10 Ways To Soothe A Dry, Itchy Scalp

We take care of our skin with serums and SPF galore, but when's the last time you really pampered your scalp, of all places? "Under all that hair, the scalp is skin like the rest of your body," board-certified dermatologist Robyn Gmyrek, MD, of Union Square Laser Dermatology tells Refinery29. For example, you may notice that you may experience itchiness or dandruff more in the winter, due to typically drier, colder air.

That said, weather isn't the only culprit behind a sad scalp — and not all flakes are created equal. "Another common reason for a flaky or irritated scalp is something called seborrheic dermatitis," board certified dermatologist and LM Medical co-founder Morgan Rabach, MD, explains. As Dr. Gmyrek concurs, you can ID these flakes if they're larger than normal, appear white or yellow, and look oily.


If you're dealing with a textbook dry scalp, then switching to a gentle shampoo, adding a soothing scalp treatment, and eliminating any products with alcohol should be enough to get you to a healthier place. However, if you think you're experiencing seborrheic dermatitis, the derms suggest you try a medicated shampoo (twice or three times a week should do the trick) with an active ingredient like salicylic acid, ketoconazole, zinc pyrithione, or selenium sulfide.

Ahead, ten shampoos and treatments that'll get you to a less flaky place ASAP.

At Refinery29, we’re here to help you navigate this overwhelming world of stuff. All of our market picks are independently selected and curated by the editorial team. All product details reflect the price and availability at the time of publication. If you buy something we link to on our site, Refinery29 may earn commission.

Briogeo B. Well organic + australian 100% tea tree oil

In addition to treating acne blemishes, tea tree oil is great for soothing a dry, itchy scalp. This steam-distilled, non-GMO oil from Briogeo is a great pick for a wide range of hair types.
Briogeo B. Well organic + australian 100% tea tree oil$32.00 Buy

Kérastase Specifique Bain Riche Dermo-Calm Shampoo

Dandruff may not be chic, but this shampoo certainly is. If you want to try a high-end option, Dr. Gmyrek suggests this luxe soothing formula, which contains tamanu oil, menthol, and piroctone olamine, an active ingredient with antibacterial and anti-fungal properties. "It cleanses the scalp without stripping the skin's natural oils and without weighing hair down," she says.
Kérastase Bain Vital Dermo-Calm Shampoo$35.00 Buy

Free & Clear Shampoo

As the name suggests, Free & Clear is as no-BS as shampoos can get. "It's fragrance-, gluten-, and sulfate-free and contains zinc pyrithione, which has antifungal and anti-itch properties," Dr. Gmyrek explains.
Pharmaceutical Specialties Free and Clear Shampoo$11.27 Buy

Act+Acre Cold Processed Scalp Detox

Hip packaging? Check. A+ ingredients? Check. This plant-based scalp treatment is powered by botanical ingredients like moringa, basil leaf, amaranth, and baobab to nourish roots and gently rid the scalp of impurities.
Act+Acre Cold Processed Scalp Detox$42.00 Buy

Phyto Phytopolléine Botanical Scalp Treatment

This pharmacie gem is on the pricey side, but a bottle lasts for a deceptively long time: A couple drops of the essential oil blend massaged into the scalp is all you need for an instant soothing, cooling sensation.
Phyto PHYTOPOLLÉINE Botanical Scalp Treatment$40.00 Buy

Moroccanoil Dry Scalp Treatment

"I like this leave-in oil because it soothes the scalp with argan oil, exfoliates gently with salicylic acid, and helps repair the skin barrier," Dr. Gmyrek says.
Moroccanoil Dry Scalp Treatment$38.00 Buy

Re-Fresh Scalp Care Shampoo Anti-Dandruff Sea Mineral & Hydrate Salicylic Acid

"This shampoo feels very luxurious — but at a drugstore price point," Dr. Rabach says. "It contains 2% salicylic acid, and can help reduce the dead, flaky skin on the scalp."
RE-fresh Shampoo Sea Mineral & Hydrate$6.98 Buy

Selsun Blue Medicated Maximum Strength Dandruff Shampoo

Dr. Rabach also name-checks this OG drugstore formula to help with symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis.
Selsun Blue Medicated Maximum Strength Dandruff Shampoo$8.69 $6.98 Buy

Nizoral A-D Anti-Dandruff Shampoo

"I love this product because is made with 1% ketoconazole, which helps to curb the excessive yeast overgrowth seen in seborrheic dermatitis," Dr. Gmyrek says. "This decreases inflammation, scale and itch."
nizoral A-D Anti-Dandruff Shampoo$11.94 $9.99 Buy

Kristin Ess Instant Exfoliating Scalp Scrub

Scrubs can be harsh if you overdo it, so look for a gentle formula that will removes flakes and product build-up without stripping the skin. This affordable option is made with sugar crystals, which are kinder on your scalp than salt-based products.
Kristin Ess Instant Exfoliating Scalp Scrub$14.00 Buy
Load more...