White Buildup On Your Scalp? Here’s 2 Ways to Get Rid of It Fast

  • Medically reviewed by: Debra Rose Wilson, PhD MSN RN IBCLC AHN-BC CHT
  • Written by: William Slator
  • Last updated: 11/08/2021

From chemical-laden hair products to pollution, sweat, DHT and oil, our scalp and hair come into contact with a lot of hair-damaging elements throughout our day-to-day lives.

Over time, these elements can build up, leaving us with an unhealthy scalp and a less-than-ideal environment for optimum hair growth.

This article will outline:

  1. The difference between dandruff and epidermis plaque (also known as sebum);
  2. Ways to get rid of the scalp sebum buildup; and
  3. How to improve the overall quality of the scalp, hair follicles, and hair.

White Buildup: Dandruff or Sebum?

It is common for individuals with an itchy scalp and irritation to assume the issue is dandruff. However, there are a number of conditions that can lead to flaking, itching, and inflammation. One such condition is plaque epidermis, also known as scalp, or sebum, buildup

There are a few key differences between dandruff and sebum that allow you to determine which of these is your issue.

Dandruff is fungal in nature. The primary culprit is believed to be the yeast Malassezia.

Sebum buildup, however, is caused by a variety of factors. This includes the use of store-bought shampoos and hair products, as well as contact with pollutants and ineffective scalp cleansing.

Dandruff is light and flaky in appearance.

Here is how to tell the difference.

Dandruff, for the majority, is clumpy and flaky. It can be white, and sometimes even yellow, and is generally concentrated in particularly oily areas of the scalp.

Sebum, though, has a waxy substance. There will be less flaking and more of an overall buildup. You may experience some itching as a side effect, but it is not an inflammatory issue as is dandruff.

How to Remove the Buildup and Prevent It From Returning

There are two steps you can take to remove the white plaque buildup from your scalp and prevent it from returning in the future. The combination of these steps will leave you with a clean, healthy scalp with ideal conditions for hair growth.

Salicylic Acid Peel

First, you want to remove the scalp buildup and give your scalp a fresh start. Here is how.

What You’ll Need:

  • Salicylic acid (15% solution or less)
  • Coconut oil

Directions:Coconut oil helps reduce protein loss after washing

Wash your hair and scalp with a gentle cleansing shampoo.

Apply coconut oil to your scalp, enough to cover it in its entirety. Leave the coconut oil to sit on your scalp for 30 minutes.

Now, apply the salicylic acid to your scalp using a small pipette or another instrument. Do so until you have covered all patches of scalp you would like to target for hair regrowth. Leave the salicylic acid on for 10 minutes, and then gently wash away with warm water.

At this point, there will be patches of salicylic acid peeling off any sebum, dandruff, and dirt from your scalp. If you notice a particularly thick area of sebum, repeat the process outlined above in no less than two days.

Hair Benefits:

This simple yet effective combination is a great way to get your scalp back on track.

As salicylic acid contains a small amount of alcohol, the solution when directly applied can be drying. This is why coconut is first applied and given time to absorb, as it protects your scalp and follicles from drying out and causing further issues.

Cleansing Shampoo

Now that the layer of plaque has been removed, you want to be sure to keep it away for good. For this, it is best to avoid chemical-laden shampoos and stick with a homemade shampoo with simple ingredients.

Ingredients:Apple cider vinegar shampoos gently cleanse the scalp

  • Organic apple cider vinegar (2 tablespoons)
  • Baking soda (1 teaspoon)
  • Tea tree oil (2 drops) (optional)
  • Peppermint oil (2 drops) (optional)


Combine the above ingredients, as well as warm water. The apple cider vinegar and baking soda will react, so allow the mixture to settle prior to using.

Shake before using as the oils do not mix well. Pour the mixture onto your wet hair while in the shower, and massage it into your scalp for three minutes.

Rinse with warm water.

Hair Benefits:

As sebum buildup is caused by ineffective cleansing, the above shampoo will help you to clean your scalp and keep your scalp free from plaque buildup and its ill effects.


White buildup on the scalp is a common issue and one which contributes to hair thinning and loss.

If you are dealing with this issue, then the above two recipes will help you to get your scalp back to its natural, healthy state.

Of course, there are other steps you can take to further prevent the build-up of sebum. These steps include changing your diet and using moisturizing oils, like coconut oil, on a regular basis to prevent scalp dryness and the overproduction of sebum as a result.

Information contained on this website has not been evaluated by any medical body such as the Food & Drug Administration. All information is for educational purposes only. We do not aim to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease or illness. You must consult a medical professional before acting on any content on this website.

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  1. My scalp has been so itchy lately with lots of dandruff and this has coincided with an increase in hair fall for me. I really need to sort this out before it gets worse so thanks for the useful article.

  2. Hii, for the last 2 months I have been observing serious sticky flakes accumulation on the crown of my head. Causing hair fall and hair loss. I believe that it is due excess production of oil from my scalp. I am trying few ACV based shampoo but found it ineffective. Can you please suggest me will this Salicylic Acid treatment will not cause further hair loss.. Thank you

    1. Does applying acv,baking soda regularly going to weaken my scalp and hair roots ?
      Because my hair produce lots of oil and it causes hair thinning die to white sticky dandruff.
      So the acv and baking soda mixture is safe for regular use ?

      1. Hi Harsh,

        We’d recommend you not use the ACV and baking soda mix more than once per week. But the ACV alone may be a bit less harsh while still cleansing the scalp as you need.



    2. I am not able to treat S.D. of my scalp from the last 1 year due to which i have suffered from hair fall and hair thinning.i have also consulted to some of the dermatologist and they recommended me to use ketoconazole shampoo which didn’t work for me.
      So what should i do any suggestions.

      1. I feel the itchiness on my hair everytime and when I scratch my hard I get this white waxy residue in my nails, it’s scalp gunk! Which shampoo do you recommend? I’ve been using Tressemme shampoo and the conditioner too, I guess when some of it accumulates it builds up though I try to wash and rinse my hair very well in the shower!

  3. In my moustache area scalp is very itchy, dry and gets inflated with white dead skin. This is causing hair to fall out. I have been using castor oil mixed with coconut oil it has enhanced hair growth to some level but skin is still same and causing hair fall. Please help.

  4. It is a very good treatment for itchy scalp but how do you get rid of the white flakes

  5. Hi. I moved from humid weather to very dry and high elevation and since then I developed white, dry looking flakes that I can scratch with my finger nails. I developed hair loss feeling like this white stuff is ‘killing’ my hair.My diet hasn’t changed and don’t think that’s what caused it. Oftentimes I see salycilic acid for dandruff but I don’t think what I have is dandruff. The flakes are much smaller and dry. Are you saying to still use salycilic acid? It’s just doesn’t make sense for me because I always thought it’s a treatment for dandruff. Any more info on that would be very much appreciated.

    1. Hi Lia,

      While salicylic acid is an excellent treatment for dandruff, that’s not it’s only application.

      In your case, I would give the salicylic acid a try. If it seems to worsen the condition, or it doesn’t help at all, then it’s best to discontinue. But it may be what you need to get your scalp back into alignment.



  6. I follow the treatment – first shampoo – second put coco oil for 30 minutes and after apply
    the salicylic acid and leave for 10 minutes but when I rinse my hair the salicylic acid
    dry on y scalp and it is very hard to remove – so how do you remove the dry acid
    from your scalp – Thank you

  7. Ive always had a lot of build up that’s thick, sebum like but also flaky and white. Lately it’s gotten way worse. I literally have tried everything and have been doing keto for sometime and working to balance my gut but nothing works. Where do i get 15% salicylic acid and what do you recommend for diet to eliminate this.

  8. Hi Will. After applying the coconut oil and salicylic acid, do I need to wash my hair again with the homemade shampoo to remove the oil or just rinse with warm water?

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