Rodan + Fields / Blog / Hair Concerns

How to Get Rid of Scalp Buildup

Young woman with dark wavy hair inspects her hair and scalp in the mirror

A healthy scalp is clean, fresh and free from buildup. By understanding how buildup occurs and how hair treatments can help, you can get healthier hair that’s easier to manage.

What Is Scalp Buildup and How Does It Occur?

Scalp buildup is a flaky film or crust of skin cells, sweat, oils, pollutants, pollen and hair products that can surround the roots of your hair. Dead skin, sebum and environmental impurities can create natural buildup, while haircare treatments that stick to your scalp can create product buildup. Left untreated, scalp buildup can make your skin feel itchy, tender or inflamed.

Your body constantly sheds dying skin cells as new ones grow to take their place. It also produces natural oils and sweat that help keep your skin healthy and regulate your body temperature. Unfortunately, using too many hair products, rinsing your hair carelessly, and waiting too long between washes can throw your body out of balance. Stress, poor diet, illness and environmental and chemical irritants can cause your scalp to overproduce skin cells that clump together as they shed, creating noticeable flakes. Detergents, soaps, dry weather and medicines can also cause your scalp to release too much sebum and create flakes that stick to your hair. Conditioners, oils and styling products can leave residue on your hair and scalp unless you thoroughly rinse them away.

Signs and Symptoms of Scalp Buildup

There are many scalp conditions that can adversely affect your skin and hair. Scalp buildup and dandruff can all make your scalp flake and feel itchy. But these are each different problems that may require targeted, specialty treatments. To understand the differences, pay close attention to how your skin and hair look and feel if your scalp starts acting up.

Scalp Buildup

If your scalp feels oily or waxy and looks flaky, you may have scalp buildup. You can expect the flakes to be whitish or similar in color to your hair products. They will stick to your hair, brushes and combs instead of shedding on your clothes.


Dandruff is a collection of small, whitish skin flakes that appear on your scalp, in your hair and on your clothes when your scalp becomes irritated and produces too much oil. This promotes the growth of Malassezia, yeasty fungi that can contribute to abnormalities in your skin.

Scalp Care Products for Scalp Buildup

Treating any scalp issues as they arise is the key to reducing and eliminating scalp buildup. With careful, regular attention, your hair and scalp can look and feel refreshed every day.

Using the right products for your hair and skin type goes a long way toward treating scalp buildup, and Rodan + Fields has several shampoos and treatments that can work for you.

Smooth+ Shampoo

Smooth+ Shampoo is a restorative, cleanser formulated without sulfates that promotes scalp health while moisturizing and repairing your hair. Its color-protecting formula gives you soft, manageable tresses without clogging your hair follicles.

Densifying+ Treatment

The light yet nourishing Densifying+ Treatment helps promote hair growth while keeping your scalp healthy. It repairs your hair, creates body and prevents future damage so that your tresses will look their best every day.

Refresh+ Dry Shampoo

Our Refresh+ Dry Shampoo is a lightweight lifesaver that can keep your scalp balanced to help prevent buildup between washes. It absorbs excess oil and sweat to keep your scalp feeling fresh all day.

The Best Ways to Prevent Scalp Buildup

The best way to prevent scalp buildup is by maintaining the health of your scalp. Regular washing and gentle weekly or twice-weekly scalp exfoliation and treatments can help keep your scalp in balance, while using a clarifying shampoo can help wash away excess hair products. Once you find the products and schedule that best suit your hair and skin type, you’ll be on your way toward achieving a healthy scalp and beautiful, manageable hair.