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In the seemingly neverending quest for great hair, one very important factor is often overlooked: The scalp. That's right—healthy, good-looking hair starts with a healthy scalp. Essentially, your scalp should be treated more like the skin on your face than anything else. That means cleansing it regularly (with a scalp scrub or exfoliating brush) and giving it the hydration it needs—especially if you’re dealing with issues such as dryness, itchiness, or flakes.
This is where scalp oils come up huge. They're the perfect way to add and seal in moisture, as well as soften patches of built-up dry skin so that they can easily slough off. Sold on the idea but don't know where to start? We got you.
Read on for the best scalp oils, below.
Best Overall: Kiehl’s 1851 Magic Elixir Hair Restructuring Concentrate
Don’t be fooled by the name: This multi-tasker is just as beneficial for your scalp as it is for your strands. Credit a combination of different oils—including hydrating avocado and safflower oils, plus scalp-stimulating rosemary leaf oil—that work to nourish both the skin and hair. Plus, it works fast, too; massage it onto a dry scalp and leave it on for just 10 minutes before shampooing so that it can do its thing.
Best Budget: Palmer’s Coconut Oil Formula Strong Roots Spray
This pick earns a spot on this list both for its very wallet-friendly price tag and its ease of use. The spray format means application is a total breeze; all you have to do is spritz it directly at the roots and massage it in (no rinsing required). Sustainably sourced organic extra-virgin coconut oil delivers a deep dose of hydration, while the addition of peppermint and eucalyptus oils give it a refreshing feel that’s delightful when your scalp is tight or itchy.
Best Drugstore: Mielle Organics Rosemary Mint Scalp & Hair Strengthening Oil
There aren’t necessarily a ton of scalp oils to be found at the drugstore (yet), but happily, you can find this standout. It relies on rosemary oil and biotin to help promote stronger hair growth and contains peppermint oil to soothe itchiness. Plus, it's hydrating enough that it works well to quench parched ends, too.
Follow the directions of the particular product you choose, but generally speaking, it’s best to massage a few drops of oil over your scalp, then let it sit for a little while (or even overnight) before washing your hair as usual.
Best Soothing: Briogeo Scalp Revival Charcoal + Tea Tree Scalp Treatment
There are few issues more annoying (and uncomfortable) than an itchy scalp, which is why this extra-soothing formula is truly invaluable. Peppermint and spearmint oils deliver an instantaneous cooling, refreshing, and pleasantly tingly sensation, making this perfect to reach for when you’re dealing with any kind of scalp irritation. On top of that, there’s also charcoal in the mix, an effective detoxifier that works to remove product build-up, excess oil, and any other impurities.
Best Exfoliating: Moroccanoil Dry Scalp Treatment
Moroccanoil products get rave reviews for styling purposes but don’t sleep on the brand's scalp treatment, either. Like the stylers, it touts argan oil, one of the best oils for skin anywhere on your body, scalp included. Rich in nourishing vitamin E and protective antioxidants, it delivers tons of moisture. But this formula is also noteworthy for the addition of exfoliating salicylic acid, a beta-hydroxy acid that dissolves excess oil and works to slough off any flakes (because yes, you need to exfoliate your scalp, too).
Best for Natural Hair: Curls Blueberry Mint Tea Scalp Treatment
This is a go-to for Byrdie social media editor Star Donaldson. A litany of different natural ingredients (organic blueberry seed oil, mint, and coconut oil) work to combat dryness and fight itching. Ideal for curly, wavy, and kinky hair textures, it’s also great to use before and after braiding or extensions.
Best for Thinning Hair: Essy Naturals Hair Growth Oil
The issue of hair loss and shedding is a complicated one, and the hard truth of the matter is that there’s no one fast fix. That being said, if your tresses are in need of a little extra TLC, it’s worth trying this formula. It combines oils known to be beneficial for promoting healthy hair growth (like castor oil and rosemary oil) with other good-for-your-scalp ingredients such as biotin and caffeine. The end result? A treatment that happy Amazon reviewers say delivers noticeable benefits.
Best Serum: Ouidad Bye-Bye Dry! Soothing + Moisturizing Serum
Okay, we get it—maybe the idea of slathering oil on your scalp just isn’t working for you. Here’s a good non-oil alternative that offers the same type of hydrating benefits you’d get from an oil, thanks to hyaluronic acid and niacinamide. It works to combat breakage and irritation, too, and doesn’t have to be rinsed out.
Best for Hair & Scalp: Pattern Jojoba Oil Hair Serum
Yes, the hair and scalp are two separate things, but at the end of the day, they’re inextricably linked. That’s why we appreciate that this two-in-one works equally well on both. Credit its use of jojoba oil, a superstar oil that very closely mimics the natural oil our skin produces and is amazing at hydrating both skin and hair. Massage it straight into your scalp or cocktail it with other stylers for added moisture. (It works especially well for curly hair.)
Best Natural: Reverie CAKE Restorative Scalp Tonic
For those who want to keep their beauty routine as clean as possible, this natural formula is a great choice. The leave-in is more akin to a serum-oil hybrid and basically offers any and every possible scalp benefit you could think of. It balances out oil production, hydrates, and soothes, but also touts ingredients such as apple stem cells to keep hair follicles healthy and youthful. As if that weren't enough, it also has ingredients that work to maintain a healthy scalp pH to ward off bacteria and fungus.
Best for Oily Scalps: OGX Extra Strength Refreshing Tea Tree Mint Scalp Treatment
We know what you’re thinking—why on earth would you ever use a scalp oil if you have an oily scalp? Well, for starters, this isn’t a straight-up oil, but rather a balancing treatment that relies on tea tree oil and witch hazel, two astringent ingredients that are great for balancing out excess oil production. (There’s also refreshing peppermint oil in the mix.) Place a small amount directly onto the scalp post-shampooing, then let it dry before styling as usual.
Best Multi-Tasker: Innersense Organic Harmonic Healing Oil
Oils really are one of the best multi-tasking skincare ingredients out there and this formula is proof positive. It blends a laundry list of different vitamin- and antioxidant-rich natural oils (safflower seed, macadamia seed, and evening primrose, to name a few) and is ideal for soothing scalp issues. It’s also worth trying on rashes and cuts, dry cuticles, or even as a makeup primer—the special combo of oils makes it perfect for all of those situations and more.