The 10 Best Dry Scalp Treatments for Itchy, Flaky Skin
These specialized treatments can help relieve dry skin.
With all of the money we spend on skincare, the one thing we seem to forget the most about is our precious scalps, which dermatologists say deserve just as much attention (if not more) as the skin on our faces. Often, when problems like dandruff arise, the majority of us simply plop on some special drugstore shampoo and call it a day, but experts recommend a more intense and regular approach when it comes to maintaining good scalp health. Without this care, issues far worse than an itchy head can arise. For one, “dandruff can block hair follicles and scales can become so thick that it can cause hair loss,” Dr. Mohiba Tareen, a board-certified dermatologist, tells InStyle.
When it comes to treating the scalp, you should be tending to it daily. Dr. Tareem says that in addition to giving yourself a quick 30-second scalp massage every day (to promote blood flow and hair growth), a scalp treatment should be used at least once a week to prevent issues like dryness, flaking, and irritation. “We spend so much money on our hair and face that we forget about treating our scalp,” she says. “People neglect their scalp until it’s too late and they start to notice patches of hair loss or itching.”
If you’re experiencing scalp issues like uncontrollable itching, inflamed dandruff, or clogged hair follicles, a visit to the dermatologist is needed. Scalp irritation can be an indicator of larger health issues such as lupus, diabetes, or dermatitis, Dr. Tareem cautions.
See the best scalp treatments below, and read on to discover why these made the cut.
- Best for Itchy Scalps: Living Proof Restore Dry Scalp Treatment
- Best for Scalp Psoriasis: Kérastase Initialiste Advanced Scalp & Hair Serum
- Best for Scalp Eczema: Paul Mitchell Tea Tree Hair and Scalp Treatment
- Best for Dry, Flaky scalps: L’anza Healing Remedy Scalp Balancing Cleanser
- Best for Dandruff: Oribe Serene Scalp Soothing Leave-On Treatment
- Best Oil Treatment: Moroccanoil Treatment
- Best Cruelty-Free Option: Briogeo Scalp Revival Charcoal + Tea Tree Scalp Treatment
- Best Inexpensive Option: OGX Extra Strength Refreshing Scalp + Tea Tree Mint Shampoo
- Best High-End Option: Aveda Invati Advanced Scalp Revitalizer
- Best for Thin Hair: Nioxin Scalp & Hair Leave-In Treatment
What is a scalp treatment?
A scalp treatment is like a cleansing mask for your head. The treatments come in a variety of forms, such as foams, sprays and oils, and the goal of these is to detoxify your scalp, bring in moisture, or treat issues such as eczema and psoriasis. Typically, you can find a scalp treatment wherever you shop for skincare products, at stores like Nordstrom, Sephora, and Dermstore. The price of these products usually ranges between $15 and $50.
The majority of treatments can be applied to dry or wet hair and are meant to be left in as opposed to being rinsed out. Dr. Tareem recommends using a scalp treatment before bed, as “every treatment works better at night because while you’re sleeping your body replenishes.”
How do you hydrate your scalp?
To hydrate your scalp, Dr. Tareem recommends first taking a look at your diet. It’s important to incorporate good fats like avocado, almonds, and fish oils because they contain elements that are incredibly hydrating for the skin. She also says having a humidifier in your home can help maintain a hydrated scalp, adding that the hydrating device is one of the best anti-aging products available. “You can tell just by looking at someone’s skin if they have a humidifier,” she says.
Also, nourishing your scalp with a treatment once a week can bring it moisture and hydration that are essential in keeping good scalp health. Dr. Tareem says even those who do not suffer from scalp issues should be doing treatments in order to maintain good health.
How do you detox your scalp?
There are clarifying shampoos available, but Dr. Tareem says using these daily can be problematic for scalp health. A homemade detox like mixing one part apple cider vinegar with three parts water can cleanse the skin well, she says.
Best for Itchy Scalps: Living Proof Restore Dry Scalp Treatment
Living Proof’s dry scalp treatment is a lightweight, fast-absorbing formula designed to get rid of flakes and irritation by soothing the scalp. Its hyaluronic acid and vitamin B3 bases replenish and rebalance the scalp’s microbiome, leaving it hydrated and renewed.
Best for Scalp Psoriasis: Kérastase Initialiste Advanced Scalp & Hair Serum
According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, more than 60 percent of people with psoriasis develop some scaling on their scalp. Nourishing ingredients like green tea extract and ceramides combine in this conditioning serum to combat flakes and bring moisture back to the scalp while also reducing hair breakage. With tea tree products, Dr. Tareem recommends rubbing them on the arm first to make sure the skin doesn’t irritate.
Best for Scalp Eczema: Paul Mitchell Tea Tree Hair and Scalp Treatment
Treatments with oils can be very soothing for those with eczema, Dr. Tareem says, especially when ingredients like shea butter are included. Moisturizing elements like tea-tree oil can bring much-needed relief, she says. Paul Mitchell’s scalp treatment is a quick mask that should be applied to wet hair and rinsed out after five minutes. According to one reviewer, “When you let this product sit in your hair it will start to tingle, which is an amazing feeling when you need some relief.”
Best for Dry, Flaky Scalps: L’anza Healing Remedy Scalp Balancing Cleanser
Using natural purifiers like shiso mint and papaya, this cleanser works gently to get rid of flakes and impurities. One five-star reviewer said the L’anza remedy got rid of their flaky scalp in just two uses.
Best for Dandruff: Oribe Serene Scalp Soothing Leave-On Treatment
There’s nothing more annoying than dandruff, especially if it’s itchy. Oribe’s Serene leave-on treatment is built to exfoliate the scalp to remove those pesky flakes while soothing ingredients like chamomile refresh and calm irritated skin.
Best Oil Treatment: Moroccanoil Treatment
For those in tune with oils, you can’t go wrong with Moroccanoil. The product softens hair and moisturizes the scalp all at once. Shoppers have shown this product some major love at Amazon and, with more than 10,000 reviews, it’s got an impressive 4.7-star rating.
Shop now: $15; amazon.com
Best Cruelty-Free Option: Briogeo Scalp Revival Charcoal + Tea Tree Scalp Treatment
It’s widely known that charcoal products detoxify the skin, which is why they’ve become skincare favorites. The same can be said for this charcoal scalp treatment, which has more than 45,000 hearts at Sephora. According to the brand, this cruelty-free product has ingredients like binchotan charcoal that draws impurities out of the scalp, as well as peppermint and spearmint oils that relieve itchiness and irritation.
Shop now: $32; sephora.com
Best Inexpensive Option: OGX Extra Strength Refreshing Scalp + Tea Tree Mint Shampoo
Under $10 and available at most drugstores, OGX’s tea tree-mint shampoo is meant to cleanse hair follicles and the scalp thanks to replenishing ingredients like argan oil. Tea tree products have long been heralded for their skin-clearing and smoothing properties, so it’s no wonder this product is so popular.
Shop now: $7; amazon.com
Best High-End Option: Aveda invati Advanced Scalp Revitalizer
Aveda’s scalp revitalizer spray has ingredients that support hair’s natural keratin and thicken hair, according to the description. It’s gentle enough to be used daily, and in addition to treating the scalp, the spray lifts hair from the root for a more volumized look.
Best for Thin Hair: Nioxin Scalp & Hair Leave-In Treatment
Often recommended by both dermatologists and hair stylists, Nioxin products are formulated to keep hair from shedding by treating the scalp. Dr. Tareem says while using hair-growth treatments, it’s important to rub the product in deep. To make sure of this, she recommends giving yourself a deep scalp massage with the product.
Shop now: $42; ulta.com