When it comes to choosing one of the best drugstore shampoos for a dry scalp, it’s best to avoid certain, potentially irritating ingredients, board-certified dermatologist Dr. Elizabeth Houshmand tells Elite Daily. Those include parabens, formaldehyde, triclosan, sulfates, and synthetic fragrances, which run the risk of making dryness worse.
It’s also important to differentiate between shampoos for a dry scalp and shampoos that treat dandruff, because though both conditions can have similar symptoms (including flaking and itchiness), they’re not related. With a dry scalp, "the skin is sensitive and inflamed and the flakes will come off. With dandruff, there is excessive oil on the scalp. The oil causes buildup and then skin shedding is seen as flakes," Dr. Houshmand explains. That’s why dandruff-fighting shampoos aren’t typically the best line of defense for a dry scalp. Instead, choose a gentle shampoo that contains soothing and hydrating ingredients. Beyond that, if your hair is chemically treated, Dr. Houshmand prefers creamy shampoos, while she tells her patients with oily hair to pick a deep-cleansing shampoo, such as one that contains tea tree oil.
Below are the five of the best dry scalp shampoos, all available for under $15 on Amazon. Scroll on to discover which one best suits your hair’s unique needs.
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1. The Overall Best Shampoo For A Dry Scalp
This best-selling shampoo from Vanicream Free & Clear is ideal for people with dry skin, sensitive skin, or conditions like eczema, psoriasis, and dermatitis, since it’s free of basically every potential irritant imaginable (including fragrance, parabens, formaldehyde, and sulfates). Really though, it’s suitable for any hair type, and it does a solid job at shampooing, removing buildup, and controlling oil.
Relevant review: "This product works wonderfully for my daughter’s head. For years, we battled dry scalp and dandruff but it really turned out to be dermatitis. Since she began using this, she hasn’t had any flakey problems. Great product!"
2. Best Shampoo & Body Wash
You can use this gentle, fragrance-free shampoo from Honest Beauty as a body wash, too — and it’s safe for all ages, even babies (yes, it’s tear-free). Made with natural moisturizing ingredients like aloe, coconut oil, jojoba, and calendula, the formula contains no dyes, parabens, synthetic fragrances, formaldehydes, or sulfates. It’s a great way to keep everyone in your family moisturized and clean from head to toe.
Relevant review: "I am amazed! My hair is the cleanest and healthiest that it has ever been and feels great! I have tried so many different different brands and products, and this is the only product that I haven’t had an allergic reaction to."
3. Best Shampoo For A Dry Scalp & Damaged Hair
If your hair has become dry or damaged, whether due to styling it frequently with hot tools or dyeing it, this is the shampoo for you. It’s designed to repair damage using nourishing shea butter and Jamaican castor oil, as well as peppermint and apple cider vinegar to clean and clarify. Free of parabens and sulfates, it helps hair feel softer and more hydrated while leaving it less prone to breakage.
Relevant review: "I usually never write reviews but this product has amazed me. I’ve been using it for 3 weeks now and I haven’t noticed any dry scalp yet. I’ve tried many shampoos in the past and none of them have worked for me. This shampoo came as a life saver for me."
4. Best Tea Tree Shampoo
Avalon Organics Scalp Treatment Tea Tree Shampoo contains no synthetic fragrances, parabens, or sulfates, and it’s vegan and cruelty-free as well. Obviously, tea tree — which has tons of benefits for your hair — is the star ingredient here, but it also contains other naturally derived ingredients, like aloe, quinoa proteins, and vitamin E, to nourish and strengthen your hair/scalp. It’s a great value, too, since this massive, 32-ounce bottle will last you ages.
Relevant review: "Three out of four people in my household suffer from dry, itchy scalp. This shampoo definitely delivers moisture to relieve this condition for not just one person, but ALL of them! after only ONE use they all noticed that their itchiness had subsided and their hair was much softer. The clean, fresh scent is just a bonus. Highly recommend!"
5. Best Coconut Shampoo
Made without sulfates, parabens, or synthetic fragrances, Alaffia’s EveryDay Coconut Shampoo is another gentle way to get your hair clean without drying out your scalp. Coconut and lime extracts give this a sweet, citrusy scent (remember, the scent here is naturally derived, not synthetic), while coconut oil, coconut water, and shea butter work to restore moisture and nourish the scalp. Like the Avalon Organics shampoo, this bottle contains 32 ounces of product, and it’s vegan and cruelty-free.
Relevant review: "Loveeee this earth-friendly shampoo! My fiance and I both have very dry [scalps], this helps so much with moisturizing our hair and scalp. He normally has dry frizzy hair and I normally have straight greasy hair, this shampoo keep us both not dry/not greasy! The smell is great and there is so much in there it lasts us a half a year!"
Dr. Elizabeth Houshmand, a board-certified dermatologist.
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