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On the hunt for the best shampoo for a dry scalp? Whether it’s caused by a change in environment or the products you’re using, a tight and itchy scalp can stem from any number of factors. Though it’s hard to pinpoint the exact culprit without having a derm or trichologist take a closer look, the good news is that the solutions are straightforward, in most cases.
For starters, you can try scaling back on how often you wash. Pending your hair type, overwashing can actually strip the scalp of its natural oils, and further the cycle of dryness. When you do wash, check your water temperature. While a scaling hot shower might feel nice, it’s also incredibly drying on your hair and skin. Try going for a warm or even lukewarm shower when you can (or at least limit the time spent in there).
And finally, choose your products carefully. You’ll want to avoid any drying ingredients like certain alcohols and sulfates, and instead look for hydrating and balancing ingredients that are gentle on your scalp.
We’ll get you started with 16 options ahead.
RELATED: What is a Scalp Detox and Do I Actually Need One?
Best for Daily Use
Created by a Scandinavian haircare brand that treats hair loss and thinning, their mild shampoo gently removes excess oils and dead skin cells from your scalp, while balancing the pH, so it feels nourished and clean. Tip: After massaging the shampoo into your scalp, leave it in for 30 seconds before rinsing it out; repeat with a second shampoo for best results.
$36 at Amazon
Best Drugstore
Oftentimes, a dry scalp is accompanied by dandruff, and many dandruff shampoos that clear up flakes can also be drying on your strands. Luckily, the team at Dove cracked the code with this shampoo. Featuring pyrithione zinc to effectively tackle dandruff and buttressing it with hydrating coconut oil and shea butter, this flake fighter is surprisingly mild, and even moisturizing, on the rest of your hair.
$5 at Amazon
Best for Fine Hair
If your skin is easily irritated, you may appreciate this hypoallergenic and dermatologist-approved shampoo that was formulated for people with sensitivities to fragrance, essential oils, lactose, soy and gluten. With scalp soothing aloe vera and oat milk, it reduces any dryness-related itchiness or tightness. (Note: Reviewers have reported that this formula works best on fine hair, so if you have thicker strands, maybe skip to one of the others on the list.)
Buy it ($26)
Best for Curly Hair
This creamy shampoo gently cleanses your scalp of any residue or product buildup, while adding back moisture with manuka honey and ceramides. The rich formula is especially forgiving on dry, frizzy hair, and the warm tuberose and jasmine scent lingers until your next wash.
Buy it ($35)
Best for Combination Scalps
If your scalp sitch is both oily and dry, we feel your pain and we raise you this deep cleaning scalp wash from salon favorite, Kevin Murphy. Made with micellar water (yes, like the makeup remover) and celery seed extract, it gently dissolves any buildup and extra oils from your scalp, while rose water and coconut oil soothe any itchiness and hydrate dry ends.
$42 at Amazon
Best Scent
Like its name suggests, this sensorially pleasing shampoo is made with—and thus, smells like—peonies. Fresh, bright and lovely. Plus, the pH-balanced formula helps soothe irritated and sensitive scalps, while being gentle enough to use on color treated hair.
$20 at Amazon
Most Hydrating
Shu Uemura’s cleansing oil shampoo is a stylist and editor favorite because, as its name implies, it acts similarly to a cleansing oil you’d use on your face. In short, it has a nice slip to it and is incredibly gentle, though it still produces a rich foam. With a subtle citrus scent and loaded with hydrating plant and fruit oils, it leaves your scalp and strands in a state of blissful equilibrium.
Buy it ($58)
Best for Itchy Scalps
Formulated with a potent duo of sulfur and salicylic acid, this clarifying shampoo soothes itchy scalps, while clearing up any surface flakes. Add rosemary oil, which helps to rebalance your skin, and olive and jojoba oils to condition the lengths, and we never want to be without it.
Buy it ($11)
Best Natural
Who doesn’t want to indulge in a hydrating hairbath from time to time? This rich cream wash is packed with essential oils like sage and tamanu to balance your scalp, while emollients like avocado oil and shea butter smooth the cuticle of parched strands. The clean formula is supremely hydrating, yet lightweight, and gets rid of grease without stripping your hair dry.
Buy it ($28)
Best Scrub
Does one actually need a scalp scrub? Why yes, it turns out we do. This one has a whipped texture that lathers nicely as you massage it into your scalp. With Himalayan pink salt, cold-pressed moringa oil and unfiltered rosehip oil (this is GP, after all), it makes our hair feel shiny and new.
Buy it ($42)
Best for Thinning Hair
Avid reviewers on Amazon (there are over 20,000 as of writing) claim this shampoo has led to less hair shedding with continued use. Upon closer inspection of the ingredients, we see it includes biotin, vitamins, amino acids and over 17 DHT herbs that nourish, cleanse and protect your scalp with every wash.
$30 at Amazon
Best for Weak Hair
For those with chemically treated strands and a perpetually dry scalp, this balancing shampoo will become your shower MVP. Zinc pyrithione tackles dandruff, while squalene and coconut oil soften and strengthen the mid-lengths and ends. (We don’t mind the minty fresh aroma either.)
$26 at Amazon
Best Bar Shampoo
If you’re really looking to cut down on space and waste, you’ll love this three-in-one bar from Wildland Organics. Made with saponified sunflower, coconut and castor oils, it gently cleans from tip to toe (or, to be more specific, from scalp to strands to face to the rest of your body). Imbued with Palo Santo and Gotu Kola (an ancient Chinese herb), it fills your shower with a grounding earthy scent that’s calming. The brand really (ahem) raised the bar on its packaging as well; it’s made from post-consumer recycled paper and is 100 percent recyclable.
Buy it ($16)
Best for Skin Conditions
Sometimes a dry scalp is caused by certain skin conditions like eczema. And as anyone with eczema knows, the key to preventing and treating flare-ups can be to pare down the number of potentially irritating ingredients that you encounter. This gentle formula has plant-based cleansers and colloidal oatmeal so you can cleanse from tip-to-toe without worry.
Buy it ($17)
The Derm Pick
If you’re looking for a simple shampoo that is free of pretty much every possible irritant (from fragrance to parabens to sulfates and formaldeyhyde), this dermatologist pick will cleanse your scalp and strands sufficiently. You just need to know how to use it correctly—which is to say, shampoo twice and really work it into your scalp both times, as the formula does not lather like conventional formulas do.
$10 at Amazon
Best Splurge
We’re suckers for packaging, so when a product is as effective as it is good-looking, it’s a win-win. This salon-quality shampoo features gentle salicylic acid to slough away flakes, plus soothing active ingredients (like orange and lemon extract) to keep them from coming back. But the real game changer is the addition of botanicals like bilberry fruit and sugar maple extract, which maintain moisture and protect against free radicals when we lather up. (It’s like an anti-aging treatment for your scalp.)
Buy it ($46)
RELATED: The 25 Best Hair Masks to Keep Your Hair Healthy Until Your Next Appointment
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