Have an irritatingly dry scalp? Such a bummer. When your scalp doesn't produce enough natural oils to properly lubricate itself, it can cause irritation, itching, flaking, and make your hair look dry, too. Anything from dry air, too much shampooing, and skin conditions like eczema can cause a dry scalp. Obviously, you can't control every factor that might cause your scalp woes, but fortunately, there are a lot of things you can do to relieve them.
"Dry scalp is due to depletion of natural oils/moisture from either washing too often or using harsh products (one example is sodium lauryl/laureth sulfate—which is found in some shampoos and can be very drying)," says board-certified dermatologist Marthe Dika. "In the case of dry scalp, one should decrease the frequency of washing their hair; use a deep conditioner, and moisturize after washing."
There are plenty of pre-made dry-scalp shampoos on the market, but if you want to go the all-natural and money-saving route, you could make a DIY treatment of your own. There are several simple, plant-based ingredients that will cost you way less than a fancy medicated shampoo but will provide major relief for your dry scalp. Here are eight home remedies for a dry scalp using ingredients you can find in your kitchen (or on Amazon).
Meet the Expert
Marthe Dika, MD, FAAD, is a board-certified dermatologist specializing in skin cancer prevention and treatment, as well as the management of conditions such as acne and eczema. She practices at the Franklin, Wisconsin office of Forefront Dermatology.
Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil is found in many pre-made shampoos for dandruff and dry scalp due to its potent antiseptic and antifungal properties. To make an easy mask, mix a few drops of tea tree oil with coconut, jojoba, or olive oil, massage it into your scalp, and leave it for at least 10 minutes before rinsing.
Here's another antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and antifungal ingredient packed with vitamin E and omega-6 fatty acids, all of which work to relieve a dry, itchy scalp. Mix one part castor oil with two parts aloe vera gel and a few drops of tea tree oil, apply to your dry head, and rinse after 30 minutes. Do this up to four times a week.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is antimicrobial, so it can help alleviate itch-causing bacteria. It's also anti-inflammatory and exfoliating. To reap its benefits, mix one part apple cider vinegar with two parts water, and apply directly to the scalp. Rinse after five minutes with shampoo and conditioner as normal.
Witch hazel is an astringent that's anti-inflammatory, anti-itch, and compatible with sensitive skin. Mix one part witch hazel with two parts olive, coconut, or jojoba oil to make an easy mask.
Jojoba oil is incredibly moisturizing for the scalp and nourishing for the skin and hair, and often used to treat conditions such as acne and psoriasis. Even better: it doesn't need to be diluted before being used.
Try adding a few drops of jojoba oil to your shampoo to relieve dryness and itching.
Antifungal, antibacterial, and highly moisturizing, coconut oil can be extremely helpful for dandruff and dry scalp. Dika recommends trying a leave-in conditioner, "followed by a moisturizing cream or oil (coconut oil being one that has been shown to lower water and protein loss)." Simply apply a small scoop of food-grade coconut oil to your dry scalp before hopping in the shower, and comb through the ends. Let it sit for at least 10 minutes and then shampoo and condition as normal.
For the ultimate dry-scalp mask, mix half an avocado, half a banana, two tablespoons of olive oil, and a quarter-cup of aloe gel in a blender. Apply to your scalp, cover with a shower cap, and let it sit for up to 30 minutes before rinsing. The avocado's monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids, plus vitamins A and B, are super moisturizing and easy for the scalp to absorb.