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9 Best Dry Scalp Treatments: Which is Right for You?

dry scalp treatment

When your scalp is itchy and flaky, you can get desperate enough to try just about every home remedy in the book from coconut oil to mayonnaise hair masks. This time, try a targeted dry scalp treatment.

Head down to the bottom of the article for info on dry scalp and how to tell if your itchy and flaking is dry skin or dandruff, and if an anti-dandruff shampoo would serve you better. But let’s jump right into the best dry scalp treatments of 2023.

What Are the Best Dry Scalp Treatments?

Mizani hair lotion Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Anti-itch
  • Leave in lotion
  • Hydrating
Price: $25.00 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Maple holistics shampoo and conditioner Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Shampoo and conditioner combo
  • Tea tree for dandruff
  • Great for fine hair types
Price: $23.95 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Green bottle of Paul Mitchell Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Tea tree is awesome
  • Hydrates and soothes
  • Trusted brand
Price: $24.00 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Apple biotic hair care bottle Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Probiotics for your scalp
  • Won't make you greasy
  • Great for hair and scalp
Price: $21.95 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Light green bottle of hair conditioning oil Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Affordable
  • Hydrating oils
  • Activated charcoal
Price: $17.88 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Short yellow bottle of Phyto Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Best for increasing circulation
  • Stimulating
  • Used pre-shampoo
Price: $28.52 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
glass dropper bottle and box Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Increases circulation
  • Cooling to soothe itch
  • Antibacterial and anti-inflammatory
Price: $27.90 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
White LivSo pump bottle Amazon Customer Reviews
  • For Type 3 and Type 4 hair
  • Deeply hydrating
  • Leave in
Price: $18.00 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Green and black bottle of moisturizer Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Certified Organic
  • Great for very dry skin
  • Anti-fungal
Price: $16.99 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Our Unbiased Reviews
  1. 1. EDITOR’S CHOICE: Mizani Scalp Care Calming Lotion

    • Stops the itching
    • Leave-in product
    • Hydrating aloe vera and avocado oil
    • Fast acting
    • Not a long-term solution to dandruff
    • Only lasts so long
    • Pricier than some but it stops the itch

    If it’s the itching that’s driving you up the wall, the Mizani Scalp Care Calming Lotion offers an immediate cooling action that soothes the itching.

    Aloe vera, menthol, and eucalyptus oil provide quick relief when you rub this leave-in lotion into your scalp. It’s cool, tingly, and refreshing.

    Because you don’t rinse it out, the aloe vera and avocado oil will help moisturize your skin but aren’t prominent that they should make your hair appear greasy.

    If you have severe dandruff or severe dry scalp, this is a good option for dealing with the symptoms but may not address the core problem. But for seasonal or occasional itching and dryness, this can do the trick and do it fast.

  2. 2. Maple Holistics Shampoo & Conditioner Set

    • Awesome for fine hair
    • For dry scalp and dandruff
    • Soothing botanicals
    • Strengthening proteins
    • Free of sulfates, silicone, and parbens
    • Safe for color-treated hair
    • Not as hydrating as some may need
    • For severe dandruff you may need something stronger
    • Not everyone digs the scent

    If you’re like me and find that leave-in products leave your hair limp and oily, a targeted shampoo and conditioner is probably the way to go. This combo by Maple Holistics uses tea tree in both the shampoo and conditioner for a double dose of that anti-flake, antiseptic goodness.

    The shampoo uses rosemary oil and lavender oil to gently cleanse the hair and scalp then returns hydration with light argan oil and jojoba oil. For damaged or weakened hair, they’ve added keratin for a protein treatment.

    The conditioner has larger amounts of argan oil and jojoba oil with more moisture from aloe vera, shea butter, and glycerin. There’s more keratin in here along with silk amino acids to reduce breakage. The conditioner has that cooling, itch soothing tingle from the tea tree and added menthol.

    No silicone means this set will leave your hair feeling lighter with better volume but is still hydrating enough to give you healthy shine.

    We also included this brand in our best hair growth shampoo article.

  3. 3. Paul Mitchell Tea Tree Hair & Scalp Treatment

    • Tea Tree oil is great for scalp health
    • Soothes inflammation and irritation
    • Nourishing botanical extracts
    • Hydrating shea butter, jojoba oil, and aloe vera
    • Trusted Paul Mitchell brand
    • Contains silicone and PEG’s
    • Too heavy for fine hair
    • Not for greasy hair

    From the folks at John Paul Mitchell, the Tea Tree Hair & Scalp Treatment uses the anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-inflammatory power of tea tree to tackle the itch of dry skin and some of the secondary issues that can occur like dandruff.

    It uses shea butter, aloe vera leaf extract, and jojoba oil to hydrate your skin. You apply this cream to your roots a few times a week and leave on for three to five minutes before rinsing it out completely. That gives the oils enough time to be absorbed by your skin but won’t leave your hair looking oily.

    Botanical ingredients like willow bark and extracts of white ginger, chamomile, and rosemary reduce irritation and improve skin flexibility. This treatment also has soy proteins to help strengthen hair damaged from over-drying.

    There’s a peppermint and tea tree scent to this one and it has a cooling, tingling sensation that helps beat the itch.

    My biggest issue with this one is that it contains dimethicone. Silicones like dimethicone are used in lots of hair treatments and body lotions because they seal in moisture. They can be stubborn to wash out and lead to your hair feeling limp and heavy. Silicones are ideal for taming flyaways, but if your hair needs help with volume, you may want to stick with something silicone-free.

    The Tea Tree Hair & Scalp Treatment is available in a 6.8 ounce tube and 16.9 ounce pump bottle which gives you more for your money.

  4. 4. AppleBiotic Hair Rinse

    • Re-balances scalp health with probiotics
    • Won’t leave you looking greasy
    • Certified organic
    • Skin soothing aloe and botanicals
    • Hair loves apple cider vinegar
    • Free of parabens, silicone, sulfates, fragrances, and dyes
    • Doesn’t add oils directly
    • Strong smell at first
    • Slower to work but eventually you may not need it

    This AppleBiotic treatment attacks scalp problems from an entirely different angle by preventing future dryness instead of trying to add moisture.

    It’s an oil-free rinse formulated to re-balance the mini-ecosystem that is the top of your head. Your scalp as flora the same way your stomach does and having the right kind of flora goes a long way to overall health.

    AppleBiotic uses raw apple cider vinegar to re-balance the pH of your scalp along with probiotics the same way that you’d use probiotics to get your digestion back in shape. The aim is to reset your scalp so it can properly hydrate itself the way it’s supposed to.

    It’s a rinse so you’ll apply it after your shampoo in place of a conditioner and then rinse it out. Some people are wary of showering with vinegar but I used apple cider vinegar exclusively as my condition when I was No-Poo (no shampoo) and while it definitely smelled like vinegar in my shower, as soon as I rinsed, the smell was gone and my hair was shinier and softer than ever. This rinse will have that vinegar smell but it doesn’t last and it’s so worth it.

    The vinegar will also help lift and remove any product residue from your hair which can be a cause of dry scalp. To calm itchy and inflamed skin, AppleBiotic includes aloe vera gel (which will hydrate dry skin) and extracts of apple, green tea, and chamomile.

  5. 5. Shea Moisture Scalp Elixer

    • Cooling mint
    • Activated charcoal
    • Deeply moisturizing argan, apricot, and jojoba oil
    • Ginger extract for scalp health
    • Organic
    • Cruelty-free
    • Free of sulfates, parabens, and mineral oil
    • Can leave hair greasy for some
    • Small bottle
    • Needs to be shaken before use

    If dry hair is an issue for you along with dry scalp, this pre-shampoo treatment may be a good option. It’s filled with hydrating oils including grapeseed oil, jojoba oil, apricot kernel oil, argan oil, shea butter, and sunflower seed oil. It’s formulated for those with very curly hair (Type 3 or 4) but it’ll work with all hair types.

    In addition to serious moisture, this serum brings cooling mint and zingy ginger to the party. Ginger extract works wonders on your scalp by helping clear out build up and soothe dry skin. The activated charcoal (no idea where that’s hiding in this clear liquid) will also draw out impurities and give you a fresh feeling scalp.

    Even though it’s meant to be shampooed out, if you’re prone to greasy hair, this amount of hydration might be a little much for you.

  6. 6. Phyto Phytopolleine Botanical Scalp Treatment

    • Increases circulation to scalp
    • Stimulating botanicals
    • Hydrating corn oil
    • Cleansing lemon
    • Cruelty-free
    • Free of parabens, sulfates, silicones, gluten, and mineral oil
    • Not everyone loves eucalyptus smell
    • Pricier
    • Smaller bottle

    Our blood is what keeps the cells of our bodies oxygenated and healthy so when there is poor blood flow to your scalp it may contribute to an upset scalp. The Botanical Scalp Treatment uses natural extracts like rosemary, sage, and cypress to stimulate circulation to your scalp creating more blood flow which is a good thing, although there’s no proof that it prevents hair loss at all.

    Corn oil hydrates dry skin and dry hair while tingling and cooling eucalyptus relieves uncomfortable itching. The thing is, you can’t hide the smell of eucalyptus. This treatment is going to have that slightly medicinal scent to it but you’ll be washing it out so it’s not a huge deal in my opinion.

    It’s a once to twice a week treatment that you’ll want to apply around 20 minutes before you plan on shampooing to make sure that your scalp is able to absorb all this good stuff. The treatment works as a cleanser as well with natural lemon oil to help remove build up and dead skin.

  7. 7. Kaff & Co Kaffir Lime Scalp Treatment

    • Fights dandruff and inflammation
    • Increases blood flow to improve skin and hair health
    • Cooling effect
    • Free of sulfates, silicones, parabens, perfumes, and dyes
    • Not as moisturizing as others
    • Glass dropper
    • Pricier

    For those who have an itchy dry scalp but hair that is prone to looking oily, you may want to try this treatment from Kaff & Co. It doesn’t have the same formula of being chock full of shea butter and argan oil and other intense moisturizers that can be too heavy for some.

    This serum uses cold-pressed kaffir lime essential oil which is antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and anti-dandruff. The high ginger root content stimulates blood flow to your scalp, oxygenating the skin and improving the texture of your growing hair.

    Dry skin is moisturized with vitamins E and B5 as well as the carrier oil for the kaffir lime. Any itching is treated with menthol and gooseberry extract which is soothing and anti-inflammatory on the skin.

    The delivery method could be a little better. To apply you add about a third of a dropper to your scalp and gently massage in. I do like that the reusable glass bottle is more eco-friendly.

    This one works best when used with their Kaffir Lime Essential Oil Shampoo.

  8. 8. LivSo Moisturizing Scalp Lotion

    • Deeply hydrating
    • Great for Type 3 and 4 hair
    • Botanical extracts reducing inflammation and flaking
    • Leave-in product
    • Not vegan
    • Not for oily hair or people with psoriasis
    • Glycolic acid too strong for some

    When our skin is dry, we put lotion on it so here we have a Livso’s Scalp Lotion which is a leave-in treatment. It can be applied daily if needed but you’ll likely only need it a few times a week or after shampooing.

    This is heavy-duty hydration packed with shea butter, coconut oil, glycerin, aloe vera, and cholesterol. This level of moisture will take care of dry skin but it’s also ideal for Type 3 and Type 4 hair for promoting volume, softness, and shine.

    A unique ingredient in this dry scalp treatment is glycolic acid which is an alpha hydroxy acid and chemical exfoliator often used in body and facial peels. It helps remove dead skin so you can be rid of the flakes plaguing you and hydrate the healthy skin underneath. Glycolic acid has also been shown to reduce hair breakage.

    Botanical extracts like willow bark, meadowsweet, chamomile, and honey reduce inflammation and itching.

  9. 9. Earth’s Enrichments Anti-Itch Scalp Serum

    • Deeply hydrating with many oils
    • Skin calming and anti-fungal essential oils
    • Cruelty-free and vegan
    • Certified organic
    • Great for frizz
    • Free of dyes, parabens, sulfates, petroleum products, and gluten
    • Not for greasy hair
    • Strong lavender fragrance
    • Can make fine hair feel heavy

    The Anti-Itch Scalp Serum sounds like it’s right on target and, looking at the ingredients, I don’t know how your scalp could possibly dry after using it. There are so many oils packed in here to hydrate your skin and hair that I just have to list them all: jojoba, coconut, sunflower, castor, avocado, olive, hemp seed, and grape seed oil.

    That’s a serious blend of moisturizers which is perfect if you have dry or frizzy hair, but if your hair can go from clean to greasy at the drop of a hat this is probably too heavy for you. It’s a leave-in treatment for after you shower and you only need a couple of drops so your bottle will last a long time.

    Instead of botanical extracts, which generally use alcohol as a carrier, this treatment uses essential oils, to up the moisturizing factor just that much more. Lavender and rosemary essential oils are anti-fungal as well as anti-inflammatory to address dandruff issues along with dry scalp.

What causes dry scalp? 

Dry scalp is caused by the same things as dry skin on the rest of your body: a lack of natural oils. This can be from genetics, dehydration, exposure to drying chemicals like hair spray, or dry air from daily blow drying, home heating, and air conditioning.

Our scalps are particularly prone to drying because we don't want greasy hair so shampoo is designed to strip your scalp of natural oils. On top of that, most styling products actively dry your skin out too.

Is it dry scalp or dandruff? 

Both dandruff and dry scalp result in itching and flaking but they have different causes and treatments.

Dandruff is when the normal skin shedding cycle of your scalp is sped way up and shedding skin faster than on the rest of your body. Dandruff flakes tend to be larger, slightly thicker, and can have a tan or yellow-ish tint to them. Your flakiness is more likely to be dandruff if your scalp tends to be oily.

Dry scalp is simply dry skin. The flakes are usually small, very white, and dry. Dry hair is also common though it is possible to have both dry scalp and dandruff.

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