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The 25 Most Effective Dry Scalp Treatments: Expert Review 2024
Dr Meena Zareie (GMC)
Medically reviewed by
Dr Meena Zareie (GMC)
Updated on May 21, 2024

If you are constantly experiencing scalp tightness, itching and flaking, you may need to try a dry scalp treatment [1]. However, choosing the right one for you can be difficult, as the right therapeutic approach depends on the underlying cause of your condition.

Research shows that approximately 60% of patients with dandruff also experience scalp itching, tightness and dryness [2]. So if your dry scalp is caused by this common scalp problem, or others, such as seborrheic dermatitis, eczema or scalp psoriasis, you may need antimicrobial medication or a steroid cream to relieve your symptoms. However, if it is caused by lifestyle factors or hair product misuse, the solution can be as easy as making some changes in your habits and styling routines.

The best way to determine the most effective dry scalp treatment for you is to get the recommendation of a trichologist. They will be able to provide personalised advice, tailored to your specific hair and scalp needs. 

Continue reading this article to find out all you need to know about:

  • Common signs and symptoms of a dry scalp
  • The main factors that can cause scalp dryness
  • The best medications, hair products and lifestyle changes to treat dry a scalp
  • The relationship between a dry scalp and hair loss
Table of Contents

How do I know if my scalp is dry?

A scalp that doesn’t produce enough natural oil (sebum), gets frequently stripped of its oil by harsh hair products or is affected by certain skin conditions will likely be dry. There are several warning signs that you may be experiencing scalp dryness. The most common of these are symptoms such as [1][2]:

Close-up image of a dry, flaky scalp

What are the most common causes of dry scalp?

Multiple factors can contribute to a dry scalp, some of which are easier to prevent and treat than others. The most frequently encountered are the following:

  • Certain scalp conditions – some dermatological problems, such as scalp psoriasis,  eczema or seborrheic dermatitis, can cause parts of your scalp to become dry, scaly, and flaky and in more severe cases, it can even crack and bleed.
  • Overusing hair products with harsh chemicals – frequent use of bleach or hair dye can cause hair loss, but it can also dry out your scalp. As can overuse of shampoos with sodium lauryl sulfate or conditioners that have not been pH balanced. 
  • Naturally low sebum production – not everyone’s skin produces the same amount of oil. Some people are genetically predisposed to producing too little of it to keep their scalp well moisturised. 
  • Frequent use of heat styling – applying high amounts of heat to your scalp can dry it out and it can also make your hair dry, brittle and easy to break off. Fortunately, heat-damaged hair can be fixed with the right treatments. 
  • Overexposure to the sun excessive sunlight is not good for your hair and scalp, as it can make them dry, causing tightness, itching and summer hair loss.  
  • An unbalanced diet – nutrient and vitamin deficiencies can cause hair loss, as well as a dry scalp (e.g. vitamin B, vitamin D, vitamin E).
  • Ageing and hormonal changes – as we advance in age and our hormonal balance shifts (usually after the age of 50), sebum production decreases as well, leaving our scalp more predisposed to dryness.
woman applying moisturiser to her scalp using a brush

What are the most effective ways to treat my dry scalp?

There are many good ways to relieve the unpleasant symptoms of a dry scalp and to achieve a sense of hair and scalp health and well-being. Here are some of the most effective things you can try:

See a trichologist for the best, personalised dry scalp treatment

While the internet offers an abundance of general advice for treating your dry scalp, only a trained specialist will provide you with the most effective recommendations for your specific condition. They will examine you carefully, identify the cause of your scalp dryness and prescribe the best treatment for your diagnosis, hair type and styling habits.

They can also provide expert cosmetic product and shampoo advice, such as teaching you how to choose the best shampoo for dry hair, the gentlest hair dyes or the most hydrating hair growth oils.

If your trichologist finds that a dermatological condition is at the root of your dry scalp, they may prescribe one of the following common treatments:


 Steroid creams are often used to help decrease scalp inflammation in patients who experience scalp psoriasis or eczema, but also certain types of fungal infection or autoimmune forms of alopecia (e.g. alopecia areata) [3][4].

Calcineurin inhibitors

These medications are immunosuppressants [5], which means they help reduce immune activity and inflammation in treating scalp psoriasis and other autoimmune conditions.

Salicylic acid 

Due to its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties, this substance can be found in medicated shampoos and is effective in reducing the symptoms of scalp psoriasis, bacterial infections or yeast infections on the scalp (e.g. dandruff, seborrheic dermatitis) [6]. 


Ketoconazole is an antifungal medication effective against ringworm, dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis, reducing their unpleasant effects on your scalp. Moreover, it can stimulate your follicles for hair growth in certain types of alopecia, such as androgenetic alopecia and possibly telogen effluvium (however, more evidence is needed) [7][8].

Zinc Pyrithione 

This antibacterial, antifungal and anti-inflammatory compound can relieve the symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis, ringworm, eczema and scalp psoriasis, reducing inflammation, scalp dryness, itching and flaking [9][10].  

Coal tar 

While it can have an unpleasant smell and stain clothing, this treatment has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. This makes it a good option for treating dry, inflamed and irritated scalp patches caused by eczema, scalp psoriasis or seborrheic dermatitis [11].  

Use the best conditioning and moisturising hair products

There are a variety of shampoos, conditioners, hair masks and serums designed to help reduce your scalp dryness and relieve the symptoms of any dermatological problems which may be causing it. Here are some of the most recommended:

Monday Haircare Moisture Shampoo + Conditioner Set

Monday Haircare Moisture Shampoo + Conditioner Set

The combination of coconut oil and shea butter offers deep scalp moisturising, while the vitamins provide the nourishment your scalp needs. Moreover, this formula is free of sodium lauryl sulfate and parabens, making it healthier for your hair. 

Price: approximately  £14/ 2×12 oz

Main ingredients: coconut oil, shea butter, rice protein, vitamin E, vitamin B5

Pureology Hydrate Conditioner

Pureology Hydrate Conditioner

The shea and jojoba butter in this shampoo’s composition hydrate and moisturise your scalp, softening it up and reducing flaking. At the same time, the menthol relieves itching and irritation and the sage leaf extract increases blood flow to your scalp.

Price: approximately  £29/ 9 oz

Main ingredients: green tea extract, menthol, shea butter, sage leaf extract, jojoba butter, vitamin B5 (panthenol)

LivSo Moisturizing Conditioner for Dry Hair & Scalp

LivSo Moisturizing Conditioner for Dry Hair & Scalp

This formulation contains an abundance of ingredients that soften and moisturise your scalp. To this extent, the coconut, avocado and marula oil for hair work together well with the glycolic acid for hair to reduce scalp dryness, itching and flaking. They also make your strands shinier, stronger and easier to detangle. 

Price: approximately  £14/ 8 oz

Main ingredients: Coconut oil, avocado oil, olive fruit oil, glycolic acid, abyssian seed oil, marula oil for hair. 

Kiehl's Since 1851 Amino Acid Moisture-Restoring Dry Scalp Treatment

Kiehl's Since 1851 Amino Acid Moisture-Restoring Dry Scalp Treatment

The salicylic acid in this treatment can help relieve the symptoms of dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis. At the same time, the coconut and shea butter provide a good conditioning and moisturising for your scalp and strands. 

Price: approximately  £25/ 8.4 oz

Main ingredients: Coconut oil, shea butter, salicylic acid, citric acid.

Prose Custom Pre-Shampoo Scalp Mask

Prose Custom Pre-Shampoo Scalp Mask

The beauty of this scalp mask is that you can customise it to contain the ingredients your dry scalp needs the most. For optimum hydrating and moisturising effects, you may want to choose heavier oils, such as coconut, argan or avocado, while peppermint oil for hair growth and aloe vera extract are excellent choices for their soothing effect. 

Price: approximately  £38/ 8.5 oz

Main ingredients: After an online consultation, you are recommended a formula made of 6 custom ingredients, which can include coconut oil, argan oil, avocado oil, aloe vera, apple cider vinegar for hair, arginine, vitamin B5, peppermint extract, rosehip oil for hair and more. 

Nizoral Scalp Psoriasis Shampoo & Conditioner

Nizoral Scalp Psoriasis Shampoo & Conditioner

This 2 in 1 shampoo and conditioner for hair growth is an excellent choice if your dry scalp is caused by a dermatological problem such as scalp psoriasis or seborrheic dermatitis. Studies show the combination of ketoconazole, salicylic acid and tea tree oil makes it very effective in relieving the symptoms of these conditions and improving the overall health of your scalp.

Moreover, the vitamins and specific ingredients in the conditioner moisturise and nourish your dry scalp and Nizoral shampoo can even help treat hair loss [12].

Price: approximately  £14/ 11 oz

Main ingredients: ketoconazole, salicylic acid, tea tree oil, vitamin E, vitamin C for hair, vitamin B5

Three bottles of essential oils for hair

Keep your scalp hydrated with natural remedies

Some of the best essential oils for hair growth contain a bounty of fatty acids, vitamins and protein that can moisturise your scalp and hair, nourish them and restore their good health. These are some excellent options you can try:

Rosemary oil

Rosemary oil for hair growth can hydrate your hair, keeping it moisturised and reducing dandruff. At the same time, the best blends of rosemary oil can curb hair loss and increase strand density to a level comparable to Minoxidil [13]. It can also strengthen your hair and make it look shinier and healthier. 

Nikura Rosemary Oil For Hair

Recommended blend: Nikura Rosemary Oil For Hair

Price: approximately £9.99/ 8.4 oz

Coconut oil

It is considered one of the richest sources of fatty acids and has some of the best hair and scalp moisturising properties of all natural remedies. It can also prevent hair protein loss and may even have some limited antibacterial properties [14].  

SheaMoisture Head-To-Toe Nourishing Hydration 100% Extra Virgin Coconut Oil

Recommended blend: SheaMoisture Head-To-Toe Nourishing Hydration 100% Extra Virgin Coconut Oil

Price: approximately  £12/ 15 oz

Argan oil

This oil can regulate sebum production and has very good water-holding capacity, which gives it great scalp moisturising qualities. It can also significantly increase your hair elasticity, making your strands more resistant and less likely to snap off or develop split ends [14]. 

Kate Blanc Cosmetics Argan Oil for Hair

Recommended blend: Kate Blanc Cosmetics Argan Oil for Hair

Price: approximately  £12/ 4 oz

Peppermint oil 

The benefits of peppermint oil for your scalp and hair are multiple. It can moisturise and soften the skin while stimulating your hair growth at the same time. And the menthol it contains can soothe scalp irritation and inflammation [15][16].

Moreover, it contains antioxidants and may provide limited UV protection (however, it is still not advised to spend extensive time in the sun without protecting your hair and scalp)[17].

EDEN BodyWorks Peppermint Tea Tree Moisturizing Hair Milk

Recommended blend: EDEN BodyWorks Peppermint Tea Tree Moisturizing Hair Milk

Price: approximately  £8/ 8.4 oz

Olive oil

Olive oil for hair has an abundance of fatty acids and several helpful properties for a dry scalp. It is a good emollient, can offer some protection against oxidative stress, holds some antifungal and anti-inflammatory properties and can relieve the symptoms of psoriasis when combined with other ingredients (e.g. honey, beeswax) [18].

AS I AM Dry and Itchy leave in

Recommended blend: AS I AM Dry and Itchy leave in

Price: approximately £9 / 8 oz

Tea tree oil

Tea tree oil can do more than just moisturise and soften your scalp, it has proven antimicrobial properties that can treat dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis, providing relief from itchiness and flaking [19][20]. 

Luseta Beauty Tea Tree Oil Hair & Scalp Treatment

Recommended blend: Luseta Beauty Tea Tree Oil Hair & Scalp Treatment

Price: approximately $22/ 3.4 oz

Multiple hair styling appliances and product

Make some lifestyle and hair styling changes

Sometimes, you can really help improve the condition of your scalp and hair by making some adjustments to your personal habits and your hair care routine. Here are some of the most effective changes you can make to reduce your scalp dryness: 

Always condition your hair after washing it

While some shampoos can wash off too much of your natural scalp oil, conditioners contain hydrating and moisturising substances which keep your scalp and hair healthy and well-lubricated. Just be sure to choose an option with a balanced pH and preferably specifically designed for dry hair. 

Wash your hair more frequently 

It is a common misconception that washing your hair too often will strip beneficial oil off your scalp. Studies found that the opposite is true: increased washing frequency actually helps regulate sebum production and reduces dryness, itching and irritation caused by buildup [21][22]. Just be sure to choose a gentle shampoo, specifically designed for dry hair. 

Avoid hair products which contain harsh chemicals

If you are experiencing a dry scalp, it is a good idea to only use hair products that do not exacerbate this problem. While the first cosmetics that come to mind are bleach and hair dye which can contain harsh chemicals, such as hydrogen peroxide or ammonia, not even everyday use products, such as shampoos or conditioners, are exempt.

The main ingredients that you may want to avoid in their case are sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulfate (SLES), parabens, silicones, sodium chloride and alcohol, which can all dry out and irritate your scalp.

Keep your scalp protected from the sun 

Wearing a hat when going out in hot weather can prevent moisture from leaving your scalp and hair, thus avoiding additional dryness. It can also protect you from UV radiation, which can cause skin and hair damage, as well as sunburns with overexposure. 

Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet

Providing all the nutrients your hair and scalp need are a good way to keep them healthy. Keeping a restrictive diet can deprive you of essential fatty acids (e.g. omega 3, omega 6), and can lead to vitamin and nutrient deficiencies (e.g. vitamin B, C, E, zinc or selenium for hair) that can affect your scalp health. Finally, consuming an excessive amount of sugar or alcohol can cause inflammation in your body, while too much caffeine (or alcohol) can dehydrate you, drying out your scalp.   

Avoid heat styling

Frequently applying significant heat to your scalp and hair, whether it is for styling purposes or simply to blow dry them, can cause scalp flaking, itching and irritation. And if you are already predisposed to experiencing a dry scalp, due to a dermatological condition, genes, or hormones, additional moisture loss from constant exposure to heat can exacerbate your problem

Reduce smoking 

While you might have heard that smoking can cause hair loss, you may not be aware that it can also cause scalp dryness [23]. That is because it causes your blood vessels to shrink, leading to less nutrients reaching your scalp to keep it healthy. Furthermore, it also affects your skin barrier function, making it more difficult for your scalp to retain moisture and at the same time, it creates inflammation in your body that can dry out your skin. 

Can stress make your scalp dry

Can stress make your scalp dry?

Psychological stress has been known to cause inflammation in your body. This can affect your skin and scalp, by decreasing their levels of hydration and allowing more water loss from their cells [24]. That means that stress can indeed contribute to making your scalp dry. A relaxing daily routine, such as meditation, yoga or exercise can help relieve your psychological pressure and have significant benefits for your scalp health, as well as for your mind and body in general. 

a hand showing fallen hair removed from a hairbrush

Can a dry scalp cause hair loss?

A dry scalp can be itchy and make you constantly want to scratch it, which can lead to excessive hair breakage. Moreover, if the dryness is caused by an inflammatory skin condition, such as eczema or scalp psoriasis, it can be accompanied by localised hair shedding.

However, simply having a dry scalp should not cause hair loss to a significant extent. If you notice persistent hair thinning, you should see a specialist for diagnosis and treatment. This is especially true if you are a woman observing a widening of your normal midline parting and diffuse hair loss or a man experiencing a receding hairline, temple hair loss or a bald spot on the crown.

Are you experiencing hair thinning alongside a dry scalp?

If you have a dry scalp and notice that your hair is falling out more than usual, the best thing to do is book a consultation with a trichologist. Some hair loss is normal in the shower and the average person sheds 100-150 strands every day. However, increased hair shedding accompanied by scalp dryness can be a sign of a dermatological condition that needs to be treated before it can improve.

The trichologist may perform a dermoscopy or order hair loss blood tests to rule out a form of alopecia, such as male pattern baldness or female pattern baldness. Diagnosing and treating this condition from the first signs of hair thinning and balding can make it easier to stop its progression and achieve hair regrowth. However, if left untreated, it can advance to the point where hair growth medication is no longer sufficient and you may need a hair transplant to restore your hair fullness.

The 25 Most Effective Dry Scalp Treatments: Expert Review 2024, Wimpole Clinic

  1. Improvement of Scalp Condition and Quality of Life through Proper Skin Care of Dry Scalp
  2. Clinical Diagnosis of Common Scalp Disorders
  3. Topical anti‐inflammatory agents for seborrhoeic dermatitis of the face or scalp
  4. Efficacy of topical latanoprost versus minoxidil and betamethasone valerate on the treatment of alopecia areata
  5. Calcineurin Inhibitors
  6. Keratolytic and anti-inflammatory action of salicylic acid in patients with seborrheic dermatitis associated with psoriasis, cases report
  7. Ketoconazole shampoo: effect of long-term use in androgenic alopecia
  8. Trichogenic effect of topical ketoconazole versus minoxidil 2% in female pattern hair loss: a clinical and trichoscopic evaluation
  9. Dandruff has an altered stratum corneum ultrastructure that is improved with zinc pyrithione shampoo
  10. Topical Treatments for Scalp Psoriasis
  11. About coal tar
  12. A randomised, single-blind, single-centre clinical trial to evaluate comparative clinical efficacy of shampoos containing ciclopirox olamine (1.5%) and salicylic acid (3%), or ketoconazole (2%, Nizoral ® ) for the treatment of dandruff/seborrhoeic dermatitis
  13. Rosemary oil vs minoxidil 2% for the treatment of androgenetic alopecia: a randomized comparative trial
  14. Hair Oils: Indigenous Knowledge Revisited
  15. Peppermint Oil Promotes Hair Growth without Toxic Signs
  16. Mechanisms and time course of menthol-induced cutaneous vasodilation
  17. Peppermint essential oil: its phytochemistry, biological activity, pharmacological effect and application
  18. Hair Oils: Indigenous Knowledge Revisited
  19. Tea tree oil: a promising essential oil
  20. Potential use of essential oils in cosmetic and dermatological hair products: A review
  21. The Impact of Shampoo Wash Frequency on Scalp and Hair Conditions
  22. Physiological and microbiological verification of the benefit of hair washing in patients with skin conditions of the scalp
  23. A Comment on the Science of Hair Aging
  24. Association of psychological stress with skin symptoms among medical students
Dr Meena Zareie (GMC)
Medically reviewed by Dr Meena Zareie (GMC)Updated on May 21, 2024
The Wimpole Clinic offers FUE Hair, Beard & Eyebrow Transplants & Trichology.
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