The 10 Best Shampoos to Help Fix a Dry Scalp
Experts share their favorite options on the market right now.
Let's face it: Dealing with a dry scalp is every bit as uncomfortable as it is annoying. And pinpointing the cause of your discomfort can be tricky. "There can be many different causes for an itchy, dry scalp," explains Dr. Vishal Saggar of New York Dermatology Group. "One of the most common causes is a condition called seborrheic dermatitis, which can be related to an overgrowth of a yeast that naturally grows on your head. Other contributing factors may include skin conditions such as psoriasis, fungal and bacterial infections of the scalp, and allergic reactions to products coming into contact with the scalp."
Along with causing itchiness and flaking, an overly dry scalp can lead to bigger problems for your hair. "Scratching your scalp can result in follicle damage and in some cases, hair loss," warns hair stylist and celebrity hair colorist Michael Canalé. "It becomes more than a nuisance." In fact, if a dry scalp goes untreated, it can cause serious skin inflammation, warns Saggar. "If the skin of your scalp becomes too inflamed, it may 'fissure' or crack, leading to secondary infections of the scalp. If the scalp becomes very inflamed, you can also experience hair loss."
Luckily, Saggar says there are steps you can take to prevent a dry scalp in the first place. "Since increased sebum content, or oily skin, can lead to an overgrowth of certain yeasts that exacerbate seborrheic dermatitis and dandruff, washing the scalp at least two to three times per week, with an over-the-counter anti-dandruff shampoo, may be able to stop a dry scalp before it ever starts," he explains.
Additionally, Canalé suggests talking to your doctor about increasing your vitamin B6 and B12 intake, since dry scalp can also be caused by nutritional deficiencies. "You can boost your intake through fruits and vegetables, like avocado, and whole-grains," he says. "If necessary, you can ask about supplements such as flaxseed oil, zinc, and selenium." But if you need relief sooner rather than later, we asked both Saggar and Canalé to share their favorite dandruff-fighting shampoos that you can buy now.
Similar to how face washes with salicylic acid can help unclog pores, Saggar says shampoos made with the same active ingredient can work to remove scalp buildup due to dandruff and psoriasis. Formulated with three percent salicylic acid, this powerful shampoo is designed to combat crusty scalp build-up while relieving itching and flaking.
Shop Now: Neutrogena "T/Sal" Therapeutic Shampoo-Scalp Build-Up Control, $7.49, target.com.
For a sensitive and irritated scalp, Canalé suggests a shampoo rich with botanicals that naturally soothe your scalp. Packed with anti-irritant purslane extract and moisturizing decocted linden and passionflower, this hypoallergenic shampoo is designed to relieve scalp irritation by restoring its protective barrier. "The ingredients help repair the scalp and energize and strengthen hair at the root," he says.
Shop Now: Phytoapaisant Soothing Treatment Shampoo, $26, dermstore.com.
If your dry, flaky scalp is a result of a condition like seborrheic dermatitis, Saggar says a shampoo with ketoconazole could help. Formulated with one percent ketoconazole, an ingredient that's clinically proven to kill dandruff-causing fungi, washing your hair twice a week with Nizoral will help keep your scalp moisturized and flake-free.
Shop Now: Nizoral "A-D" Anti-Dandruff Shampoo, $14.84, amazon.com.
If your dry scalp has turned into a serious dandruff problem, Canalé recommends a shampoo that's specially formulated with Coal Tar, also known as Neutar, that's clinically proven to control itching and flaking. Neutrogena T/GEL shampoo contains Coal Tar, which is great for dandruff and itchy skin, he says.
Shop Now: Neutrogena "T/Gel" Therapeutic Shampoo, $10.79 for 8.5 fl oz, cvs.com.
Popular for a reason, Head & Shoulders is an affordable dandruff-fighting shampoo that's easy to find at the drugstore. Made with zinc pyrithione, Saggar suggests using this strong but nourishing shampoo if you're dealing with an itchy, flaky scalp due to seborrheic dermatitis.
Shop Now: Head and Shoulders Smooth & Silky Paraben Free Dandruff Shampoo, $5.99, amazon.com.
Know About Nioxin
If you aren't already hip to the scalp-restoring power of Nioxin shampoo, then now's the time to smarten up. Designed with gentle ingredients, like peppermint oil, that unclog hair follicles and remove oil buildup, Canalé says Nioxin won't just relieve your itchy scalp, it will help new hair grow in stronger. "It's a great mild shampoo that soothes the scalp and promotes healthy hair growth," he explains.
Shop Now: Nioxin "Scalp Optimizing" Cleanser, $22, ulta.com.
In the market for an affordable dandruff-stopping shampoo that you can pick up at the drugstore in a pinch? When used twice a week, Saggar says a medicated shampoo packed with selenium sulfide, like Selsun Blue, can kill the scalp fungus that causes dryness and flaking.
Shop Now: Selsun Blue Medicated Dandruff Shampoo, $10.49, cvs.com.
A little tea tree oil can go a long way in fixing a dry scalp. Packed with dandruff-fighting Melaleuca, or tea tree, essential oils, and moisturizing Safflower extract, Canalé says this pharmaceutical-grade shampoo will stop flaking in its tracks while instantly relieving scalp itchiness.
Shop Now: Rene Furterer "Melaleuca" Anti-Dandruff Shampoo, $17.40, allbeauty.com.
Go Au Natural
To deep-clean your hair without stripping your scalp of moisture, Canalé recommends a quality shampoo infused with natural cleansing agents, like lavender oil, shea butter, and grapefruit extract.
Shop Now: Canalé "CLEANSE" Shampoo, $39, shop.canalesalon.com.
For a DIY Wash
For a natural alternative to medicated shampoos, Saggar suggests washing your scalp with diluted apple cider vinegar. Mix a few tablespoons of apple cider vinegar with approximately one cup of water and work into your scalp after shampooing and conditioning. Wait for five minutes, then rinse and voila: you'll have dandruff-free hair in no time.
Shop Now: Bragg Organic Apple Cider Vinegar, $5.67, walmart.com.