Picture this: You reach for your trusty black shirt, do a light scalp scratch—and boom, you look down to see that it has snowed in 90 degree weather. Oh wait, those aren't snowflakes! Itchy, dry, uncomfortable scalps are not something that we have to accept. In an ideal world, we’d all have healthy, calm scalps that never feel itchy, dry, or flaky. But this is reality, and your scalp may need some TLC from time to time—especially when your symptoms don't always point to the same scalp issues.
What causes a dry, itchy scalp?
“There are a variety of things that can cause dry scalp, including skin conditions like dandruff, scalp psoriasis, and eczema,” says Hairstory Hairdresser Jennifer Covington-Bowers. She continues, “Other triggers include environmental factors, certain hair products, hormonal changes, dietary triggers, excessive washing, and genetics.”
There's your run-of-the-mill winter scalp, which feels itchy and dry (but is flake-free). Then there's dandruff, which presents as itchy, white flakes that easily come off if you gently scratch your scalp. And finally, there's seborrheic dermatitis (seb derm), which leaves your scalp noticeably red and inflamed, with oily, scale-like patches that kind of stick to your roots. Cute, right?
Though the first step to battling your itch issues is to see your doctor or dermatologist for an official diagnosis, you might not have the time or the patience to do that. And you may not need to—Covington-Bowers says that the main culprit of a dry scalp is actually over-washing. “When we over-wash our hair it strips the natural oils that we need to keep both the hair and scalp hydrated," she says.
So your shampoo absolutely matters, but there are also other tried-and-true therapies that serve as an at-home treatment. But if after a month you still have symptoms, then you need to make an appointment (seriously, do it).
Moroccanoil Dry Scalp Treatment
An Oil-Based Treatment
This scalp treatment uses a trio of oils to rehydrate and balance an unhealthy, sad scalp. Argan oil, geranium oil, and lavender oils all help soothe and moisturize your scalp, so you can wave goodbye to your woes.
Head & Shoulders Royal Oils Instant Sooth Scalp Elixir
For Targeted Relief
If you have a sudden urge to scratch, spray this oil on your scalp for an immediate cooling sensation, courtesy of the peppermint oil. The best part is that it's made for protective styles in mind, so it provides moisture in a leave-in formula that won’t create buildup.
Bread Beauty Supply Scalp-Serum: Cooling Greens Exfoliating Scalp Treatment
The Soothing Oil
Acids—not just a vital part of a skincare routine! Acids provide exfoliating benefits to the scalp, too. The lactic acid in this treatment works to gently refresh the already sensitive skin on our heads while also keeping hair from over-producing oil or excessive dryness.
Living Proof Restore Dry Scalp Treatment
An Itch-Curbing Treatment
This liquid-like gel uses hyaluronic acid that seeps over your scalp like a patch, trapping in moisture and releasing balancing and calming vitamin B3 throughout the day. In small-scale clinical studies, 92 percent of participants said the gel instantly soothed their scalps, which is a major win for anyone dealing with incessant itching.
Bosley Rejuvenating Scalp Scrub
An inflamed scalp cause a lot of “head-scratching," and itching literally never helps—with the exception of that satisfying feeling. Keep your claws away and instead opt for this scalp scrub that has physical exfoliants along with a scalp tingling feel that is even more gratifying.
Hairstory New Wash Original
A Gentle Wash
Sometimes all your scalp needs is a breathing period, and gentle products are vital for keeping flakiness at bay. Conington-Bowers says, “Instead, opt for a cleanser that is detergent-free, like New Wash. It cleans and conditions gently and safely with essential oils instead of harsh cleansers; it’s meant to keep the integrity of the scalp in balance.”
Oribe Serene Scalp Anti-dandruff Shampoo
A Magic-Ingredient Shampoo
Dry? Itchy? Irritated? Not anymore. This is the chic girl's answer to an anti-dandruff shampoo. Using the healing powers of salicylic acid and caffeine, your scalp will feel exfoliated and invigorated after experiencing this shampoo.
Virtue Exfoliating Scalp Treatment
A Scalp & Hair Treatment
The best part of this treatment? The lightweight formula that doesn’t feel heavy on the hair. It comes in a whipped texture that cleanses the hair for a quick in-shower treatment. After one use of this invigorating scrub, you’ll notice your hair looks shinier in a non-greasy way, and your scalp doesn’t feel like you just tore open every pore.
Kevin.Murphy Scalp Spa Wash
A Micellar Rinse
People with color treated-hair know that most scalp treatments and washes also tend to wash out the color, leaving behind lightened roots in bland hues. This micellar rinse lightly cleanses hair while filling follicles with celery seed extract to reduce irritation and dryness.
Kaleidoscope Miracle Drops
A Multi-Use Oil
A powerful oil that not only helps with dryness, but also provides nourishment for thinning hair with a couple drops daily. Many reviewers noticed results after four weeks, but they urged to keep using it for healthier, shinier hair.
Paul Mitchell Hair and Scalp Treatment
A Tea Tree Treatment
There's nothing more irritating than the discomfort that comes from a dry and itchy scalp. This soothing trio of tea tree oil, peppermint, and lavender helps to stimulate and rid the scalp of irritation. It also leaves your strands moisturized and smelling divine.
Kérastase Relaxing Scrub: Soothing Scrub for Dry Scalp
A Sensitive Scalp Scrub
Calm irritation and nourish the scalp with this gentle scrub. Madecassoside (a complex from the centella asiatica plant) helps to revitalize the scalp and address conditions like flakiness and eczema while vitamin B5, jojoba, and orange peel work to soothe and hydrate.
R+Co Acid Wash ACV Cleansing Rinse
A Protective Rinse
This scalp rinse is full of ingredients that protect your hair and scalp against free radicals that can be harmful to your scalp's health. It reduces the remnants of dandruff, as well as moisturizes and soothes irritation. Plus, it doubles as an anti-frizz shampoo so your scalp and your strands will thank you.
Jupiter Soothing Elixir
A Scalp Elixir
Here's instant relief for all of your dry scalp woes. This lightweight elixir is infused with oat kernel, jujube fruit, olive, and eucalyptus to hydrate and ease discomfort without leaving behind a greasy residue.
Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Happi Scalp™ Scrub
A Gentle Scalp Scrub
Scalp scrubs are among the few fun things you can do when you're dealing with an angry scalp. It's like self-care, but for your scalp. This scrub is formulated with an AHA/BHA acid blend that helps dissolve dead skin cells that may be clogging your scalp, allowing full, healthy hair to grow.
Reverie CAKE Restorative Scalp Tonic
A Scalp Tonic
Oftentimes, the cause of an itchy, red scalp is an unbalance of pH levels. This tonic gets everything back in order by rebalancing the scalp, and hydrates to prevent the onset of dandruff. Additionally, it promotes hair growth if you're manifesting longer locks for your future.
Philip Kingsley Flaky Scalp Cleansing Shampoo
A Build-Up-Busting Shampoo
As much as you might want to scratch your scalp, stop right there—this shampoo will do a much better job than your fingers. It exfoliates your scalp to free it from build-up, strengthens weak spots, and smells like sweet apples. What more could you want?
Briogeo Scalp Revival Charcoal + Tea Tree Scalp Treatment
A Charcoal Treatment
Charcoal is a natural detoxifier and tea tree is a natural healer. Together, these hero ingredients dissolve dead skin cells and soothe itchy, dry patches. This treatment will prime your scalp for optimal hair health.
Christophe Robin Cleansing Purifying Scrub with Sea Salt
A Deep-Cleaning Scrub
Even though you may think you wash out all your hair products every time, chances are, there's microscopic residue build-up that has the potential to clog your pores. This scalp scrub gives your scalp a deep-clean so that your hair can truly breathe. Plus, for those who worry about getting oily, this scrub works to rebalance your natural oil levels.
SACHAJUAN Scalp Shampoo
A Scalp Hydrator
This shampoo utilizes salicylic acid to shed dead skin cells that are clogging scalp's pores while causing dryness and discomfort. Additional ingredients help rehydrate dry patches and soothe irritation. Plus, it's worth noting the sleek bottle will look beautiful in your shower.
Biologique Recherche Lotion P50 Capillaire
An Exfoliating Lotion
Just like P50 Lotion works wonder for your face, this version does the same for your scalp. It exfoliates like no other, getting rid of flakiness and promotes a healthy base for your hair to grow.
Philip Kingsley Stimulating Scalp Toner
An Anti-Itch Toner
Not only does this hair toner help de-clog your scalp from excess oils, it's also anti-bacterial and anti-fungal for those with long-standing scalp issues. Witch hazel helps relieve itchiness and menthol stimulates the scalp and cools irritation.
Nizoral Anti-Dandruff Shampoo
A Fan Favorite
What this product lacks in packaging pizazz, it makes up for with an incredibly powerful flake-killing formula. I mean, 3,000 five-star reviews on Amazon don’t lie: This shampoo really works. It’s filled with 1 percent ketoconazole (the other holy grail in seb derm and dandruff treatments) to cut itching and flaking after just a few uses.
Hair Rituel by Sisley Revitalizing Fortifying Serum for Scalp
A Do-Everything Serum
This scalp serum can be applied on dry or wet hair, and no rinse is necessary. It immediately soothes dryness and inflammation and improves the health of your scalp after each use. Also, hair health isn't excluded from this fortifying serum's benefits—so mermaid hair, here you come. Not to mention, it smells like an absolute dream.
Dove Beauty Derma Care Scalp Dryness & Itch Relief Anti Dandruff Shampoo
A Drugstore Shampoo
Yeah, yeah, there’s nothing sexy about dandruff shampoo, but who the hell cares if it stops your scalp itch and flakes fast? This drugstore favorite uses a high dose of pyrithione zinc (one of the best over-the-counter treatments for both dandruff and seb derm) to kill the fungus—sounds gross, but it’s just an overgrowth of yeast that we all have—without stripping your hair.
Klorane SOS Serum with Peony
A Calming Spray
If your scalp is plain ol’ dry and itchy (with absolutely zero redness or flakes), try a calming spray, like this floral-scented formula from Klorane. It’s infused with peony extract (a natural anti-irritant) to calm irritation, plus menthol to temporarily neutralize itching, and, most importantly, a mix of glycerin and castor oil to hydrate your dry scalp and keep the moisture in.
Leonor Greyl Anti-Dandruff Shampoo
A Garlic Shampoo
This French shampoo strips away impurities that may be messing with your scalp's natural balance. Garlic bulb (yes, garlic!!) increases blood-flow to your scalp which helps keep you hydrated while healing any irritated patches.
Chelsea Hall is the Assistant Fashion and Beauty Editor at Marie Claire, where she covers celebrity style, fashion trends, skincare, makeup and anything else tied into the world of fashion and beauty
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