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 need something to relieve the dryness.
Give your hair the care it needs by washing it with a gentle and moisturizing shampoo, paired with a moisturizing conditioner. Let’s take a look at the best shampoos that can boost hydration and provide some relief.
Top 24 Product Reviews for Dry, Itchy, Flakey & Irritated Scalp
We’ll begin with gentle shampoos that clarify and moisturize, then move on to powerful over-the-counter dandruff-fighters.
Christina Moss Naturals Shampoo
If you have dry and itchy scalp and sensitive scalp, then this product is a must-try for you. Its gentle cleansing and moisturizing formula are comprised of all natural and certified organic ingredients such as coconut oil, olive oil, sunflower oil, aloe vera, shea butter, and rosemary extract. It's mild enough that it is even safe for use on babies.
This stands out from other natural products as it does not irritate the scalp and cause itchiness, as other natural products may still irritate sensitive scalp or skin, according to its users. You may need to give it some time, though, for its moisturizing properties to work on your scalp and hair.
Maple Holistics Pure Tea Tree Oil Shampoo
The tea tree oil content of this natural, paraben-free and sulfate-free shampoo makes it a great anti-dandruff shampoo due to its anti-fungal, antibacterial and moisturizing properties. Aside from soothing dry, itchy and flaky scalp, it also promotes fast hair growth and regrowth and acts as a head lice treatment shampoo (due to its rosemary and lavender ingredients).
Really effective natural anti-dandruff shampoo- really worth the value for your money.
Regenepure DR Shampoo
If you think caffeine only comes from your coffee or tea, well, think again. Regenepure DR Shampoo, a dry scalp relief shampoo (for flaky scalp) contains caffeine as one of its key ingredients. Caffeine has been found to stimulate hair growth as conducted in a laboratory experiment in a study published in the International Journal of Dermatology (2007). This shampoo’s unique blend of aloe vera, saw palmetto, caffeine, jojoba oil and niacin purifies and cleanses and revitalizes hair and scalp. Plus, it’s free from sulfates, parabens and harsh chemicals.
That’s a lot of benefits in a bottle, right?
Brigeo Scalp Revival Charcoal + Coconut Oil Micro-Exfoliating Shampoo
You’ll definitely feel fresh and clean after washing with this shampoo. Its natural formulation comes with vegetable-derived micro-exfoliators to remove dead skin cells and build-up on your scalp. It also contains charcoal which absorbs oil and dirt from your scalp. Added to it are essential oils such as peppermint and spearmint oil for calming and soothing effect along with tea tree oil for healthier scalp and hair.
Is it all natural or does it contain synthetic ingredients? It is 98% naturally derived and it does not contain sulfates, silicones, phthalates, parabens, DEA, or artificial dyes.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
100% Pure Burdock and Neem Healthy Scalp Shampoo
The interesting thing about this product is its unique formulation of burdock root and neem oil. Burdock root is known during ancient times as a medicinal herb for promoting healthy hair, relieving scalp irritation and improving its condition. Neem, also known as a “wonder plant”, has anti-fungal properties for fighting dandruff.
This all-natural product works well for eliminating flakes and for seborrhea or seborrheic dermatitis causing dandruff. Users attest that they’ve experienced the wonders that this product can do for their itchy, flaky and irritated scalp.
LivSO Moisturizing Shampoo
It delivers what its name says – it really moisturizes your scalp and hair. Its coconut oil and shea butter content are the ingredients behind its effective moisturizing properties.
Aside from this, it boasts of its other core ingredients: Xylitol which helps maintain healthy skin flora to prevent the growth of yeasts which cause scalp flaking, itching, and irritation and glycolic acid which acts as an exfoliant for that “cleaner scalp” feeling.
OGX Morrocan Argan Oil Shampoo
Morrocan Argan Oil, famous for its moisturizing properties, makes this shampoo a good choice in nourishing your scalp and hair. Aside from this, it adds strength and softness to your precious locks while maintaining its volume. It’s made with no sulfates and parabens. Another plus is its irresistible smell which makes it a favorite shampoo.
Dry Scalp or Dandruff?
The words dandruff and dry scalp are often used interchangeably. It’s hard to tell the difference since they both cause the scalp to be irritated, itchy and shed off flakes. But, truth is, they are not the same condition and should be treated differently.
If your scalp is dry, it will feel tight and sensitive. it’s likely your hair looks dry too – i.e. frizzy and dull-looking. If your skin overall tends to be dry, then its very likely your scalp is dry. This type of flakes are smaller and whiter.
Dandruff flakes appear to be bigger, yellowish and oily. The scalp feels oily, hair looks greasy and lots of itching (even if the scalp does not feel dry).
Why Your Scalp feels Dry, Flakey and Itchy
Before we dive deeper into what can relieve your dry scalp, we should understand the underlying reason for its dryness to begin with.
This condition can be triggered by different factors:
- Weather: especially cold, dry air during winter
- Contact dermatitis: irritation or reaction to irritants in your hair care products. The worst Offenders are sodium laureth sulfate and sodium lauryl sulfate, also known as SLS.
- Dietary deficiencies
- Hormonal conditions
- Medications: can have this side effect i.e. oral acne treatment effects
- Older age
- Excessive hair washing
- Psoriasis: an auto-immune disease which causes redness, inflammation, flakes, and itching. The patches are more scaly than flaky. There will be a buildup of dead skin that blocks hair follicles and prevents moisturizing products from working.
- Seborrheic Dermatitis: an allergic reaction to foods, stress, or personal care products. You will see a combination of clumps of oily skin flakes or yellow scales
If you suspect the reason for your dry scalp is either of the last two, you should consult a doctor for treatment. For everything else, we can make small changes in our haircare to prevent dryness.
Steps to Prevent Dryness
The good news is, for most cases, you can go through and check if there’s changes you should make to your haircare routine.
Avoid hair products with harsh chemical ingredients
Steer clear of those containing bleach and alcohol as these hair products can cause irritation leading to scalp dryness. Avoid oily hair products that can cause oil buildup on the scalp.
Switch to hydrating or moisturizing shampoos
There are lots of products, even moisturizing organic shampoos, available to address dry scalp conditions.
Shampoo less frequently
Too much shampooing can rob it of its natural oils. Consider washing your hair about once every three to four days
Exfoliate your scalp
Scalp exfoliation removes excess skin cells, oil, dirt, build-up, and dandruff via the use of physical or chemical exfoliants. This lets your healthy new hair grow out.
Deep Condition your Scalp
There are many at home treatments you can do to add moisture back into your scalp. Do these at least once a week to condition your dry skin.
Using a humidifier
To keep skin & scalp from getting dry, use a humidifier at home. Especially during the times when the air is very dry.
How to Exfoliate Your Scalp
Exfoliation is simply removing the dead skin cells sitting on top of your skin. This invigorates the scalp and makes it softer and cleaner. Over time, you’ll see healthier and shinier hair from the roots to the tips. Try to exfoliate once a week. (Don’t overdo it or else your scalp may react negatively– and overproduce oil.)
- Start off with wet and washed hair
- Comb through and separate your hair into sections
- Apply the scrub using your fingers
- Massage the scrub in. Start at the crown of your head with small circular motions and go outwards. Use your fingertips to keep it gentle.
- Rinse thoroughly after scrubbing.
- Follow with a conditioner after exfoliation.
Your scalp may feel more sensitive after exfoliation. Avoid direct sunlight after doing this. To add protection, you may apply a spray-on sunscreen to your scalp/ hair and wear a hat if you need to go outdoors.
If you need a scrub to start exfoliating your scalp, we recommend this one:
LOréal Paris Ever Fresh Micro-Exfoliating Scrub
Their salon quality product, made with botanical materials, makes use of apricot seeds for scrubbing your scalp to remove impurities, flakes, dirt and oil build-up. It also is sulfate and paraben- free.
And it’s got good feedback – it takes out the build-up, takes care of your scalp issues, smells great and won’t wash out your hair color – definitely a great value for your buck.
How to Add Extra Hydration At Home
Do a hot oil or deep conditioning treatment at least once a week moisturize the scalp. Here’s how:
- Start with damp washed hair
- Heat up your oil for about a minute or less (do this with caution). You can microwave or steam it to heat it up.
- Test on your wrist and it should feel warm, not hot
- Massage the warm oil into your scalp and hair strands. Work in circular motions.
- Wrap your hair with cling wrap or a plastic bag to keep the oil from getting everywhere.
- Use a warm towel and wrap it over the cling wrap. This will open all the pores on your scalp and let the oil moisturize deeply.
- Let it absorb for about 30 minute to work its magic
- Rinse with a gentle shampoo and conditioner (if your hair ends tend to feel dry)
- Apply a moisture-sealing hair treatment to your scalp. Check out our recommendations below.
Deep Conditioning Treatment: True Pure Palmetto Conditioner
This natural hair conditioner mask contains argan oil, coconut oil, jojoba oil and other natural extracts for treating and moisturizing hair and scalp. The makers of this great product did not include any fragrance or perfume but used natural orange peel oil for the Vitamin C benefits and the aroma. So if you’re scalp/ skin is sensitive to fragrances, then this product is made just for you.
Deep Conditioning Treatment: Amplixin Hydrating Hair Mask
If you're looking for a hydrating mask with fast visible results – then you ought to give this product a try. It's very popular and has got excellent reviews.
Their secret? Their Argan oil, coconut oil and Ampligro Complex (Rosemary oil, Peptide complex, red clover, saw palmetto, caffeine and jojoba oil) – all these combined to give your hair and scalp the much-needed nourishment. Though not an all-natural product, it is sulfate and paraben free.
Conditioner: Maple Holistics Pure Tea Tree Oil Conditioner
Pair your favorite Maple Holistics Pure Tea Tree Oil Shampoo with their conditioner. It’s an anti-dandruff property help relieve scalp itchiness, dryness, and flaking while strengthening hair - taming frizz and repairing the damage. This product owes its versatility to its various natural powerful ingredients consisting of argan oil, green tea, jojoba, organic pomegranate, hibiscus, Sea Buckthorn, Botanical Keratin, Lavander Oil, Rosemary Oil, and Shea Butter.
A lot of good reviews makes this a popular choice among natural conditioners.
Conditioner: LivSo Moisturizing Conditioner
LivSo Moisturizing Conditioner is part of their 3-part hair care system consisting of a shampoo, conditioner and a moisturizing lotion. Their conditioner, used in conjunction with their shampoo relieves itchy scalp. The LivSo Moisturizing system is designed to create a healthy scalp and hair environment for all hair types, even for those with curly and kinky hair, where finding scalp relief is rather more difficult.
Bonus FAQ: Does Dry Scalp Cause Hair Loss
When it comes to scalp condition, dryness, itching, and irritation always come together. If the scalp is scratched aggressively, or it gets very irritated, then your scalp is not conducive for hair follicle growth. Consequently, hair loss could occur.
Relieving your dry scalp is possible! You need to first understand what's causing it, then follow the right steps to tackle the problem. We hope you discovered the perfect shampoo to hydrate your dry scalp today.
If you have color-treated hair, we found the best dandruff shampoos for color-treated hair.