11 Best Shampoos for a Dry Scalp, Tested and Reviewed in 2024

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1

best overall dry scalp shampoo

Sachajuan Scalp Shampoo

Scalp Shampoo

1

best overall dry scalp shampoo

Sachajuan Scalp Shampoo

Pros
  • Contains antifungal ingredients
  • Menthol provides a nice cooling sensation
Cons
  • Users say they run through it pretty fast
  • Contains sulfates, which can be a bit drying

This baby earns my number one spot as the best overall scalp shampoo thanks to its powerful blend of exfoliating salicylic acid and antifungal ingredients (hi, climbazole and piroctone olamine!). These ingredients help treat my dry, itchy scalp and dandruff, all while still providing soothing relief thanks to the added menthol and rosemary oil, which leaves my scalp with a cooling, calming sensation.

  • Size: 8.4 fl oz
  • Key ingredients: Salicyclic acid, climbazole, piroctone olamine
  • Sulfate-free? No

Glowing Customer Review: “I can’t remember how I stumbled upon this product, but about a year ago I had the worst dandruff I’ve ever had. Within a few days [of using this], it started getting better. My sister recommended I use the Aussie 3-Minute Miracle for conditioner as well, and between those two, I have not had any dandruff in a year.”

2

best dry scalp shampoo for curly and coily hair

Maple Holistics Tea Tree Shampoo

Tea Tree Shampoo

2

best dry scalp shampoo for curly and coily hair

Maple Holistics Tea Tree Shampoo

Now 16% Off

Pros
  • Sulfate-free formula
  • Effectively clarifies without overdrying, per testers
Cons
  • May be too clarifying for some people
  • Doesn’t lather as well as some would like

Although dermatologists agree that essential oils may be potentially irritating (more on that below), tea tree oil is actually great for dry scalps due to its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. This is a great clarifying shampoo for curly hair, though make sure to not overdo it, because it also contains rosemary oil, which—along with the tea tree oil—can lead to irritation for some people with sensitive skin. However, because the oils are diluted, it should be okay for most.

  • Size: 8 fl oz
  • Key ingredients: Tea tree oil, rosemary oil
  • Sulfate-free? Yes* (*but still contains strong, sulfate-free cleansers that can be a bit drying)

Glowing Customer Review: “I purchased this for dry scalp. What I wasn’t expected is that this shampoo helps define my naturally curly hair. My hair has more volume when I use this shampoo and the curls have more bounce, which is great! I will order again.”

3

best hydrating dry scalp shampoo

Pureology Nanoworks Gold Shampoo

Nanoworks Gold Shampoo

3

best hydrating dry scalp shampoo

Pureology Nanoworks Gold Shampoo

Pros
  • Keeps hair looking super smooth and silky
  • A little product goes a long way
Cons
  • Some reviewers write that the scent is strong for their sensitive noses
  • You may have to clarify more often to avoid protein overload

There are very few (if any) shampoos that I will attest can give my hair the moisture that this baby can. The Pureology Nanoworks Gold Shampoo is my holy-grail shampoo when I’m experiencing winter dryness and an itchy scalp, as it comes packed with ultra-hydrating marula oil for soothing skin and hair-strengthening complex Keravis for coating strands with moisture. I promise, once you try it, you’ll love it as much as I do.

  • Size: 9 fl oz
  • Key ingredients: Keravis, golden marula oil
  • Sulfate-free? Yes* (*but still contains strong, sulfate-free cleansers that can be a bit drying)

Glowing Customer Review: “I bleach my hair to an ash blonde balayage, and it has been an incredibly cold, dry winter, so my hair is brittle, frizzy, dry, and unmanageable. After one use of this, I can see and feel a difference. Pureology is always worth the money, in my opinion.”

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4

best shampoo for sensitive, dry scalps

Vanicream Shampoo for Sensitive Skin

Shampoo for Sensitive Skin

4

best shampoo for sensitive, dry scalps

Vanicream Shampoo for Sensitive Skin

Pros
  • Free of alcohol, fragrance, and essential oils
  • Testers with sensitive skin <3 this one
Cons
  • Not the prettiest or most ~luxe~ product
  • Doesn’t leave hair feeling as hydrated as some hoped

No, it’s not pretty, and no, it won’t look that cute on your vanity, but people listen up: This sh*t works. Dry, itchy, inflamed scalps are already sensitive enough, and adding a product containing all sorts of iffy ingredients and fragrances to the area doesn’t sound like the best idea. Enter: The Vanicream Shampoo, which is free of literally every irritating and potentially questionable ingredient there is. Your road to a soothed, hydrated, and flake-free scalp is possible with this bb.

  • Size: 12 fl oz
  • Key ingredients: Glycerin, panthenol
  • Sulfate-free? Yes

Glowing Customer Review: “Some of the best shampoo on the market. Your hair will feel more amazing than ever. Scent free so shouldn’t have any allergic reaction. Very good for dry/sensitive scalps when you want to lay off the heavy-duty stuff.”

5

best dry scalp shampoo for dandruff

DHS SAL Shampoo

SAL Shampoo

5

best dry scalp shampoo for dandruff

DHS SAL Shampoo

Pros
  • Great option for maintaining your dandruff treatment
  • Leaves scalps feeling squeaky-clean, per reviewers
Cons
  • Some testers found it stripped their hair a bit
  • May need to combine with steroid treatment for severe dandruff

She may not be cute, but this no-nonsense formula means serious business, trust. Using my favorite active ingredient ever, salicylic acid, this shampoo effectively breaks down scales and scalp buildup, which can be the result of seborrheic dermatitis. If you have psoriasis, your derm may recommend this—or another over-the-counter shampoo—combo’d with a prescribed steroid treatment.

  • Size: 4 fl oz
  • Key ingredient: Salicylic acid
  • Sulfate-free? No

Glowing Customer Review: “This product has helped relieve the itchiness and reduced my dry scalp. I do not use this every time I wash my hair, but when I compare it to the shampoos I alternate with, this does wonders. With regular shampoos, I start itching the next day or so, while with the DHS SAL Shampoo, I do not itch for about two+ days. “

6

best exfoliating dry scalp shampoo

Briogeo Scalp Revival Charcoal + Coconut Oil Micro-Exfoliating Shampoo

Scalp Revival Charcoal + Coconut Oil Micro-Exfoliating Shampoo

6

best exfoliating dry scalp shampoo

Briogeo Scalp Revival Charcoal + Coconut Oil Micro-Exfoliating Shampoo

Pros
  • Really gets in there and scrubs away dead skin
  • Packed with coconut oil for soothing irritated scalps
Cons
  • Should only be used once every one or two weeks
  • Not everyone loves the minty scent

A lot of times, a dry scalp can be the result of product buildup that needs a good ol’ scrubbin’. The Briogeo Scalp Revival exfoliating shampoo does exactly that, using binchotan charcoal to clear congested hair follicles—all while tea tree and peppermint oil leave behind a cooling sensation, which will provide tingly relief to your scalp after treating it.

  • Size: 8 fl oz
  • Key ingredients: Coconut oil, charcoal powder, tea tree oil, peppermint oil
  • Sulfate-free? Yes* (*but still contains strong, sulfate-free cleansers that can be a bit drying)

Glowing Customer Review: “I always get the worst dry itchy scalp in the winter, leading to flakes. I have been using this once a week and have found that it helps. It has a light minty scent and goes through hair and scalp easily. It leaves hair feeling a bit stripped, but I follow up with a conditioning treatment to bring back moisture. Scalp has been looking and feeling much better!”

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7

best fragrance-free shampoo for dry scalps

Nécessaire The Shampoo

The Shampoo

7

best fragrance-free shampoo for dry scalps

Nécessaire The Shampoo

Pros
  • Contains great active ingredients
  • Incredibly effective but still v gentle
Cons
  • May need to follow up with a hydrating conditioner
  • A bit too clarifying for extra-sensitive folks

If you want a gentle, fragrance-free shampoo that’s *chef’s kiss* on sensitive skin and will look pretty on your vanity, pop the Nécessaire Shampoo into your cart ASAP. Hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, and panthenol work together as a powerhouse trio of ingredients to soothe a dry, itchy scalp, all while a celery seed extract known as Apiscalp helps to minimize buildup.

  • Size: 8.4 fl oz
  • Key ingredients: Hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, panthenol
  • Sulfate-free? Yes* (*but still contains strong, sulfate-free cleansers that can be a bit drying)

Glowing Customer Review: “I have gotten a very dry scalp during the winter, and I have been searching for a product to give me relief. This shampoo works wonders! After the first wash my scalp was less itchy and dry. It also has made my hair soft and manageable! I love this product!”

8

best dry scalp shampoo for color-treated hair

dpHUE Apple Cider Vinegar Soothing Shampoo

Apple Cider Vinegar Soothing Shampoo

8

best dry scalp shampoo for color-treated hair

dpHUE Apple Cider Vinegar Soothing Shampoo

Pros
  • Really works to clarify product buildup
  • Effectively cleanses without stripping color and natural oils
Cons
  • Can dry out your hair if used too often, per some testers
  • Not the best for heavy-duty dandruff and itch

Packed with apple cider vinegar (which has *incredible* clarifying powers), this gentle formula works to seal the hair cuticle and restore your scalp’s pH balance—all while gently exfoliating and soothing your itchy scalp. The result: smoother, shinier strands. Uh, yes, pls! And yep, it’s totally safe for color-treated hair, too, as it’s free from harsh sulfates.

  • Size: 8.5 fl oz
  • Key ingredients: Apple cider vinegar, ginseng root extract, aloe leaf juice
  • Sulfate-free? Yes* (*but still contains strong, sulfate-free cleansers that can be a bit drying)

Glowing Customer Review: “My color-treated hair and scalp were feeling a bit dry and itchy, so I decided to give this shampoo a try. It has a lot of lather, despite being color-safe, and it feels very nice on my scalp. It has a pleasant scent. I’m very pleased with this product.”

9

best clarifying dry scalp shampoo

Shu Uemura Delicate Comfort Deep Cleanser

Delicate Comfort Deep Cleanser

9

best clarifying dry scalp shampoo

Shu Uemura Delicate Comfort Deep Cleanser

Pros
  • Cleanses without being too harsh
  • Light, floral fragrance is ah-mazing
Cons
  • If you have super sensitive skin, you should avoid due to the fragrance
  • May not be the best fit for those with dry hair

Yes, this shampoo is pricey, but trust me, it’s worth the moola. The lightweight formula works to effectively treat your scalp via exfoliation, yet you won’t have to worry about it being too harsh because it’s done with a combo of citric and salicylic acid. Oh, and despite what you may have heard, sulfate shampoos aren’t always bad news…especially if you’re someone with both a dry scalp and oily hair that’s prone to buildup (hi, it’s me).

  • Size: 13.4 fl oz
  • Key ingredients: Citric acid, salicylic acid
  • Sulfate-free? No

Glowing Customer Review: “I thoroughly enjoyed this shampoo,” one tester’s review reads. “I have a very dry scalp, and it gets super itchy and a little flakey from the dryness. This shampoo helped with that so much—it did such a great job at thoroughly cleaning my scalp but it wasn’t harsh at all.”

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10

best dry scalp scrub shampoo

Goop G.Tox Himalayan Salt Scalp Scrub Shampoo

G.Tox Himalayan Salt Scalp Scrub Shampoo

10

best dry scalp scrub shampoo

Goop G.Tox Himalayan Salt Scalp Scrub Shampoo

Pros
  • Thoroughly removes buildup
  • Not much product is needed to get results, per reviewers
Cons
  • May be too rough for super sensitive scalps
  • Best to limit use to once per week

This scalp scrub has been a bestseller for a while now due to testers claiming that it makes such a big difference on their itchy, dry scalps (shoutout to the hydrating duo of moringa oil and rose hip oil!). Not only that, but the sea salt formula has such a luxe feel to it—and it’ll leave your hair with a cleansing scent of rosemary, geranium, orange, and peppermint (which sounds odd, but it really works together, promise).

  • Size: 6.7 fl oz
  • Key ingredients: Moringa oil, rose hip oil
  • Sulfate-free? Yes

Glowing Customer Review: “I love this so much. I have psoriasis and a super itchy, dry scalp. This helps me deep cleanse it, and removes my flakes and doesn’t dry me out. I do pair it with another soothing scalp mask, but this one is so worth every penny.”

11

best drugstore dry scalp shampoo

Herbal Essences Jojoba Oil Smoothing Air Dry Shampoo

Jojoba Oil Smoothing Air Dry Shampoo

11

best drugstore dry scalp shampoo

Herbal Essences Jojoba Oil Smoothing Air Dry Shampoo

Pros
  • Alcohol- and sulfate-free
  • Really works to nourish hair and scalps
Cons
  • Not a solution for dandruff or psoriasis
  • Coconut scent may be too strong for some

Say hello to my favorite hydrating drugstore shampoo: the Herbal Essences Jojoba Oil Smoothing Shampoo. This formula contains soothing aloe, amino acids, and yummy emollients, which all help provide relief to that irritated scalp of yours. Plus, the fact that you can get this one for $10 (and at basically any drugstore) is a major plus in my book.

  • Size: 13.5 fl oz
  • Key ingredients: Aloe vera, jojoba oil, camellia oil
  • Sulfate-free? Yes (*but still contains strong, sulfate-free cleansers that can be a bit drying)

Glowing Customer Review: “Herbal Essences Sulfate Free Shampoo with Jojoba Oil is a new favorite in my household. Not only did our hair feel clean and soft, but it helped with keeping away winter dryness. The scent is heavenly; this product smells like a tropical vacation with coconut. Our hair was even still smelling good on day two after washing.”

What is the main cause of dry scalp?

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Listen, I know a dry scalp can be annoying. The most annoying part: It can be caused by so many damn things. According to hairstylist Andrés Melendez, dry scalp can be caused by anything from changes in climate to overwashing your hair to your genetics…but the main cause of dry scalp is essentially a lack of hydration. Like any other part of your skin, your scalp can become dehydrated and flaky due to something as simple as shampooing without conditioner or using shampoos that contain harsh, drying ingredients, like sulfates and synthetic fragrances.

Another potential cause of scalp dryness and irritation is hair dye or buildup from too much dry shampoo or hairspray. But if you suspect that your scalp dryness is the symptom of a larger scalp concern, like psoriasis, you should set up an appointment with your dermatologist. Speaking of which…

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How can you tell the difference between dry scalp and dandruff?

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For the record, dandruff is actually triggered by excess oil on your scalp, not dry skin. So, how can you tell the difference between dandruff and dry skin flakes? As trichologist Dr. Dominic Burg previously told Cosmo, “Dry-scalp flakes are usually quite small and noticeably dry,” while dandruff “sheds as larger flakes that are usually clumped together.” Oh, and keep in mind that you can have both dandruff and a dry scalp, just to make things more confusing!

Now, if you notice the flakes are much thicker and almost plaque-like, often combined with itchy, swollen, or raised skin, you most likely have a chronic condition known as psoriasis, which will require medical attention, as it won’t respond to regular dandruff treatments. And if you don’t know WTF is going on at all—or have any sort of Q’s—don’t just rely on Google, go to your derm.

How do you get rid of dry scalp?

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To get rid of dry scalp, Melendez suggests only shampooing your hair a max of twice per week to avoid stripping the hair of its natural oils. You’ll also want to avoid any harsh or irritating formulas when dealing with a dry scalp, which means limiting your use of shampoos containing sulfates or fragrance—including essential oils (like peppermint and rosemary hair oil). Though not everyone has issues tolerating essential oils, they can often trigger irritation in anyone with sensitive skin, which can exacerbate dry-scalp issues.

How to choose the best shampoo for dry scalp

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Determine the cause

If the flakes on your scalp are quite small and noticeably, well, dry, this points to a dry scalp in need of hydration. However! If your dry scalp is not a result of environmental factors or something in your routine, there’s a good chance it could be due to a scalp condition such as seborrheic dermatitis (or, as most people know it, dandruff). Dandruff will appear as yellowish or white larger, oily flakes that may clump together, and while dandruff is typically caused by oily scalps, it’s possible to have both dry scalp and dandruff.

Look at the ingredients

As dermatologist Dr. Anar Mikailov previously told Cosmo, anyone dealing with a dry scalp should look for shampoos with: (1) moisturizing, plant-based oils (like coconut oil, jojoba oil, avocado oil, argan oil, and camellia oil); (2) chemical exfoliators (like salicylic acid, azelaic acid, bakuchiol, and lactic acid); and/or (3) soothing ingredients (like CBD, aloe, and vitamin B5).

If you’re working with dandruff, you’ll need to grab an antifungal shampoo formulated with ketoconazole, zinc pyrithione, piroctone olamine, or salicylic acid, all of which will help curb your scalp’s yeast production to minimize flakes. Just note: If you don’t see an improvement after six weeks, head to your dermatologist for a prescription-strength shampoo and/or topical steroid.

Know when to see a dermatologist

Though most cases of dry scalp and dandruff can be treated and maintained with an over-the-counter shampoo, if you have been treating it and it has either (a) not been getting better, (b) getting worse, or (c) at any point becomes swollen or painful, you absolutely need to make a visit to your dermatologist. If necessary, they can prescribe prescription-strength steroids or patch-test you to determine if you have a skin allergy.

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Meet the experts:

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Why trust ‘Cosmo’?

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Corinne Sullivan is an editor at Cosmopolitan and has five years of experience writing about beauty, fashion, and lifestyle news, including the best-smelling shampoos and the best caffeine shampoos. She regularly tests and analyzes dry scalp shampoos on her own hair for efficacy, while working with the industry’s top dermatologists, hairstylists, and trichologists to assess new formulas and brands.

Siena Gagliano is an associate editor at Cosmopolitan and has three years of experience writing about beauty, fashion, and lifestyle news. She’s an expert at researching and writing beauty stories, like best shampoos for thinning hair and the best hair-growth oils, and feels especially knowledgeable in dry scalp shampoos thanks to struggling with a dry scalp in colder months.

Headshot of Corinne Sullivan

Corinne Sullivan is an Editor at Cosmopolitan, where she covers a variety of beats, including lifestyle, entertainment, relationships, shopping, and more. She can tell you everything you need to know about the love lives of A-listers, the coziest bedsheets, and the sex toys actually worth your $$$. She is also the author of the 2018 novel Indecent. Follow her on Instagram for cute pics of her pup and bébé. 

Headshot of Siena Gagliano

Siena Gagliano is the associate editor at Cosmopolitan, where she primarily covers beauty, fashion, travel, and lifestyle. Wanna know how to get the best brows of your life? Gotchu. What about how to find the best fashion deals of the season, the softest sheets on the market, or exactly how to use retinol without irritating your skin? Check, check, and check. Before joining Cosmopolitan, Siena was a writer at Bustle and several other media outlets. As her 2024 goal, she has vowed to find the best (extra) dirty martini NYC has to offer—and yes, that means ~attempting~ to try every cute cocktail spot in the city (hit her up with some recs, pls). Follow Siena on Instagram for a behind-the-scenes look at that magazine life.

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