your hair. Most importantly, it will not leave behind any new ingredients that could build up on your scalp, block follicles, and even impede hair growth. Color Wow Shampoo does not leave anything behind. Its formula contains no sulfate, no silicones, thickening resins, conditioning, or pearlizing agents, or oils.


11. Briogeo Scalp Revival Charcoal + Coconut Oil Micro-exfoliating Shampoo

A unique, charcoal- and coconut oil-infused scalp shampoo that detoxifies, exfoliates, soothes, and balances the scalp for optimal scalp health. This detoxifies and removes build up, soothes itchy, irritated, and flaky skin, and hydrates the scalp to prevent dryness.


12. CHRISTOPHE ROBIN Cleansing Purifying Scrub with Sea Salt

This detoxifying shampoo is made with sea salt, which works to exfoliate and deeply cleanse and soothe sensitive and/or oily scalps but also deliver essential hydration. This is also great after hair color or chemical treatments to reduce and remove chemical residues left on the scalp. 


13. BUMBLE AND BUMBLE Bb. Scalp Detox

This icy cleansing treatment is great for the scalp, and removes oil and buildup with a blast of invigorating micro-bubbles  Miscellar water works to cleanse, and salicylic acid removes dead surface skin cells and debris which can clog pores. This blend includes panthenol, vitamin B5, caffeine, and vitamin E that help nourish and prevent over-drying. 


14. Neutrogena T/Sal Therapeutic Shampoo Scalp Build-Up Control

This therapeutic scalp shampoo is dermatologist recommended and contains 3 percent Salicylic Acid to clear scalp build up and relieve itching and flaking.  Use this shampoo to clear up that crusty and irritating feeling, and get relief from severe scalp conditions like scalp psoriasis, seborrheic dermatitis, or even common dandruff. 


15. Alba Botanica Hawaiian Detox Daily Clarifying Shampoo

This shampoo deep cleans and clarifies both hair and scalp for renewed body and shine. Volcanic clay and tropical fruit extracts work in combination to loosen and release dry, flaky skin, gummy oils, and styling product residue accumulated on the scalp and around the hair follicle.


RELATED: How Often You Should Really Wash Your Hair, According To Science

​Aly Walansky is a NY-based lifestyles writer. Her work appears in dozens of digital and print publications regularly. Visit her on Twitter or email her at


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