Not sure what products to use for your dry scalp?
We asked experts to recommend some of the best shampoos and conditioners to use.
Tsippora Shainhouse, MD, FAAD
Dermatologist | Founder, StaySkinSafe
Dry-Itchy-Flaky Scalp Causes and Treatments
Dry Scalp. Winter months can mean cold, dry, windy outside air that strips natural protective oils, as well as forced heat indoors, which sucks out any remaining moisture from your scalp and hair.
- Treatment: Rub your hair conditioner into your scalp in order to moisturize it.
- Prevention: Apply a moisturizing scalp and hair mask once a week to hydrate and protect the scalp skin barrier.
- Try: Dove DermaCare Scalp Conditioner or Wella SP Balance Scalp Mask
Irritant Contact Dermatitis. Hair care products with alcohols, fragrances, acrylates, and sulfates can irritate the scalp skin and damage the protective barrier, leaving your scalp feeling itchy and tight and even red or peeling. Pinpoint the culprit product or ingredient by using the same product for a week at a time, instead of combining many at the same time.
- Treatment: Choose gentle and sensitive skin formulations while your scalp heals. Consider a topical hydrocortisone cream as needed for the itch.
- Prevention: Choose products without added fragrance, preservatives, essential oils and that contain skin-soothing ingredients like colloidal oatmeal.
- Try: Aveeno Active Naturals Pure Renewal Shampoo and Conditioner
Allergic Contact Dermatitis. There are many known contact allergens in hair care products that can lead to itchy, red, scaly patches on the scalp, ears, and forehead and even swelling and hives, all of which can last for days after exposure. Some of these include fragrances, DMDM hydantoin, imidazole urea, formaldehyde, Cocamidopropyl betaine.
- Treatment: Oral antihistamines, topical hydrocortisone and sometimes a prescription steroid pill for a few days.
- Prevention: Figure out the culprit ingredient in order to avoid it. Your dermatologist can perform contact allergy patch testing to determine which ingredients your skin doesn’t tolerate and advise you on how to find products without them.
- Try: Free and Clear Shampoo and Conditioner, which is free of the most common contact allergens. Once your skin has healed up and you have pinpointed the triggering ingredient, you can look for any shampoo or conditioner that doesn’t have that ingredient listed on the bottle.
Psoriasis. This is an autoimmune, inflammatory, crazy itchy skin condition, in which skin cells divide too quickly, causing them to build up on the scalp and skin in thick white scaly plaques with underlying skin redness. It can be confused with dandruff but does not resolve with dandruff shampoos.
- Treatment: If you think you might have this, see your dermatologist for prescription treatment.
- Prevention: smoking and alcohol and obesity have been shown to cause flares and worsen symptoms.
- Try: Neutrogena T-Gel shampoo
Seborrheic Dermatitis AKA Dandruff. This flaky scalp condition can leave you dusting off dry skin from your shirt all day, but your scalp may actually seem greasy! This is actually an irritation reaction to yeast that naturally lives on the skin, particularly greasy skin. This condition actually responds best to wash your scalp and hair more frequently and with a dandruff shampoo.
- Try: Head and Shoulders Shampoo and Conditioner and Nizoral 1% shampoo (all of which actually kill the yeast)
Owner, Juju Salon & Organics
Dry scalp is a very common affliction, and I put most of the blame on the harsh ingredients found in conventional hair care products and our obsession with over-shampooing our hair.
Dry hair and scalp is often the result of over-shampooing with products that contain SLS (Sodium Laurel Sulphates – sudsing agents), PEGs (petroleum-based polyethylene glycols used as moisture carriers and stabilizers) and parabens (preservatives linked to breast cancer). These synthetic, cheap and toxic ingredients contribute to both dry and inflammatory skin conditions.
There are many natural remedies and preventative practices to make your hair and scalp more moisture and pH balanced:
Less Shampooing or the No-Poo Trend
In general, our hair and our scalps need only small amounts of shampoos and detergents. It is well known in the industry that hair can actually be cleaned by only using a conditioner (creme rinse) and forgoing the shampoo altogether.
I recommend John Masters Organics Lavender & Avocado Conditioner.
Scalp Massage or Manipulation
Get into the habit of a weekly massage with a certified organic oil. Look for oils high in linoleic acid, an omega 6 fatty acid. Try these 3 oils which boast the highest linoleic acid content: Grapeseed, Safflower and Evening Primrose. A weekly scalp massage with these oils with revitalize and heal your scalp, with the added bonus of promoting an ideal environment for healthy hair growth. These oils will leave your scalp moisturized and your locks super shiny.
I recommend Innersense Organic Beauty’s Harmonic Healing Oil for deep hydration and nourishment.
Using Natural and Organic Hair Products
Get to the root of the problem by banishing conventional and toxic beauty products from your regime. Not sure what’s safe and organic?
Check out The Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep – Cosmetics Database. There, you’ll find third-party, lab tested analysis and rating of your favorite hair, skin, and cosmetic products. You’ll know right away what to buy and what to avoid.
LA-based Hairstylist, Martinez-Samuel Salon
My recommendation for dry scalp is the WOW Apple Cider Vinegar Shampoo and Conditioner.
These hero products work together to restore shine and nourish a dry scalp while clarifying buildup and dirt which can cause flaky dandruff. It’s the #1 selling shampoo on Amazon for a reason!
The raw, unfiltered and unpasteurized apple cider vinegar used is naturally rich in natural and healthy vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and enzymes. The alkaline nature neutralizes microbes and germs (like Malassezia, the dandruff-causing fungus) that thrive in acidic environments.
Women across the world have been using ACV for thousands of years for soft, glossy and manageable hair, and this is the easiest way to revive your hair!
Head Stylist, Pierre Michel Salon
I really like the Mon Shampoing line because you can customize your shampoo and conditioner based on your hair type.
For dry scalp, you can add the Lavender booster for dry hair to your shampoo or conditioner. They have boosters for oily hair, fine and soft, delicate and colored hair as well.
Mon Shampoing also has a great conditioning mask with keratin and goji berry that you leave in for 3-5 minutes and makes hair extremely smooth to help with any dryness.
Co-Founder, Noggin Oil
Noggin Oil was just launched at a Los Angeles VIP party with interest from the film and tv beauty industry and celebrity stylists.
Noggin Oil, it has been pointed out, isn’t just a new hair product but a groundbreaking new tool in hair care. There is literally nothing in the world like the unique Noggin Oil product line – specially formulated for sectioned hairstyles like braids, dreadlocks, and hair extensions.
It is the first beauty brand that works for all hair types. not a dry shampoo, Noggin Oil Wash “lifts away dirt, impurities, sebum, dirt, perspiration, and pollution from the scalp,” while Noggin Oil Chill and Noggin Oil Replenish provide temporary scalp pain relief and relief for dry, irritated scalps. This game-changing product line can be used on all hair types.
Angelo David Pisacreta
Owner & Creative Director, Angelo David Salon
VOL Shampoo, Conditioner, and Volumizing Spray
VOL is the first shampoo and conditioner to join the Angelo David Hair Care collection.
Unlike other volumizing products that can make hair look stiff or over-treated, VOL products were expertly formulated and tested to provide maximum fullness while leaving hair touchably soft.
They contain only the highest-quality ingredients that strengthen hair and address the issues of limp, troubled tresses from roots to ends.
Hairstyling Ambassador, BioSilk
Today, people are more conscious of healthy hair and a healthy scalp. The overuse of blow dryers, daily shampoos, and the environmental pollutants, the hair, and scalp take a beating. It is important to replenish and repair as well as using the right ingredients that will help maintain a perfect balance. Ingredients such as Silk and Organic Coconut Oil allow for moisture to be absorbed and locked in which is the key to the health of your hair, scalp, and skin.
Biosilk Silk Therapy with Organic Coconut Oil Shampoo and Conditioner
BioSilk Silk Therapy & Organic Coconut Oil Shampoo and Conditioner is specifically formulated to cleanse and nourish the hair, scalp, and skin while also providing intense moisture. Infused with organic coconut oil and silk, it is gentle enough for daily use and offers moisturizing oils the skin needs. Removes impurities, adds moisture, maintains healthy hair and provides a subtle glow to the skin. Improves overall condition by preventing damage and relieving dryness, creating incredible softness and shine.
Biosilk Organic Virgin Coconut Oil
Lightweight and quick absorbing certified organic virgin coconut oil contains many essential fatty acids which nourish the hair and skin while acting as a gentle moisturizing agent. Conditions the hair from within, protecting it from heat and environmental damage. As a rich natural moisturizer, coconut oil leaves skin soft and supple. Improves the overall condition of the hair, scalp, and skin by adding luster, shine, and softness.
- Known as beauty oil for multi-uses.
- Protects against heat and environmental damage.
- Adds incredible shine and softness.
- Helps to lock in moisture.
- Relieves dryness.
With Silk containing 17 of the 19 amino acids found in hair, it is one of the strongest fibers in the world equal to steel. Silk Therapy revitalizes and rejuvenates both hair and skin with its weightless formula. It hydrates as silk holds moisture and provides unparalleled shine and reflection due to its Triangular Molecular Structure.
Phyllis Marlene Benstein
Beauty Influencer | “Global Hair Diva” |
Founding Leader and Independent Market Partner, Monat Global
Replenish Masque by Monat
So many people suffer from dry hair and a dry scalp. Environmental factors including pollutants, low humidity, combined with our diets, chemical make up along with the products we put on our heads all contribute to dryness.
Choosing non-toxic, naturally botanically based products that are nutrient and antioxidant-rich are your first step to a happy and healthy scalp and head of hair.
This amazing hydrating product is Vegan, Gluten Free, Cruelty-Free, 100% Toxin-free and naturally botanically based. Say goodbye to damaging and drying toxins that enter your bloodstream through your scalp in about 26 seconds or less.
It is recommended to be used twice a week. After shampooing, apply from roots to ends and leave in 5 to 10 minutes, the longer the better. It repairs and hydrates damaged and moisture starved hair while delivering vital nutrients to help eliminate frizz and reduce split ends. The hair cuticle is opened up to allow these key nutrients, proteins, and hydration to the hair shaft.
The key ingredients are Rejuvenique Oil, Capixyl, Procatlyne, and Cordasorb:
- Rejuvenique oil. A blend of 14 + essential oils and powerful active botanicals. The main oil is a rare Abyssinian. This oil has a low molecular weight and penetrates all four levels of the hair shaft.
- Capixyl. A red clover extract increases blood flow to and protects the scalp while strengthening and thickening the hair. Additionally, it supports natural hair growth.
- Procataline. A green pea extract helps maintain needed levels of antioxidants to the hair follicle to help combat early thinning and protects your hair’s shine and color.
- Cordasorb protects your hair from the damaging UVA and UVB rays from the sun.
Janine Van Throo
Natural Hair Therapist | Product Formulator |
Founder, Just Natural Consulting and Sisay Cosmetics
What makes a good shampoo? Before we answer that, let’s look at what a shampoo is for first. Shampoos are meant to cleanse and there are different types of shampoo. Shampoos for dry hair need to be free from ingredients that are drying out.
But when is a shampoo the best shampoo?
To start, as a natural hair therapist, I make a distinction between shampoo for hair and shampoo for the scalp. I often get the question why I make that distinction. The answer is simple, hair is a biologically dead material, your scalp is not.
Your hair has other needs when it comes to cleansing and treatment then your scalp. You don’t use the same product to wash the dishes that you wash your car with right? Why not? Because both need to be addressed and treated differently. The same goes for your hair and scalp.
Our hair is a remarkable fiber. Even though it is dead material, it does react to certain factors. Heat, environment, wind and much more.
However, once your hair is damaged, there is nothing you can do or do, to permanently repair it. There is no cell growth that can repair the hair you have on your head. The only thing you can do is use products to help manipulate your hair to do what you want it to do.
If you are having damaged hair, the best shampoo would be one that contains an ingredient that can temporarily repair the damage.
For dry hair, this means your shampoo should contain ingredients that will condition the hair instead of drying it out. For the scalp, it means the same. Ingredients like for instance aloe vera, honey, and glycerine that act as humectants and will draw moisture to the scalp.
The best shampoo will be the one that gives your hair or your scalp the best result of what it is you are looking for.
The Scalp cleanser, shampoo specifically formulated for the scalp, acts as an exfoliator. It helps you get rid of the dead skin cells on your scalp and helps fight dandruff at the same time.
Celebrity Hair Stylist | Founder, Wen Hair and Body Care
The WEN Tea Tree Cleansing Conditioner is great for hair and scalp issues, like dryness!
It is designed to help with hair and scalp issues. This unique blend helps promote healthy hair and reduce scalp sensitivity and dryness. Tea tree oil stimulates the scalp and follicles and helps relieve itchiness and flakiness.
Co-Founder, Phuse Beauty™
Phuse Beauty’s Hydration Head Case Shampoo and Repairman Conditioner are gentle and safe for color-treated hair, and free of drying sulfate and sodium chloride so your hair and scalp are protected.
Hydration Head Case Shampoo has Argan Oil to keep your hair clean (and shiny!) with just the right amount of moisture. Repairman Conditioner leaves hair more manageable and easier to detangle and is fortified with Keratin Protein to help mend damaged hair.
Founder, Love & Snow
100% Natural Hair and Scalp Serum
Whether you’re suffering from dry scalp causing scalp inflammation, hair loss, redness, irritation, or flaky scalp conditions, Love & Snow’s 100% Natural Hair and Scalp Serum acts as a leave-in conditioner and will help calm your scalp and keep it hydrated. The serum is made of natural essential oils and consists of the perfect combination of minerals, antioxidants, and vitamins to nourish all types of dry scalps.
Marketing & Communications Associate, Tony Odisho
The first step toward having a healthy scalp is having a clean one. Most shampoos are filled with parabens, sulfates, and other damaging ingredients that dry out the hair and scalp and can even compromise the hair’s color.
The Ostia Collection Clarifying Shampoo, however, has none of these ingredients and it is specially formulated to remove excess oil as well as built up residue from styling products. Using a clarifying shampoo like this one is absolutely essential to maintaining a healthy, hydrated scalp. We recommend using it every 1-2 weeks and alternating with your favorite shampoo in between.