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Dryness, itching, sometimes even flakes—having a dry scalp is no fun. And there’s no shortage of factors that might be causing the issue: “Dry scalp can be something as simple as a result of the products you’re using, overall body dehydration, or a more complex condition like dandruff or psoriasis,” says Bridgette Hill, a trichologist and colorist at Paul Labreque Salon and Skincare Spa. “Any kind of abnormality with your scalp can be caused by one or more of these factors: genetics, lifestyle, diet, hairstyling habits, environmental, health, stress, hormones, medications,” she adds.
That being said, if it’s just straight-up dryness you’re dealing with, there are a few simple things you can do to help remedy the situation. First, try to minimize how often you wash; overwashing further strips both the scalp and hair of natural oils, which are likely already lacking if you’re dealing with dryness, points out Gina Rivera, hairstylist and creator of Phenix Salon Suites. When you do wash, choose your shampoo (and all hair products for that matter) carefully. Steer clear of drying alcohol and sulfates, and look for formulas rich in moisturizing ingredients.
These best shampoos for dry scalps, as recommended by the pros, are a great place to start.
“This is a great everyday shampoo and is especially choice for anyone tackling scalp issues,” says Rivera. The xylitol in the dermatologist-developed formula does a great job of protecting the scalp’s delicate moisture balance, she adds. Coconut oil adds hydration while glycolic acid gently exfoliates, and it also works beautifully on all hair types and textures.
As anyone who’s ever experienced scalp dryness will tell you, itchiness and the constant need to scratch is a big part of the issue. That’s why Hill likes and recommends this entire line, including the shampoo specifically. “It protects the scalp’s microbiome, as well as soothes itchiness,” she says. Credit Asteraceae extract (a plant-based ingredient) that combats irritation almost instantly, as well as peppermint and eucalyptus oil that deliver a pleasantly cooling sensation.
Generally speaking, many purifying shampoos might be too intense for a dry scalp, but not this one. “It works to balance sebum levels while also exfoliating dead skin and removing excess product build-up,” says Rivera. At work, a seaweed extract that normalizes oil production along with a fermented bacteria that preserves the scalp’s barrier to keep natural moisture locked in. “Washing with this sets the stage for applying a good moisturizing scalp treatment or using a deep moisturizing conditioner afterward,” adds Rivera.
If you’re in search of a shampoo with a clean formula, consider this one. “Sage and tamanu essential oils promote healthy oil levels in the scalp and also deeply hydrate, all while leaving behind minimal residue,” says Rivera. FYI, it is best for those who have thick, coarse, or dry hair.
While this shampoo will work on all hair types, it’s an especially good pick for those who have both a dry scalp and curly hair. It touts a loooong list of hydrating ingredients that get the job done, moisturizing both scalp and strands—think shea butter, argan oil, and jojoba oil, just to name a few. At the same time, it’s also loaded with soothing ingredients to calm dryness and irritation—tea tree oil, aloe, and more. Rivera is a big fan of the brand, lauding them for the many natural extracts they use to help promote both a healthy scalp and hair.
Regardless of your scalp sitch, curls are naturally prone to being dryer than straight strands; the shape of the hair makes it harder for natural oils to get from the root down to the tip.
Let’s get real for a second—yes, we all want a shampoo to work well for our scalp and hair issues, but we personally don’t know anyone who is going to use something if it doesn’t smell good. We’re especially into the fragrance of this shampoo, a go-to for Byrdie Editorial Director Faith Xue. It’s a mix of subtle florals such as iris and violet, balanced with more grounding cedar, sandalwood, and leather, resulting in a blend that’s relaxing and totally spa-like. And per the dry scalp part of things, the fact that they use cold-pressed technology ensures the ingredients stay in their rawest form and with the most benefits, notes Rivera; she especially likes the addition of moisturizing moringa oil here.
Hill is quick to note that shampoo alone may not necessarily help completely alleviate your dry scalp; step up your game by also using a leave-in treatment, more specifically, this one. A combo of different plant extracts balances your scalp’s moisture levels, meaning it actually works well for either dry or oily scalps. It also removes flakes and maintains the scalp’s pH, Hill notes. Plus, it does great things for your strands, too, imparting both shine and volume.
To the point of shampoo alone not cutting it, you may want to consider incorporating a hydrating pre-‘poo treatment a few times per week. Rivera recommends this one: “It’s a great treatment because it’s infused with argan oil, as well as geranium, lavender, and essential oils. All of these items work to soothe and moisturize a dry scalp,” she explains. There’s also a little bit of exfoliating salicylic acid in the mix, great for combating flaking.
Yes, you’ll want to minimize how often you wash your hair, but loading up on dry shampoo instead isn’t the best move; too much product build-up can exacerbate dryness as well as flaking. Enter this alternative, another one of Hill’s picks: “It purifies and detoxifies the scalp to remove dirt particles and product build-up that leads to dryness, while also delivering moisture to the hair.” Just work it into the scalp; you can rinse out if you want to, but there’s no need.
Just like you’d need to use a face scrub to slough off dead, dry skin from your face or body, so too do you need one for your scalp. Rivera says this one is ideal, touting pink Himalayan sea salt for exfoliating purposes, plus ACV. “Apple cider vinegar is rich in vitamins, especially vitamins B and C, which are great for both the hair and scalp,” she explains. The formula is also packed with hydrating avocado oil and soothing aloe and is safe for color-treated hair. Use it once a week, before shampooing.
As mentioned, exfoliating is an important step when you have a dry scalp, but if you don’t want to use a separate scrub and shampoo, reach for this multi-tasker. Micro-exfoliators do the sloughing, charcoal removes impurities, tea tree oil soothes irritation, and coconut oil hydrates—basically, it gives your scalp everything it in needs in one fell swoop. Bonus points for the addition of panthenol, and ingredient that’s great for conditioning your hair.
If your dry scalp is precursor to dry, textured hair, then this solution is for you. Users with dandruff, eczema, and seborrheic dermatitis report major itch relief and less frustrating flakiness. It gently removes product build up and impurities while treating the scalp with olive oil and tea tree, leaving you with hair that is healthier and more manageable.
For ultimate relief, follow up with the Olive & Tea Tree Oil Treatment in between washes.
Why Trust Byrdie?
Byrdie contributor Melanie Rud has over a decade of experience in the beauty industry, writing for some of the biggest magazines and websites out there. Her scalp alternates between dry and oily, so the discovery of scalp scrubs has been a true game-changer for her.
Meet the Expert
Bridgette Hill is a colorist and trichologist at the Paul Labreque Salon & Spa. Also known as ‘The Scalp Therapist’ she helps her clients deal with a wide array of scalp care issues, focusing on education, tools, and solutions based on the science of trichology.
Meet the Expert
Gina Rivera is a stylist and the creator of Phenix Salon Suites and Colours By Gina. She grew up in the hair and salon industry and has a vast array of knowledge on a variety of hair and scalp issues.