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Dry scalps are just like dry skin anywhere else on your body. The condition is caused by certain climates (such as cold temperatures or a lack of humidity), sun exposure, using the wrong hair care products, or any number of other possibilities, and the treatment is similar to treating dry skin elsewhere, too. In short, the best dry scalp products and treatments — which comprise everything from shampoos and ACV rinses to leave-in conditioners and oils — all contain gentle nourishing ingredients to soothe and hydrate your skin. Also, when you have a dry scalp, try to reduce the frequency of shampooing, so long as that works for your hair type. Overall, it’s best to stick to gentle products that won’t strip the oils from your scalp and make it even drier.
Because dry scalps can lead to flaking, irritation, and itching, it can be easy to mistake a dry scalp for dandruff. Dandruff, though, is best treated by using medicated dandruff shampoos, while dry scalps really just need moisturizing and soothing products. If you’re unsure about which condition you’re dealing with, it’s best to speak with a dermatologist.
Similarly, if after switching up your hair care routine you’re still experiencing flaking or another form of scalp discomfort, it’s also a good idea to speak with a dermatologist to make sure you don’t have any other skin conditions that might be causing your symptoms.
To help get you started on your healthy-scalp journey, scroll on to shop the best treatments for dry scalps (which should help make your hair less dry, too).
1. The Best Hydrating Shampoo For Dry Scalps
This pH-balanced shampoo from Neutrogena contains hyaluronic acid, an ingredient that’s known for its ability to attract and retain moisture, to hydrate both your scalp and your hair. The formula is sulfate-free and therefore safe for color-treated hair, and since it contains lightweight hydrators rather than rich, heavy moisturizers, it’s a solid choice for all hair types — even fine hair that tends to get weighed down easily. It does contain fragrance, however, so if you have a known sensitivity to scented hair products, keep scrolling.
Editor’s note: You can find more of the best drugstore shampoos for dry scalps, here.
2. The Best Fragrance-Free Shampoo For Dry Scalps
For some people, it’s their shampoo or other hair care products that are causing their scalp dryness, due to ingredients to which they may have an unknown allergy or sensitivity. If you suspect fragrance might be the culprit behind any scalp dryness or irritation you’re experiencing, try switching to Free & Clear shampoo, which made without just about every potential irritant imaginable, including dyes, fragrance, preservatives, sulfates, gluten, and parabens. Naturally, that makes this a popular shampoo among people with all sorts of scalp and skin conditions, including eczema, dermatitis, and psoriasis. You can buy the matching conditioner, here.
3. The Best Conditioner For Dry Scalps
A gentle drugstore conditioner at a great price, Aveeno’s Rose Water & Chamomile Blend Conditioner is free of sulfates, parabens, and dyes, and and was made especially to care for sensitive scalps (as is the line’s shampoo). It contains a blend of soothing oatmeal, rose water, and chamomile, which work together to carefully condition your hair, leaving it soft and silky, while keeping your scalp calm and hydrated, too.
Editor’s note: You can find more of the best conditioners for dry scalps, here.
4. The Best Apple Cider Vinegar Rinse For Dry Scalps
R+Co’s Acid Wash rinse is made with apple cider vinegar, aloe, and fatty acid-rich tamanu seed oil to soften and moisturize your hair while giving your scalp an overall refresh. Apple cider vinegar is one of those does-it-all ingredients: It cleanses, removes buildup, enhances shine, and does so much more without being too harsh or drying, which is why basically anyone can use it, whatever their hair and skin type.
Apply this color-safe rinse to your scalp with the convenient spout applicator, leave it on for one to three minutes, then rinse it out for shiny, healthy hair and a scalp that’s been gently cleansed. One Amazon reviewer wrote, “My favorite product. I have thick, straight hair and have had a lot of problems with dry scalp and this does a great job of cleaning my hair without stripping it. Also leaves my hair with a natural shine.” Another person called it a “must-have” for people with psoriasis or dry scalps.
5. The Best Leave-In Treatment For Dry Scalps
Made with moisturizing glycerin, calming niacinamide, softening urea, and hydrating sodium hyaluronate, Living Proof’s Scalp Care Dry Scalp Treatment provides immediate and long-term relief to all sorts of dry scalp symptoms, including itching and flaking. For a balanced, comfortable-feeling scalp, apply this silicone-free treatment to clean, damp hair that’s been sectioned, massage it in, and then style as usual.
6. The Best Scalp Treatment For Protective Styles
Gabrielle Union’s popular hair care line, Flawless, includes this Scalp Soothing Tonic treatment, which is full of soothing and moisturizing ingredients like aloe vera, bacuri butter, peppermint, and tea tree oil, which is not only refreshing and cleansing, but also helps to remove residue and buildup caused by dry, flaky skin. The bottle has a handy, pointed applicator nozzle that makes it particularly useful for applying to your scalp without messing up your protective style or weave.
7. The Best Hair Oil For Dry Scalps
If you prefer to use a hair oil to moisturize your scalp, consider this Carol’s Daughter Goddess Strength 7 Oil Blend Scalp & Hair Oil, which, like the Flawless product above, was also designed to be easily applied to your scalp without disrupting your protective style (if you wear one), thanks to the pointed-tip nozzle. It’s a blend of nourishing ingredients, including castor, sunflower, olive, jojoba, coconut, flax, and black cumin oils, that adds a ton of moisture back to dry scalps and also helps strengthen hair that’s been damaged. You can apply this to your scalp, and/or to the ends of your hair, too.
Hyaluronic acid: A key molecule in skin aging, by Eleni Papakonstantinou, Michael Roth, and George Karakiulakis; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3583886/