Whether it’s caused by a change in environment or the products you’re using, a tight and itchy scalp can stem from multiple factors. Though it’s hard to pinpoint the exact culprit without having an expert take a closer look, the good news is that there are a few helpful solutions. The first step? Finding the best shampoo for you. We asked a board-certified dermatologist to share what we should look for when shopping.
So Long Flakes! Here Are the 18 Best Shampoos for a Dry Scalp
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Meet the Expert:
- Dr. Marisa Garshick is a board-certified dermatologist at MDCS Dermatology in New York
What are the main causes of a dry scalp?
As mentioned, there are a few factors that can cause a dry scalp. Here are some common ones:
- Overwashing: "While in some cases it can be helpful to wash every day, it is important to avoid overwashing the scalp and the hair," says Dr. Garshick. "This can actually strip the scalp from its natural oils and contribute to your dryness." You can try scaling back on how often you wash.
- Hot Showers: Speaking of washing your hair, you might want to check your water temperature. While a scalding hot shower might feel nice, it’s also incredibly drying on your hair and skin. Opt for a warm or even lukewarm shower when you can.
- Environment: "As the temperatures drop, and there is less humidity, the scalp can experience more dryness and flaking as a result of decreased moisture in the environment," says Dr. Garshick. It's crucial during extreme weather to hydrate your scalp and hair using moisturizing products (like deep conditioners, hair oils, scalp serums, etc).
- Skin Conditions: From eczema to psoriasis, a dry scalp can result from allergic reactions, products and genetics. If you think you have any of these conditions, consult a dermatologist for further testing and treatments.
How do you treat a dry scalp?
It all starts with a nourishing haircare routine. Dr. Garshick recommends using a shampoo and conditioner that won't strip away your natural oils. A helpful tip: Avoid drying ingredients like certain alcohols and sulfates and look for formulas with aloe, glycerin or hyaluronic acid instead. "It may also be best to opt for a sulfate-free shampoo, which is thought to be gentler on the scalp and less likely to strip moisture or remove hair color," adds Garshick.
OK, we know, that's a lot to remember. So if you need a little help in the right direction, we’ll get you started with 18 tried-and-true options ahead.
The Best Shampoos for Dry Scalp At a Glance:
- Best for Daily Use: Harklinikken Balancing Shampoo
- Best Drugstore: Dove DermaCare Anti Dandruff Shampoo
- Best for Fine Hair: Briogeo Be Gentle, Be Kind Aloe + Oat Milk Ultra Soothing Shampoo
- Best for Curly Hair: Kérastase Curl Manifesto Sulfate-Free Shampoo
- Best for Combination Scalps: Kevin Murphy Scalp Spa Wash
- Best Scent: Klorane Shampoo With Peony Sensitive Scalp
- Most Hydrating: Shu Uemura Cleansing Oil Shampoo
- Best for Itchy Scalps: Jason Dandruff Relief Shampoo
- Best Natural: Innersense Hydrating Hair Bath
- Best Scrub: G.Tox Himalayan Salt Scrub Shampoo
- Best for Thinning Hair: Pura D'or Original Gold Label Anti-Thinning Biotin Shampoo
- Best for Chemically-Treated Hair: Jupiter Balancing Shampoo
- Best Bar Shampoo: Superzero Dandruff Shampoo Bar
- Best for Kids: Babo Botanicals Sensitive Baby Shampoo & Wash
- Best Fragrance-Free:: Vanicream Shampoo
- Best Splurge: Oribe Serene Scalp Anti-Dandruff Shampoo
- Derm Pick: Aveeno Fresh Greens Blend Shampoo
- Best Gentle Formula: LivSo Moisturizing Shampoo
Best for Daily Use
Created by a Scandinavian haircare brand that treats hair loss and thinning, their mild shampoo gently removes excess oils and dead skin cells from your scalp, while balancing the pH, so it feels nourished and clean. Tip: After massaging the shampoo into your scalp, leave it in for 30 seconds before rinsing it out; repeat with a second shampoo for best results.
Oftentimes, a dry scalp is accompanied by dandruff, and many dandruff shampoos that clear up flakes can also be drying on your strands. Luckily, the team at Dove cracked the code with this shampoo. It features pyrithione zinc to effectively tackle dandruff and reduce flakes. The blend also has coconut oil and shea butter to hydrate the scalp. Plus, this flake fighter claims to be surprisingly mild and moisturizing on the rest of your hair.
Best for Fine Hair
If your skin is easily irritated, you may appreciate this hypoallergenic and dermatologist-approved shampoo that was formulated for people with sensitivities to fragrance, essential oils, lactose, soy and gluten. With scalp soothing aloe vera and oat milk, it reduces dryness, itchiness or tightness. (Note: Reviewers have reported that this formula works best on fine hair, so if you have thicker strands, maybe skip to one of the others on the list.)
Best for Curly Hair
This creamy shampoo gently cleanses your scalp of any residue or product buildup, while adding back moisture with manuka honey and ceramides. The rich formula is especially forgiving on dry, frizzy hair, and the warm tuberose and jasmine scent lingers until your next wash.
Best for Combination Scalps
If your scalp is both oily and dry, we feel your pain and we raise you this deep-cleaning scalp wash from salon favorite, Kevin Murphy. Made with micellar water (yes, like the makeup remover) and celery seed extract, it gently dissolves any buildup and extra oils from your scalp. Meanwhile rose water and coconut oil soothes any itchiness and hydrate dry ends.
Like its name suggests, this sensorially pleasing shampoo is made with—and thus, smells like—peonies. Fresh, bright and lovely. Plus, the pH-balanced formula helps soothe irritated and sensitive scalps, while being gentle enough to use on color-treated hair.
Shu Uemura’s cleansing oil shampoo is a stylist and editor favorite. As its name implies, it acts similarly to a cleansing oil you’d use on your face. In short, it has a nice slip and believes to be incredibly gentle on your scalp, though it still produces a rich foam. With a subtle citrus scent and loaded with hydrating plant and fruit oils, it leaves your scalp and strands in a state of blissful equilibrium.
Best for Itchy Scalps
Formulated with a potent duo of sulfur and salicylic acid, this clarifying shampoo soothes itchy scalps, while clearing up any surface flakes. Add rosemary oil, which helps to rebalance your skin, and olive and jojoba oils to condition the lengths, and we never want to be without it.
Who doesn’t want to indulge in a hydrating hairbath from time to time? This rich cream wash is packed with essential oils like sage and tamanu to balance your scalp, while emollients like avocado oil and shea butter smooth the cuticle of parched strands. The clean formula is hydrating, yet lightweight, and gets rid of grease without stripping your hair dry.
Does one actually need a scalp scrub? Why yes, it turns out we do. This one has a whipped texture that lathers nicely as you massage it into your scalp. With Himalayan pink salt, cold-pressed moringa oil and unfiltered rosehip oil (this is GP, after all), it promises to make our hair feel shiny and new.
Best for Thinning Hair
Avid reviewers on Amazon (there are over 13,00o 5-star reviews as of writing) claim this shampoo reduces hair shedding and improves volume with continued use. Upon closer inspection of the ingredients, we see it includes biotin, vitamins, amino acids and over 17 DHT herbs that nourish, cleanse and protect your scalp with every wash.
Best for Chemically-Treated Hair
For those with chemically-treated strands and a perpetually dry scalp, this balancing shampoo will become your shower MVP. Zinc pyrithione tackles dandruff, while squalane and coconut oil softens and strengthens the mid-lengths and ends. FYI: We don’t mind the minty fresh aroma either.
Best Bar Shampoo
If you’re really looking to cut down on space and waste, you’ll love this shampoo bar from Superzero. It's formulated with Brazilian ziziphus joaxerio extract to soothe the scalp and reduce flakes. Rosemary and tea tree oil further protect your scalp, while shea butter and avocado oil add moisture to your strands. The brand really (ahem) raised the bar with this plastic-free option.
Best for Kids
Sometimes a dry scalp is caused by certain skin conditions like eczema. And as anyone with eczema knows, the key to preventing and treating flare-ups can be to pare down the number of potentially irritating ingredients that you encounter. This gentle formula has plant-based ingredients (like colloidal oatmeal, shea butter and cocoa butter) so you can cleanse your scalp without worry.
If you’re looking for a simple shampoo that is free of pretty much every possible irritant (from fragrance, parabens, sulfates and formaldehyde), this dermatologist-tested product promises to cleanse your scalp and strands sufficiently. A helpful tip: Shampoo twice, and really work it into your scalp, as the formula does not lather like conventional formulas do.
We’re suckers for packaging, so when a product is as effective as it is good-looking, it’s a win-win. This salon-quality shampoo features gentle salicylic acid to slough away flakes, plus soothing active ingredients (like orange and lemon extract) to keep them from coming back. But the real game changer is the addition of botanicals like bilberry fruit and sugar maple extract, which maintain moisture and protect against free radicals when we lather up. (It’s like an anti-aging treatment for your scalp.)
This budget-friendly shampoo is dermatologist-approved and we can definitely get behind it, too. Its hydrating blend of rosemary, peppermint and cucumber refreshes and restores your scalp. Plus, the core ingredient—colloidal oat extract—soothes and moisturizes your hair. "It's also sulfate-free and free of parabens, making it a good option for those with dry or sensitive skin, as well as those with color-treated hair," adds Dr. Garshick.
Best Gentle Formula
Whether you have curly hair or color-treated locks, this sulfate-free shampoo is great for all hair types. It's enriched with coconut oil to add moisture back to the scalp, while glycolic acid deeply cleans and removes flakes, and xylitol strengthens strands. The calming lemongrass scent adds to the whole in-shower experience.