If you’re looking for something to remove buildup and deeply cleanse your scalp, this Cran Cherry Scalp Scrub is just the thing! It’s a sudsing salty scrub that will leave your hair refreshed and bouncy. I’ve had tons of requests for a scalp scrub, and I had a lot of fun developing and testing this formulation. Featuring sea salt, cranberry seeds, and cherry kernel oil, it’s a soft pink colour and smells fantastic. Let’s dive in!
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I took a look at the Christophe Robin Cleansing Purifying Scrub with Sea Salt for a formulating starting point. It’s mostly salt, with a surfactant blend for lather and some Glyceryl Stearate (and) PEG-100 Stearate to emulsify in some almond oil. With that rough framework in mind, I set out to create something that was all mine 😊
The bulk of my scrub is salt; I’ve used a blend of fine sea salt and pink Himalayan salt. Most of the scrubbiness comes from the sea salt as I blend the pink salt up with some cranberry seeds to create a mildly exfoliating pink powder. Cranberry seeds are all kinds of pretty but are aggressively scrubby if left intact, so into my DIY coffee grinder they went! When blitzed up with the pink salt you’ll get a soft pink powder that smells slightly tangy and fruity. It’s pretty great! I tried a variety of different grain sizes of pink salt and found that the coarser versions ground better than fine, but if you only have fine, that’s, well… fine 😂
Foamy, sudsy, cleansing goodness comes from a blend of Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLeS) and Cocamide DEA. I think there’s definitely room to play around with using different surfactants, though for ease I’d keep things liquid. A pre-blended surfactant product like Plantapon® TF or STEPAN-MILD® BSB blend could also be a great and easy swap for both surfactants—I’d start with 19.5% of the blended surfactant product instead of the two different surfactants and see what you think.
I used a small amount of Glyceryl Stearate (and) PEG-100 Stearate to emulsify in a wee bit of cherry kernel oil for re-fatting + awesome on-theme goodness. If you wanted to go full cranberry you could easily use cranberry seed oil instead—or any liquid carrier oil your hair loves.
I chose to use a wee bit of cranberry salsa fragrance oil to scent this scrub, but you could also play with that. For an on-theme riff, a cherry-ish fragrance oil would be lovely. Or, if you’re looking to use essential oils instead, something that smells a bit pink—perhaps pink grapefruit and/or geranium—could be delicious.
The product is preserved with some Optiphen™ Plus (INCI: Phenoxyethanol, Caprylyl Glycol, Sorbic Acid) so it’s not a huge deal if you do get some extra water into the product, but do be careful. Salt, our primary exfoliant is water-soluble. As formulated, there is far more salt in this scrub than the water in the formulation (from the surfactants) can dissolve. However, as you add more water to the scrub the salt will start to further dissolve, reducing the scrubbiness over time (and eventually diluting the preservative to a point where its efficacy could be compromised). With that in mind, try to be careful. I have been portioning 1–2 tbsp of the scrub out into a small plastic cup and taking that into the shower with me.
Relevant links & further reading
- Salt in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Glyceryl Stearate (and) PEG-100 Stearate in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLeS) in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- How can I substitute one surfactant for another?
- Can I use a different preservative than the one you’ve used?
- What exfoliants can I use in my formulations?
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Cran Cherry Scalp Scrub
15g | 15% Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLeS) (USA / Canada) (26% active)
4.5g | 4.5% Cocamide DEA
10g | 10% vegetable glycerine (USA / Canada)
0.05g | 0.05% citric acid (USA / Canada)
1g | 1% Glyceryl Stearate (and) PEG-100 Stearate (USA / Canada / UK & EU / Australia)
4g | 4% cherry kernel oil
Prepare a water bath by bringing about 3cm/1″ of water to a bare simmer over low to medium-low heat in a wide, flat-bottomed sauté pan.
While the heated phase melts, combine the pink salt and cranberry seeds in your DIY-only coffee grinder and blend into a fine, smooth powder.
When the heated phase has melted, whisk to combine, and then add the sea salt and pink salt blend. Whisk to combine and leave to cool.
When the scrub is cool it’s time to incorporate our cool down ingredients. Because cool down ingredients are typically present at very low amounts you’ll need to use an accurate scale—preferably one accurate to 0.01g. As these more accurate scales tend to have fairly low (100–200g) maximum weights you won’t be able to put the entire batch of lotion on that scale without blowing it out. So—grab a smaller dish. Add a scoop or two of scrub, and then weigh the cool down ingredients into that, using the more accurate scale. Stir to thoroughly incorporate, and then stir all of that back into the master batch of scrub. Doing it this way minimizes the amount of cool down ingredients lost to the secondary container.
Once the cool down phase has been incorporated, all that’s left to do is package it up! This scrub is pretty thick, so you’ll want to use a wide-mouthed jar. 100g (3.5oz) of scrub will fit well in a 2oz (60mL) jar.
To use, I like to scoop about two tablespoons of scrub into a small plastic cup and take that into the shower so I don’t get a bunch of water into the scrub, which will start to dissolve the salt. Get your hair soaking wet and massage the scrub into your scalp before rinsing out. I like to follow up with a cleansing conditioner or conditioning shampoo—something cleansing, but gentle.
Shelf Life & Storage
Due to the high salt content and low water content there’s a decent chance this scrub is self-preserving, but I haven’t tested it to be sure. Because this scrub contains water, and because it will likely be contaminated with water during use, I’ve included a broad-spectrum preservative. In the event you notice any change in colour, scent, or texture, chuck it out and make a fresh batch.
As always, be aware that making substitutions will change the final product. While these swaps won’t break the recipe, you will get a different final product than I did.
- As I’ve provided this recipe in percentages as well as grams you can easily calculate it to any size using a simple spreadsheet as I’ve explained in this post. As written in grams this recipe will make 100g.
- To learn more about the ingredients used in this formulation, including why they’re included and what you can substitute them with, please visit the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia. It doesn’t have everything in it yet, but there’s lots of good information there! If I have not given a specific substitution suggestion in this list please look up the ingredient in the encyclopedia before asking.
- If you’d like to learn more about the surfactants used and compare them to ones you might already have so you can make substitutions, check out this page and read this FAQ.
- I’d choose a glucoside instead of cocamide DEA if you don’t have it.
- You could try propanediol 1,3 instead of glycerin.
- You could try Polawax or a different emulsifying wax instead of Glyceryl Stearate (and) PEG-100 Stearate.
- You can substitute another lightweight oil like sweet almond, grapeseed, or sunflower seed for the cherry kernel oil.
- You can use any size of Himalayan pink salt, but I find medium to coarse works best for grinding with the cranberry seeds.
- You could replace the cranberry seeds with more pink salt or try a different botanical like apricot kernel powder.
- If you’re like to use a different preservative, please review this FAQ and this chart.
- If you’d like to incorporate an essential oil, please read this.
- You can use a different fragrance oil if you prefer.