18 Best Dry Scalp Shampoos: 2019 [Reviews & Guide]

Updated 7 days ago

When your head itches because your scalp is dry, it’s distracting and unpleasant. Perhaps you’ve been using shampoo with sulfates that irritated your skin. Maybe it’s dandruff, dermatitis, or psoriasis. Whatever the reason is behind your dry and itchy scalp, you want a solution.

Changing your hair care products might be just what you need. Let’s take a look at the best shampoos for dry scalp to see which ones will restore your skin and hair to good health.

The reasons why your scalp is dry, flaky, and itchy

There are a number of reasons why the skin on your head is dry. Some people normally have drier skin than others. Other people may be sensitive to ingredients like surfactants in shampoos. The worst offenders are sodium laureth sulfate and sodium lauryl sulfate, also known as SLS.

Other irritating ingredients are silicones and resins. Silicones are often found in hair care products that smooth and straighten. Resins make up most hair sprays and styling products that make curls and volume. When these products aren’t washed out, they build up and cause problems.

Another cause of dry, itchy scalp is dandruff. It’s happens when skin over-reacts to a fungus called P. ovale. While this fungus normally lives undetectable on human heads, sometimes skin starts fighting it at a faster rate, leaving behind lots of dead cells as dry flakes.

Now, if a person has psoriasis, which is a non-contagious chronic condition, their skin will be extra flaky and dry. There will be a buildup of dead skin that blocks hair follicles and prevents moisturizing products from working. If you think this describes you, it’s best to consult with a doctor on how to treat your scalp. Regular hair products for dandruff might not solve the problem.

Finally, if someone has a combination of clumps of oily skin flakes or yellow scales, it could be seborrheic dermatitis from producing too much sebum. It’s an allergic reaction to foods, stress, or personal care products. Many times dandruff shampoo will at least keep the flaking under control. But sometimes it might be necessary to use a prescription product.

Now that you’ve seen the range of reasons why your scalp might be dry, let’s take a look at the shampoos that treat it.

The top shampoos for dry scalp

We’ll begin with gentle shampoos that clarify and moisturize, then move on to powerful over-the-counter dandruff-fighters.

Klorane Shampoo with Peony for Sensitive and Irritated Scalp—Good for Itch Relief

Klorane, one of the top brands sold in European pharmacies, offers their Shampoo with Peony for Sensitive and Irritated Scalp. The floral extract of peony stops itching for up to 24 hours after use.

The formula avoids irritants like parabens, silicones, and sulfates in favor of a pH-balanced hypoallergenic list of ingredients. Plus, this shampoo is both biodegradable and vegan.

Wella Elements Shampoo—Gentle Moisturizer

Wella Elements Shampoo stops dry scalp by moisturizing both skin and hair. It does not contain the all-too-common irritants called SLS, or sulfates. This product comes recommended by many salons for use on all hair types.

Davines MOMO Shampoo—Fights Dandruff and Moisturizes

Davines MOMO Shampoo contains a gentle dandruff-fighting ingredient called selenium sulfide. It is both anti-septic and anti-fungal to soothe dry and irritated skin. MOMO also contains Cartucciaru Melon extract to moisturize hair and skin without making it oily. It doesn’t matter if you have oily or dry hair, MOMO Shampoo will leave it clean, shiny, and flake-free.

PHYTO Phytheol Dry Hair Moisturizing Scalp Exfoliating Shampoo—Botanical Solution for Dandruff and Dry Scalp

If you love botanical products, you might find that the PHYTO Phytheol Shampoo is your new favorite. You don’t need to use it every day to get results—only twice a week will make a difference.

The Phytheol shampoo contains a dandruff-fighting blend of tamarind, comfrey, Sophora Japonica, black pepper, and Guyana wood. All together these ingredients loosen and remove flakes of dead skin and hydrate the scalp. Your hair ends up moisturized and shiny.

L'Oreal EverStrong Sulfate-Free Hair & Scalp System Thickening Shampoo

If you prefer to use a well-recognized brand that won’t cost you an arm and a leg, the L’Oreal EverStrong Shampoo is a great choice. It avoids irritating sulfates in favor of gentler surfactants, which makes better for folks with sensitive skin.

EverStrong’s goal is to purify hair from all the styling ingredients that dry out skin and cause flaking. When used with the matching conditioner, it leaves skin and hair moisturized and better able to cope with environmental stress.

Dove Shampoo for Dandruff, Dryness and Itch Relief

Another well-known brand is Dove. Their Shampoo for Dryness and Itch Relief seems to please a lot of customers. It clears out flakes while it hydrates both scalp and hair. The result is less itch, less redness, and less frizz.

The pH-balanced formula contains the active ingredient Pyrithione Zinc (1%), commonly found in dandruff shampoos. But instead of the medicinal smell that usually accompanies this component, the shampoo has a coconut shea butter scent.

Argan Oil Shampoo from Maple Holistics—to Hydrate Dry Scalp and Fight Hair Loss

Maple Holistics formulated their Argan Oil Shampoo to combat a list of woes, from dry scalp to hair loss. It’s packed with Vitamins A, B1, B2, D, and E, as well as many natural extracts that soothe and hydrate irritated, dry skin and revive fragile, dry hair.

The list of botanical ingredients contains jojoba, almond, Argan, and avocado oils, plus peach kernel, shea butter, hibiscus, and camellia. The addition of keratin serves to strengthen hair strands so hair looks and feels smooth. There are no silicones, no sulfates, and no parabens.

Kerastase Specifique Bain Riche Dermo-Calm Shampoo to Soothe Dry Scalp

Kerastase’s Specifique Bain Riche Dermo-Calm Shampoo takes away the itchiness of dry scalp and leaves hair soft, clean, and flake-free. Both male and female customers with sensitive skin have had success using this shampoo.

Eucerin DermoCapillaire Calming Urea Shampoo—Exfoliates Dry Skin and Stops the Itch, Especially for Sensitive Skin

Eucerin, the well-known manufacturer of popular lotions for dry, sensitive skin, also sells this DermoCapillaire Calming Urea Shampoo. It’s gentle enough for daily use and all hair types.

The magic ingredients are a 5% concentration of urea plus lactate polidocanol. The formula exfoliates flakes and hydrates skin to stop the itch. It moisturizes without adding oil to your hair.

Users with atopic dermatitis (allergies) and psoriasis report that the DermoCapillaire shampoo leaves their hair soft and clean. It has no fragrance, no dyes, and no silicones or parabens.

Redken Dandruff Control Scalp Relief Shampoo

Redken's Dandruff Control Scalp Relief is a product you may have seen in your local salon. It’s recommended for use on oily hair with dandruff. It contains pyrithione zinc to fight dandruff-causing fungus, plus lavender to soothe skin, and glycerin to moisturize dry strands. Users report that it has a minty scent instead of a medicinal odor.

AVEDA Invati Exfoliating Shampoo to Relieve Dry Scalp

AVEDA’s Invati Exfoliating Shampoo will make your scalp tingle. It removes dead skin and sebum to clear out follicles and unclog pores. As a result, it relaxes tense, dry scalps and helps hair grow healthy and strong.

The list of ingredients includes salicylic acid to exfoliate, as well as milk thistle and millet seed to balance skin’s natural oils. Other natural extracts include ginseng, turmeric, and wintergreen. There are no silicones or sulfates.

AVEDA Scalp Benefits Balancing Shampoo to Reduce Oiliness without Drying

The AVEDA Scalp Benefits Balancing Shampoo does not contain sulfates. Instead, it has a combination of natural ingredients to remove excess sebum and oils, but still moisturize dry scalp and hair.

Echinacea, sage leaf, burdock root, and seabuckthorn oil clear out flakes and calm down itchy skin. Users report that it helps control excess oil without over-drying.

Nioxin Scalp-Recovery Cleanser for Dry and Itchy Scalp

If you have seborrheic dermatitis and dandruff, the Nioxin Scalp Recovery Cleanser might be exactly what you need. It’s safe for color-treated hair, and helps keep extra oily hair soft and clean.

While Nioxin isn’t as powerful as prescription-strength shampoos, it comes recommended by many users who’ve had success with it. They like its minty scent and tingle, as well as the fact that it gets rid of the flaking associated with dandruff.

Selsun Blue Itchy Dry Scalp Dandruff Shampoo

Selsun Blue is a staple product that generations of dandruff sufferers have used. It’s safe for use on any hair type. And this new version has a pleasant citrus scent instead of the medicinal odor of prior formulations.

Neutrogena T/Sal Shampoo Scalp Build-Up Control, Controls Oil, Reduces Flaking

The Neutrogena T/Sal uses the power of salicylic acid to clear out extra oil and dead skin so hair doesn’t get greasy. The 3% salicylic acid formula also soothes irritated, reddened scalps and reduces the occurrence of acne.

T/Sal doesn’t have alcohols, dyes, preservatives, or fragrances so it’s safe for sensitive skin. But users warn that it can be rather drying to hair strands, so they recommend using it more on the scalp and less on the hair.

Neutrogena T/Gel Therapeutic Shampoo Original Formula, Dandruff Treatment

Instead of salicylic acid like T/Sal, the Neutrogena T/Gel Shampoo has coal tar as its active ingredient. Coal tar is a powerful anti-dandruff component. It treats dandruff caused by psoriasis and seborrheic dermatitis, and it stops scalp itch for hours at a time.

ArtNaturals Dandruff Shampoo, Coal Tar with Argan Oil, Scalp18 Therapeutic Treatment

ArtNaturals Scalp 18 Shampoo contains coal tar to soothe itchy scalps affected by dandruff. Unfortunately, this ingredient makes the shampoo smell rather like motor oil. But coal tar is one of the most effective components to stop the flaking of seborrheic dermatitis.

Meanwhile, jojoba and argan oils moisturize and soften hair strands, while rosemary and lemon oils add shine. ArtNaturals recommends letting the shampoo sit and work on hair for up to five minutes before rinsing it.

Nizoral A-D Anti-Dandruff Shampoo

Finally, we have Nizoral A-D Shampoo, possibly the most effective weapon against severe dandruff. It contains anti-fungal ingredient ketoconazole (1%) to combat both the itch and the flaking caused by the scalp’s reaction to the P. ovale fungus.

Since Nizoral can dry out hair, it’s best to use a conditioner after washing with this shampoo. But to get results, you only need to use Nizoral twice a week. And on the bright side, it has almost no scent at all and lathers up nicely, making it quite pleasant to use.

How to stop suffering from dandruff and itchy scalp

Some people are more prone to dandruff and dry scalp than others. Having naturally dry skin, very oily skin, psoriasis, or being sensitive to certain ingredients all make it more likely that you’ll have repeat experiences with flaking and itching.

But there are steps you can take to reduce your chance of getting dandruff.  Here are some tips for you:

  • Choose your hair care products Opt for ones without sulfates, synthetic perfumes, dyes, and other irritants.
  • Don’t over-style with too much gel, spray, mousse, and don’t dry out your scalp with hair dryers and curling irons.
  • Consider using a hair oil or hair mask to moisturize your scalp, or a scalp scrub to exfoliate dead skin cells.
  • Use a brush or comb that doesn’t tangle in your hair or scrape your scalp.
  • Don’t sunburn your head—wear a hat if needed in the sunshine.
  • Rinse your hair with cool water for as long as it takes to get all the shampoo and conditioner off your scalp.
  • If you find yourself unable to control flaking and itching with over-the-counter treatments , see a doctor about other treatments you can try.

Many people who tend to suffer from dandruff have found a way to eliminate it with simple adjustments to their hair care routine.


We hope you discovered the perfect shampoo for dry scalp today. Come see us again soon to view new reviews of the best hair care and beauty products.