How to Use Glycolic Acid for Scalp: Guide, Benefits, & Precautions

Through the Expert's Lens

Glycolic acid, praised for its exfoliating capabilities in skin care, also makes strides in scalp health management. As an alpha hydroxy acid, it breaks down the glue-like substances that bind dead skin cells, allowing for easy removal and exposure of the fresh, healthy skin beneath. When used on the Scalp, it helps combat issues like dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis and encourages a healthier foundation for hair growth. A careful approach is necessary when using glycolic acid, considering the correct concentrations and weighing its advantages against the risk of irritation. This guide will provide strategies to use glycolic acid safely and effectively, adhering to dermatological recommendations. We aim to provide the information needed to fully leverage the benefits of glycolic acid for scalp care while maintaining the natural balance of the Scalp's environment.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can Glycolic Acid Be Used on the Scalp for Conditions Other Than Psoriasis?

Glycolic acid can be used on the Scalp for conditions other than psoriasis. It is important to consider potential side effects and risks associated with its use, as well as the optimal frequency of application. The suitability of glycolic acid for different hair types and textures should also be considered. Determining whether rinsing off or leaving glycolic acid on the Scalp is necessary depends on individual circumstances and preferences.

Are Any Potential Side Effects or Risks Associated With Using Glycolic Acid on the Scalp?

Potential side effects of using glycolic acid on the Scalp include scalp sensitivity, risk factors for allergic reactions, and possible long-term effects. Considering these factors before using glycolic acid on the Scalp is important.

Can you apply glycolic acid after oiling your hair?

Using glycolic acid on your hair after applying oil can be done, but it's important to be careful. Before trying this treatment, getting advice from a skin expert is a good idea to avoid any negative reactions and ensure it's suitable for your specific scalp needs.

How Many Times a Week Can You Use Glycolic Acid on Hair?

For optimal hair health, it's recommended to limit the use of glycolic acid to just once or twice a week. This helps to avoid the risk of excessive exfoliation and irritation that could occur with more frequent usage. It's also wise to seek personalized guidance from a healthcare professional before incorporating glycolic acid into your hair care routine.

What Will Happen if I Leave Glycolic Acid on My Hair?

If you accidentally leave glycolic acid on your hair longer than suggested, you might experience scalp discomfort, excessive dryness, and a heightened reaction to sunlight. For your Scalp's health, washing out the glycolic acid within the time frame advised to sidestep these negative outcomes is crucial.

Does Glycolic Acid Straighten Hair?

Glycolic acid is known for its exfoliating properties and is commonly used in skincare to promote a healthier scalp. However, when it comes to hair straightening, glycolic acid is not the go-to solution. It can't change the texture of your hair or provide any styling effects aimed at straightening. Its role is more about skin and Scalp care, ensuring the removal of dead skin cells and not transforming hair structure.

glycolic acid for scalp

The Basics of Glycolic Acid for Scalp Care

Glycolic acid, a gentle member of the alpha hydroxy acid family, is renowned for its exfoliating prowess. It's particularly effective on the Scalp, removing dead skin cells and dissolving residual hair products, creating an optimal environment for hair to grow healthier. This powerhouse ingredient goes beneath the Scalp's surface, enhancing moisture levels and encouraging collagen production. Such benefits lead to a healthier scalp and help tackle dandruff and flakiness.

Despite the impressive advantages of glycolic acid, it's essential to use it cautiously, especially if you have sensitive skin. It's always wise to consult with a dermatologist before incorporating glycolic acid into your routine to ensure it's suitable for you and to avoid any potential irritation. It's generally recommended for oily, combination, or normal scalps.

When using glycolic acid, following safety measures is crucial, including applying sunscreen to protect your Scalp from UV exposure and conducting a patch test before full application to avoid negative skin reactions.

glycolic acid for scalp

Glycolic Acid for Scalp Benefits

Glycolic acid is a powerhouse when it comes to promoting a healthy scalp. It boosts hair growth by speeding up cell renewal and enhancing products' penetration of hair follicles. With its exfoliating capabilities, it effectively clears away dead skin cells and any residue from hair products.

This not only betters the texture of your hair but also minimizes scalp discomfort. Plus, glycolic acid ensures that the Scalp more effectively absorbs the goodness from hair care treatments, making them more effective.

Stimulates Hair Growth

When applied to the Scalp, glycolic acid plays a significant role in encouraging hair growth. This ingredient is a powerhouse in scalp care, providing exfoliation and improving the overall condition of the Scalp, supporting the growth of strong, healthy hair. Below, find a detailed breakdown of how glycolic acid contributes to various hair growth aspects:

Glycolic acid for Scalp

Glycolic acid's targeted action in exfoliating and rejuvenating the Scalp is crucial for creating optimal conditions for uninterrupted hair growth.

Removes Buildup Effectively

In scalp care, glycolic acid stands out as an effective exfoliant, adept at eliminating accumulated dead skin cells and product residues that can clog hair follicles and impede optimal scalp health. Its keratolytic properties allow it to dissolve the intercellular 'glue' that holds dead cells together, ensuring thorough buildup removal.

Regularly using glycolic acid-infused products can prevent flakes and sebum accumulation, often leading to scalp conditions such as dandruff or dermatitis. Furthermore, the cleansing action of glycolic acid enhances the efficacy of subsequent hair care treatments, allowing for better penetration of shampoos and conditioners.

Enhances Hair Texture

To revitalize hair texture, glycolic acid is a potent exfoliant, sloughing away dead skin cells and product residues that can weigh down strands and diminish shine. Its molecular structure allows it to penetrate the Scalp effectively, promoting renewal crucial for maintaining scalp health.

Removing excess oil and buildup improves hair appearance and enhances scalp hydration, which is vital in preventing hair breakage. The antimicrobial properties of glycolic acid aid in reducing Scalp acne-causing bacteria and yeast, further contributing to a healthier scalp environment.

Moreover, its ability to augment the absorption of other hair care products can lead to more pronounced benefits for your hair, ensuring that its active ingredients are utilized more efficiently.

Reduces Scalp Irritation

While glycolic acid enhances hair texture by exfoliating the Scalp, it also significantly relieves scalp irritation, reducing inflammation and discomfort associated with common conditions like dandruff. Using glycolic acid in proper treatments can mitigate various scalp irritations, contributing to a healthier environment.

However, users must adhere to the precautions to ensure a safe and effective application. The benefits include:

  • Alleviation of scalp flakiness and reduction of associated itching.
  • It has a soothing effect on the Scalp, minimizing redness and sensitivity.
  • Reduction in the severity of inflammatory scalp conditions.
  • Improvement in overall scalp health by soothing irritation.

It is crucial to use glycolic acid responsibly and consult a healthcare professional if any adverse reactions occur.

Improves Product Absorption

Glycolic acid acts as a powerful exfoliant for the Scalp. It removes dead skin and residual products, creating an optimal scalp condition that allows nourishing elements to penetrate more deeply. This enhanced ability for the Scalp to absorb ingredients is especially helpful in promoting hydration and ensuring that the full range of benefits from shampoos, conditioners, and targeted treatments is achieved.

Regularly applying glycolic acid can transform the Scalp into a more receptive base for hair care routines. This ensures that vital nutrients and active ingredients are more effectively absorbed. As a result, the overall impact of your hair care practices is magnified, leading to hair that looks and feels healthier and more full of life.

glycolic acid for scalp

Application Steps Explained

To apply glycolic acid to your Scalp effectively and safely, it's crucial to follow a detailed procedure.

You should start by choosing the right concentration of glycolic acid and then conducting a patch test to reduce the possibility of any negative skin reactions.

The application process involves evenly spreading the acid on the Scalp and ensuring the hair is properly hydrated after rinsing.

This step is essential to keep your Scalp and hair in good condition.

Preparing for Application

Before initiating glycolic acid treatment on the Scalp, it is crucial to seek professional advice from a dermatologist to determine the appropriate Concentration and usage for individual skin types.

Preparing for application involves several critical steps:

  • Consult with a dermatologist before using glycolic acid, particularly if you have a sensitive scalp or underlying skin conditions.
  • Conduct a patch test to ensure no adverse reaction occurs, following the instructions for the test carefully.
  • Choose a glycolic acid formulation suitable for scalp use, typically between 5% to 10% concentration.
  • Apply the product to a clean, damp scalp, avoiding any areas that may have been recently chemically treated or are irritated.

Adhering to these guidelines helps to ensure a safe and effective application of glycolic acid on the Scalp.

Applying Glycolic Acid to Scalp

Initiating the application process, begin by selecting a glycolic acid formulation with a low concentration suitable for scalp treatment, ensuring it is damp before evenly distributing the product.

Glycolic acid for Scalp

When treating the Scalp with glycolic acid, it is essential to follow a precise protocol to avoid over-exfoliation and potential irritation. Monitoring the Scalp's response can inform future applications and concentration adjustments.

Post-Application Care

After applying glycolic acid to the Scalp, it is crucial to rinse the area thoroughly to remove all traces of the acid, minimizing the potential for irritation. Post-application care is essential to ensure the Scalp's health and avoid adverse reactions.

Here are some key points to consider:

  • Utilize a gentle, moisturizing shampoo and conditioner to rehydrate the Scalp and hair.
  • Protect your Scalp from sun exposure by wearing a hat or sunscreen, as glycolic acid can increase photosensitivity.
  • Observe how your Scalp reacts to the treatment; if signs of severe irritation occur, cease use immediately.
  • Introduce glycolic acid treatments gradually, starting with lower concentrations to assess tolerance and prevent undue cause irritation.

Choosing the Right Concentration

Selecting an appropriate concentration of glycolic acid is crucial for achieving the desired benefits on the Scalp without irritation. A lower concentration, typically between 5% to 7% for initial use or sensitive skin types, is advisable. A 7% concentration is a common starting point for many scalp treatments, balancing efficacy and gentleness. Resilient or oilier scalp types may tolerate higher concentrations better. Consult a dermatologist to personalize the Concentration based on your Scalp's needs.

Glycolic acid for Scalp

When choosing products with glycolic acid, consider the formulation designed for scalp use to ensure compatibility with hair and scalp physiology.

Safety and Precautionary Measures


Before you start using glycolic acid for your scalp treatment, it's crucial to do a patch test to prevent any potential adverse effects and ensure it's suitable for your skin.

After applying glycolic acid, reducing your time in the sun is important as this ingredient can make your skin more sensitive to sunlight.

Users must be vigilant for signs of irritation, like redness, itching, or a burning sensation, and stop using the product immediately if these symptoms appear.

Patch Testing Importance

Patch testing is critical before introducing glycolic acid into your scalp care routine. Conducting this preliminary test to detect any adverse reactions or sensitivities is essential. The significance of a patch test is to safeguard against potential negative effects, which could include irritation. This is particularly important for those with sensitive skin or if there are any open sores present.

Here are some guidelines for patch testing:

  • First, apply a small amount of glycolic acid to a discreet skin area to check for allergic reactions or sensitivities.
  • Keep an eye on the area for any signs of a reaction for a period ranging from 24 to 48 hours.
  • Make sure not to use glycolic acid on injured or compromised skin.
  • It's wise to slowly increase the glycolic acid concentration and be vigilant about how your Scalp reacts to prevent potential overuse.

This preventive measure is vital to maintain both the effectiveness and the safety of your scalp treatment.

Sun Exposure Limitation

Understanding the photosensitizing effects of glycolic acid is crucial, as it can significantly increase the Scalp's vulnerability to ultraviolet radiation following treatment. This alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA) accelerates the removal of dead skin cells but concurrently diminishes the protective barrier, rendering the skin more sensitive to sun exposure.

Consequently, individuals should adopt stringent precautions post-application, such as wearing a hat or scarf to provide a physical barrier against UV rays. It is advisable to minimize time spent in the sun, particularly during peak hours when the radiation is most intense. Additionally, applying glycolic acid treatments in the evening may further mitigate the risk of photosensitivity.

Such cautionary measures are imperative to protect sensitive skin on the Scalp from potential damage caused by solar radiation.

Recognizing Irritation Signs

When utilizing glycolic acid as part of a scalp care regimen, it is essential to be vigilant for signs of irritation such as redness, dryness, or heightened sensitivity. The response of sensitive skin to this acid can vary, necessitating a careful approach. Recognizing irritation signs promptly aids in mitigating potential adverse effects.

  • Look for persistent redness or inflammation at the site of application.
  • Notice any unusual dryness or flaking that may suggest a reaction.
  • Be aware of sensitivity to touch or products that previously caused no discomfort.
  • Detect any burning sensation or itching which indicates irritation.

Stop applying glycolic acid immediately and consult a healthcare professional if these symptoms occur.


A double-blind clinical study reveals synergistic action between alpha-hydroxy acid and betamethasone lotions towards topical treatment of scalp psoriasis.

Treatment of pseudofolliculitis barbae with topical glycolic acid: a report of two studies

Jojoba Oil for Hair: Benefits, Uses, and How to Apply

Medically reviewed and fact checked by 
Dr. Dorina Soltesz, MD

Dr. Dorina Soltesz ABHRS
Hair restoration expert, American Board of Hair Restoration Surgery (ABHRS) certified hair transplant surgeon.

Learn more

Have a Question? Ask the Experts

[cma-question-form backlink=1 loginform=1]
Do you have concerns about your hair loss? Looking for information and support? You're not alone. Millions of people suffer from hair loss, and many seek solutions.
linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram