Should I Be Concerned by How Much Hair Falls Out When I Do a Scalp Scrub?

A few years ago, scalp scrubs weren't really a thing. Sure, they existed, but most people didn't really do them, at least not at home — they were reserved for professional treatments at the salon and felt like such a luxury. Fast-forward to today and scalp scrubs are everywhere, with no shortage of products on the market.

I, too, hopped on the scalp scrub trend with very little hesitation and own at least five different exfoliators in my collection of shower products. I don't use them as often as I probably should, but whenever I do, the process leaves me wondering two things. First, is there any way to make the application process less messy, because I'm convinced there's got to be a more graceful way of applying it; and second, am I the only one concerned by how much hair is falling out when I rinse? (The latter question obviously being much more pressing and important than the first.)

To answer this mildly concerning hair loss question (which, to be candid, is more than a mild concern for me), I spoke with David Adams, consultant trichologist for Thicker Fuller Hair, to find out why your hair falls out when you use a scalp scrub and if it's anything to be worried about. Keep reading to find out.

Getty | Moyo Studio

First, let's not forget the benefits of a scalp scrub, because there are quite a few. It's the whole reason this new haircare step started buzzing around in the first place. "Scalp scrubs help remove sebum and dead skin cells while cleansing, balancing, and purifying the scalp," Adams said. "This is essential to maintain a healthy scalp which in turn promotes a healthy head of hair." Similar to the skin on your face and the rest of your body, exfoliation is key.

But if you notice an increase in immediate hair loss when you go to rinse the scalp scrub out in the shower, Adams confirmed it's nothing to be worried about. "Hair fall is a natural part of the hair life cycle," he said. "Using a scalp scrub may dislodge or loosen hairs that are ready to fall anyway, making it appear like there is more hair collected in your drain."

Scalp exfoliators aren't causing healthy hair to fall out, but rather dead, loose hair that was going to shed anyway. "It is normal to lose around 50 to 100 strands per day, and some of your loose hair strands tend to get held in place by styling products, so when you exfoliate the scalp your loose hairs will fall out," Adams said. He related it to the hair loss you see with regularly brushing your hair. "If you brush your hair every day, you do not notice hair fall as much as you would if you are only brushing every two to three days."


Bottom line: seeing some hair loss when exfoliating your scalp isn't reason for worrying and is totally normal. An exception to that, however, is if you're using a scalp scrub that's too rough. "It is important to look at the ingredients of the scalp scrub and make sure it is not abrasive and unhealthy for the scalp," Adams said. Some of the most common exfoliating ingredients in scalp scrubs are salt, sugar, and coffee, and there is a different between each one. "Salt can be very abrasive to the scalp and can actually alter the pH," he said.

Sugar — Adams' go-to exfoliator — is a nondrying exfoliant and natural humectant that helps seal in moisture while gently buffing away dead skin cells and product buildup from your scalp. That's why he recommends the Thicker Fuller Hair Purifying Sugar Scalp Scrub ($13).

Just like any form of exfoliation, you don't want to overdo it. "Once a week would be ideal, but realistically once a month would still provide great results," Adams said. Good news for anyone who's already overwhelmed by the number of steps in their shower routine. (Me. I'm referring to myself.)