Scalp Scrub Showdown Part 3

by - Monday, February 20, 2023

It's time again for another Scalp Scrub Showdown. I've done this twice before, so don't forget to check out my past posts here and here.
Today I'm going to test out four different scalp scrubs, under the microscope and give them a review. This round  of Scalp Scrub Showdown gets a little bit more interesting with the addition of chemical exfoliants. I picked up The Inkey List's Glycolic Acid Exfoliating Scalp Scrub and their Salicylic Acid Exfoliating Scalp Treatments as well as two traditional scrubs, one high end (Oui) and one Drugstore (Neutrogena). Let's get started shall we!!!

As always I'm following the instructions on the bottles and using a scalp massager to help loosen things up before following up with silicone free conditioner.

When The Inkey List launched hair products last year I jumped on ordering most of the collection from their online store, this included their scrubs. 
Water (Aqua/Eau), Glycolic Acid, Propanediol, Hydrogenated Castor Oil, PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Betaine, Glycerin, Sodium Hydroxide, Polyquaternium-10, Phenoxyethanol, Benzyl Alcohol, Alpha-Glucan Oligosaccharide, Citronellyl Methylcrotonate, Panthenol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Dehydroacetic Acid, Mannitol, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Sodium Benzoate, Tetraselmis Suecica Extract, Lactic Acid, Potassium Benzoate.
I am starting with their glycolic acid scalp scrub. It has 7% Glycolic acid and claims to remove product buildup and dead cells. You shake the bottle well, apply it to dry hair, let it sit 10 mins then wash hair as usual. Simple right. I found the applicator quite easy to use, until it clogged on me. I ended opening it up and finding that there were in fact a bunch of crystals inside that were the culprit, they appear to be castor beads to help with the exfoliating. 
The basic instructions are use applicator to apply to dry or wet scalp, saturate well and let sit for 10 minutes until rinsing and shampooing and conditioning as usual. 

I found once applied it easily ran into my eyes, so leaning back was my best option to avoid this. I never felt any tingling or discomfort at all. Once rinsed my hair felt nice and my scalp felt pretty normal for the day. The next day I noticed a bit of itchiness but nothing intense. I enjoyed how my scalp and hair felt but didn't notice a gigantic change.
The microscope photos told me the full story, this scrub mainly lifted my buildup but didn't remove it like a physical scrub would.  Honestly, these were the worst photos I had taken in the whole series. These were bad. I couldn't find one where my hair looked clean or my scalp free of buildup. 

Overall, my scalp and hair felt fine but not a wow effect or anything like that. The photos showed that barley anything was removed with using it, my hair and scalp had plenty of build up. I am certain a regular shampooing and conditioning would have had the same results.

  • Easy to buy on The Inkey List site or
  • Under $20
  • No irritation
  • Easy to apply
  • Did absolutely nothing for my hair or scalp
  • Ran into my eyes quite a bit
  • Black packaging that can't be recycled.
The INKEY List Salicylic Acid Exfoliating Scalp Treatment
Water (Aqua /Eau), Propanediol, Salicylic Acid, Betaine, Panthenol, PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Phenoxyethanol, Polyquaternium-37, Hexylene Glycol, Capryloyl Glycine, Citronellyl Methylcrotonate, Sodium Hydroxide, Ethylhexylglycerin, Xylitylglucoside, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate.

This one doesn't use the word Scrub in its name, instead Scalp Treatment, regardless it is exfoliating and it promises a lot of the same things. It has 2% salicylic acid in it to help with flakes on the scalp. It also is supposed to help with redness on the scalp and itchiness. You apply it exactly the same way, to wet or dry scalp for 10 minutes then rinse and wash and condition as normal.

The results of using it were almost exactly the same. It ran into my eyes, I had no irritation while using or after. My hair and scalp felt clean but not fantastic.
The results under the microscope was only mildly better then with the Glycolic Scrub. My hair looked like it still was full of buildup, but the scalp at least had some clean areas. 

Overall, it is a better product then the Glycolic but not fantastic.

  • Under $20
  • Easy to buy at The Inkey List site or
  • Isn't irritating to the scalp
  • Easy to apply
  • Ran into eyes
  • Black plastic that can't be recycled
  • Did not much at all
Sucrose, Water / Aqua / Eau, Sodium Lauroyl Methyl Isethionate, Glycerin, Cocamide Mea, Propanediol, Peg-100 Stearate, Glyceryl Stearate, Silica, Sodium Lauroamphoacetate, Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis (Sweet Almond) Oil, C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil, Menthyl Lactate, Epilobium Angustifolium Flower/Leaf/Stem Extract, Hydrolyzed Hibiscus Esculentus Extract, Apium Graveolens (Celery) Seed Extract, Panthenol, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Caprylyl Glycol, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Peg-150 Distearate, Cocamide Mipa, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate,Lactobacillus Ferment Lysate, Bht, Leuconostoc/Radish Root Ferment Filtrate,Phenoxyethanol, Citric Acid, Sodium Benzoate, Benzoic Acid, Sodium Metabisulfite, Sodium Hydroxide, Potassium Sorbate, Fragrance (Parfum), Linalool, Citronellol.
This is a sugar based scrub that can be used on the scalp or body. You are to apply it to damp scalp and massage it in before rinsing and conditioning the hair. I happen to have a Ouai branded scalp scrubber tool so I used it for this. Being in a tub it was a little awkward to get out and apply without getting water into the tub. It was super thick, which made applying it straight to the scalp a little challenging. I had to just make parts in my hair and apply it as close to the scalp as I could. 
The formula was thick and the crystals a bit large, but my scalp felt good after using it and my hair clean. The microscope showed it worked pretty well to get my scalp clean and the hair had a lot less buildup left on them. My scalp was a tad bit itchy the next day, but nothing that was too much to handle.

Overall this was a pretty good product, it got the job done without too much effort, but for the price there are better options out there.

  • Worked well to remove buildup from the scalp
  • Smells really good (Ouai makes a fragrance in this scent)
  • Easy to buy at
  • Pricy, its $52.00 CAD
  • Tub format is always a shower challenge not to get water inside
Sodium Chloride, Water (Aqua), Disodium Laureth Sulfosuccinate, Cocamide MIPA, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Citrus Paradisi (Grapefruit) Fruit Extract, Kaolin, Polyquaternium-7, Propylene Glycol, Sodium Phytate, Citric Acid, Sodium Hydroxide, Phenoxyethanol, Sodium Benzoate, Ethylhexylglycerin, Fragrance (Parfum).
This one is salt based to help remove the buildup. You apply it to a wet scalp, massage, rinse and then shampoo and condition as usual. 

 I honestly wasn't expecting to like this one a lot, mainly because I really dislike grapefruit, but I ended up really enjoying it. The tube made it easy to apply, it wasn't too thick so I could get a fare amount into my hands easily and to my scalp.
As you can see in the photo, the Neutrogena formula is thinner and collapses on when squeezed out, while the Ouai still is holding its ball like shape on my hand. You can really see the Ouai crystals, but not so much the Neutrogena. This just shows how different the formulas are in thickness and crystal size.
When looking at the microscope you can see that my scalp is very clean and my hair is the cleanest out of all of the scrubs. My scalp felt great and had not itchiness in the following days.

Overall I enjoyed this one the most. It was easy to apply and it worked the best. It also was pretty cheap.

  • Available at drug stores
  • Pretty cheap at about $15
  • Worked really well on both my scalp and hair
  • Easy to apply to the scalp
  • Tube prevents waster from getting into container
  • Has a grapefruit scent (? if you don't like grapefruit)
That's it for all the scrubs. I very disappointed with The Inkey List products, I had extremely high hopes for them and really felt let down. This is probably the first time I have felt that way about any of their products. I think all the hype about glycolic acid for hair and scalp really got me thinking these products would be fantastic. They just loosened the buildup without actually removing it, and that was with the scalp massager. 

 I got pretty much what I expected from the Ouai, I wish it was better mainly because of the cost of it. Happily the cheapest option was the best. I really got great results from the Neutrogena scrub and it was a drug store product.

Once again the hardest part of this challenge was going a whole week without washing my hair for each scrub. Also some of my hair has fallen out again, but for the most part it is much thicker then when I first did this challenge in 2020, so it is harder to use the scrubs now then they were before.
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