I tried a scalp scrub to treat my dandruff, here’s how it worked

Photography by Claudia Fischer
Words by Sarah Rowe

The panacea for flaky scalps everywhere.

I’m a creature of habit. Once I find a thing, or a way of doing a thing, that I like, I tend to stick to it. I know that a two-cup Moka Pot espresso leaves me the perfect level of caffeinated (energised, but not anxious), so I make one every morning. I know that on a night out (remember those?), I like to dance up a storm, so favour flats over heels. And when it comes to beauty products, I tend to stay pretty loyal to my favourite products. This is especially true when it comes to my hair routine. 

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A bit of context – I have fine, wavy hair. I have tried all kinds of products and scrolled through many an online community (Reddit, Long Hair Community, MakeupAlley) searching for the elixirs of healthy, shiny, flake-free hair. I’ve tried homemade concoctions of rosemary-infused olive oil (which left my hair smelling like a Sunday roast); apple cider vinegar (shiny hair, but smelt like salad dressing); even castor oil (which left my hair so greasy my parents quipped that they could “fry chips in it” and took several washes to rinse out).

I fell down the rabbit hole of the Curly Girl (or Guy) Method (known as CGM to its disciples), which saw me squishing, scrunching and ‘plopping’ my locks. However, I drew the line at using hair gel, a staple of the CGM routine, as my days as an adolescent ballet dancer mean I have a strong aversion to any product in the gel or hairspray family.  

Now, older (but if you have a birthday in lockdown, which my past two have been, do you even age?) and (allegedly) wiser, I’ve found a routine that works. I wash my hair as infrequently as I can – somewhere between once a week and once a fortnight – using a sulphate-free shampoo and silicone-free conditioner. I gently squeeze out any excess moisture and let it air dry. Occasionally, I’ll scrunch it a bit to enhance the natural wave.

However, one thing I still struggle with is a flaky scalp which, given my hair is dark, often leads to the accumulation of all-too-visible white specks and ‘shoulder snow’. Many dandruff shampoos (looking at you, Head and Shoulders), contain drying sulphates. Others, like Neutrogena T-Gel, contain harsh ingredients like coal tar. Not to mention, the smell of medicinal shampoos (like the suspiciously blue Nizoral) often leave much to be desired. 

So, imagine my excitement when I spotted not one, but two products that were sulphate-free, silicone-free and claimed to be the panacea for flaky scalps everywhere: Briogeo’s Scalp Revival charcoal and coconut oil micro-exfoliating scalp scrub shampoo and Goop’s G.TOX Himalayan salt scalp scrub shampoo. I also decided to try Briogeo’s Scalp Revival stimulating therapy massager for good measure. 

Briogeo’s Scalp Revival shampoo

First up was the Briogeo shampoo. I was particularly excited to try this one, given my long-standing loyalty to the brand’s Farewell Frizz Smoothing Conditioner, which smells divine and leaves my hair smooth and shiny. Plus, thanks to the lack of silicones, it doesn’t weigh down my fine hair. And no, I’m not sponsored by Briogeo (but Briogeo, if you’re reading, let’s talk?).

My main initial hesitancy to trying the shampoo was that, in my mind, “scrub” is somewhat synonymous with “grainy”. I was pleasantly surprised to find the texture of this shampoo is quite rich and mousse-like. It smells delicious, like mint-choc ice-cream. Thanks to the peppermint, spearmint and tea tree oil, this shampoo gives a lovely tingling sensation that is both revitalising and cooling.

Given the surprising smoothness of the scrub, it’s fairly easy to wash out. I followed up with my usual conditioner and let my hair air dry. My scalp did feel clean and smelt amazing, but I’m not sure the results were all that different from what I achieve with my usual shampoo. 

Goop G.TOX Scrub

Next up, was the Goop G.TOX Scrub. This product has a fresh, invigorating scent that is a bit menthol-y and medicinal, but still pleasant. Scanning the ingredients, I’m guessing this comes from the eucalyptus, peppermint and spearmint. Like Briogeo, this shampoo has a thick, mousse-y consistency, although the Himalayan salt definitely lends a grainier texture.

I was a bit worried it might be difficult to wash out, but was pleasantly surprised to find it rinsed quite easily. My hair felt exceptionally clean after using, but given the drying nature of salt, I made sure to follow up with a nourishing conditioner.

Once out of the shower, I let my hair air dry. I was pleasantly surprised to find my hair dried super shiny, voluminous and with a bit more a wave to it. I definitely spent a few minutes swishing it around in the bathroom mirror like I was in some kind of Pantene commercial, much to my housemates’ amusement. 

Briogeo Scalp Revival massager

I also gave the Briogeo Scalp Revival Stimulating Therapy Massager a spin. The product can be used alone on dry hair, but I decided to use mine in the shower during a wash. The grip handle makes it easy to hold, and the rubber tips provide a deep but gentle massage. If you’re one of those people whose favourite part of going to the hairdresser is the scalp-tingling massage, this massager could be your new fave. Just be sure to avoid large circular motions, otherwise you may end up with tangles. Not fun. 

The verdict

One issue I had with both shampoos was the packaging. Both Briogeo’s and Goop’s products come in round tubs, meaning you have to scoop out the product. This makes it a little difficult to ascertain how much to use, and there is a risk of using too much (which, at $60 a tub, could become quite costly). It also leaves the shampoo open to exposure from water in the shower, diluting the product in the tub, which isn’t a huge liability, but something to bear in mind.

Overall, I think I prefer the results of the Goop shampoo over Briogeo, mainly because it gave my hair more volume, body and texture. Either of these shampoos pair nicely with the Briogeo Massager, which I think will become a staple of my routine, regardless of which shampoo I’m using. 

Looking for another product to treat your scalp? Try this

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