Best Shampoos for Dry Scalp

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Many hair-care products target the texture, look and shape of the hair itself. They offer hydration and nourishment to strands, but may forget the most important part of hair health: the scalp.

Everything that supports hair happens in the skin layer. The scalp is defined as the skin covering the head that doesn't include the face. This skin is vital to the overall health, appearance and longevity of our hair.

Hair Structure Overview

We all know that hair itself doesn't feel pain. Hair is made of keratin, which is a tough protein that is technically dead hair cells. But how much do we really understand about the scalp and hair follicles themselves?

Hair Follicles

Hair follicles anchor the hair into the skin and act much like a vase: They’re containers in which the hair resides. This structure sits in the top two layers of skin on the scalp where the hair is located. The shape of the hair follicle greatly influences the texture of the hair as it grows from the scalp. Round follicles produce straight hair, while oval follicles produce curly hair.

At the base of the follicle lies the papilla, which is an area of blood vessels and connective tissue. The papilla nourishes growing hair. The germinal matrix also sits at the base of the follicle and is the spot where cells produce new hair when needed.

Hair Bulbs

Surrounding the follicle, papilla and matrix is the hair bulb area. This bulbous structure is the living part of the hair structure. The hair bulb has tiny pain receptors that allow us to feel pain when the follicle is pulled out or recognize when something has touched the hair strand. The hair bulb is continuously working at dividing stem cells every 23-72 hours and is susceptible to hormonal changes throughout life.

Oil Glands

Many people think that oily hair comes from the hair bulb, but the oil gland actually sits off to the side of the hair follicle, near the surface of the skin. This gland, sometimes referred to as the sebaceous gland, also helps remove old skin cells. Oil glands keep the scalp lubricated as well.

Arrector Pili Muscles

A unique part of hair structure is a tiny muscle called the arrector pili. This muscle attaches to the follicle on one side and the skin tissue on the other. When the body is cold, every arrector pili muscle contracts to make the hair stand up. This is why our hair stands on end when we are scared or surprised. The arrector pili muscle also includes autonomic nerves that send information to the brain.

Scalp Structure Overview

In order to find shampoos that can address the problem of dry hair, it’s important to understand the structure of the scalp.

Stratum Corneum

This top layer of skin is actually 10 to 30 layers of dead skin. Called the stratum corneum, it protects the living skin cells underneath and sloughs off continuously. The rate at which the dead cells are replaced changes with age. 

Epidermis and Dermis

The epidermis sits underneath the stratum corneum. The main job of the epidermis is to protect the body. The dermis is the second layer of skin, which sits beneath the epidermis. 

Sensory Nerves

A wide range of nerves supply the epidermis with sensations that give the body information. An itchy or tight feeling on the scalp is noticeable because of these sensory nerves. When the nerves are not working properly, they may provide a sense of numbness, pins and needles, or pain.

What Causes Dry Scalp?

A dry scalp occurs when it doesn't have enough oil or moisture for lubrication. While the hair follicle does have its own oil gland, sometimes the skin requires more moisture overall. Many men with a dry scalp also have dry skin conditions on other areas of the body. Men with dry scalps often find themselves itching their heads, which causes irritation and flaking. Hair strands may become dry as well, since the lack of oil affects the hair follicle. 

Some reasons behind a lack of lubrication on the scalp could be environmental. Men living in a drier climate may experience dry scalp, especially during the winter. Other factors for dry scalp include washing the skin too much, resulting in stripping the skin of its natural oils. Men with other skin conditions, like eczema and psoriasis, may also find that they have drier scalps.

The Difference Between Dry Scalp and Dandruff

Many assume that any white flakes from the scalp are dandruff, but that isn't true. Dry scalps can also produce small white flakes of skin that slough off. Dandruff, however, includes larger flakes that may be yellow in color. Too much oil, sensitivity to substances in hair products, or fungal infection can cause dandruff. 

The cause of dandruff is still unclear, but many dermatologists believe it has to do with a fungus called malassezia. This fungus is found on the scalp of healthy adults and usually doesn't cause any problems. However, when we are stressed or sick, our bodies can overreact to the fungus, resulting in large flakes that fall from the scalp. Unfortunately, dandruff is more prevalent in men.

Best Men’s Shampoos for Dry Scalp

Now that we understand what dry scalp is (and, more importantly, know that dry scalp is not a dandruff problem), we can determine which shampoo is best to use. Note that some dandruff shampoos may provide enough relief for dry scalp, making them a suitable choice. Dry scalp shampoos should include oils and moisturizers that help replenish the moisture in the skin layer. 

1. Blu Atlas Shampoo

Best Shampoos for Dry Scalp - Blu Atlas

Infuse your dry scalp with the richness of jojoba oil and aloe leaf with the new Blu Atlas Shampoo. This all-natural shampoo doesn't include parabens, sulfates or phthalates, so you can feel confident in using it. Blu Atlas Shampoo contains vitamins A, D and E to enrich and support skin health. Fatty acids and antioxidants add a further layer of protection against the elements. 

Blu Atlas Shampoo penetrates deep into the scalp, boosting the overall moisture content of the skin. Aloe leaf naturally moisturizes the skin and provides it with vitamins and antioxidants, soothing the scalp. Order an eight-ounce bottle of this shampoo online for about $20, depending on purchasing options.

Blu Atlas is a new grooming brand designed specifically for men. They use all-natural ingredients in all of their products, proving that we don’t need a bunch of artificial chemicals for better skin care. 

2. Dove Dermacare Anti-Dandruff Shampoo

Best Shampoo for Dry Scalp - Dove

Dove Dermacare Anti-Dandruff Shampoo is at the top of many lists thanks to its ability to relieve itchiness, relieve dryness and restore balance. While this product is geared toward men with dandruff issues, it also does a great job of addressing dry scalp issues that often accompany dandruff. Pyrithione zinc is the flake-busting element that is the star of this product. In fact, Dove promises that there will be no visible flakes with regular use of this shampoo.

The shampoo does an excellent job of moisturizing the skin and hair, making it an easy choice for those of us with dry scalp issues. Dove Dermacare Anti-Dandruff Shampoo also includes comforting shea butter and coconut oil, which hydrate the skin surface. It is easy to find in drugstores and retailers nationwide. 

To save time, choose this product in a two-in-one formulation that includes a conditioner. Dove also provides a wide range of scent options, making this a great choice for those of us who prefer a particular smell while cleansing. Dove is committed to helping people feel confident in their own skin. They stand behind the idea that no one should be embarrassed about their hair or body, which can be an issue for men with dry scalp.

3. Paul Mitchell Tea Tree Lavender Mint Moisturizing Shampoo

Best shampoo for Dry Scalp - Paul Mitchell

A combination of calming extracts create this ultra-soothing option from Paul Mitchell. The Tea Tree Mint Moisturizing Shampoo includes lavender, tea tree and mint extracts to create a perfect blend of botanical ingredients. Lavender is a highly effective essential oil, well-known for healing skin conditions. It not only helps to detoxify the skin but also has antifungal, anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. 

Tea tree is another essential oil known for its healing capabilities as an anti-inflammatory element. Tea tree oil soothes the irritation that frequently accompanies dry scalp. Mint is a natural antiseptic and antibacterial agent that brightens up the senses. All three of these essential oils work together to fight dry scalp and provide an amazing scent that is hard to beat. 

Paul Mitchell Tea Tree Lavender Mint Moisturizing Shampoo hydrates and soothes dry scalp. This refreshing product keeps us coming back for more. 

4. Oribe Serene Scalp Anti-Dandruff Shampoo

Best Shampoos for Dry Scalp - Oribe

This product is a top contender for the best men's shampoos for dry scalp. Oribe Serene Scalp Anti-Dandruff Shampoo is a high-quality product that uses salicylic acid to eliminate flakes. This ingredient gently addresses dry scalp symptoms while imparting a delightful citrus scent. 

This product includes moisture-boosting elements like sugar maple extract and bilberry fruit. These help protect the skin against free radicals, making it an excellent option for those of us who are serious about kicking dry scalp to the curb. Oribe Serene Scalp Anti-Dandruff Shampoo is a bit of a splurge, but most men won't need to use it every day.

Oribe offers a complete line of products in the Serene Scalp line. A newcomer to the skin-care industry – they were founded in 2008 – Oribe offers high-end products for clients who are obsessed with hair. This award-winning boutique brand provides luxury to those consumers who want an exclusive product that also includes a fine fragrance in all hair-care products.

5. Briogeo Scalp Revival Charcoal + Coconut Oil Micro-Exfoliating Shampoo

Best Shampoos for Dry Scalp - Briogeo

Looking for a scalp shampoo that also helps condition? Briogeo Scalp Revival Charcoal + Coconut Oil Micro-Exfoliating Shampoo will do the trick. This product uses exfoliators to help scrub away dead and flaky skin that can cause itchiness. The formula also includes coconut oil to hydrate and tea tree oil to naturally soothe irritation. 

This shampoo from Briogeo also includes charcoal, which draws out impurities in the skin. We liked that this product helps remove buildup on the skin caused by other hair products. However, some users complain that the product comes in a jar form, meaning that they had to scoop out the shampoo instead of squeezing it out. 

An added bonus for this product includes the conditioning ingredients that help smooth out hair and take care of cleansing and conditioning in an all-in-one package. Pick up a mini-size of this product from some retailers for about $15 to try it out. The standard eight-ounce size costs about $40. 

6. Neutrogena T/Gel Therapeutic Shampoo

Best Men's Shampoos for Dry Scalp - T-Gel

While the packaging is somewhat basic and uninspiring, Neutrogena doesn't need a lot of glitz and glamor because the true prize is inside. Their T/Gel Therapeutic Shampoo ranked well with men who have dry scalp issues. An extra-strength formula is an option for men who need immediate relief after just one wash. It contains 0.5% of coal tar, an active ingredient that works to rid the scalp of dead skin so new skin cells can develop over time. 

This shampoo helps control itching and flaking, and is widely used by men with psoriasis. The Neutrogena T/Gel Therapeutic Shampoo is recommended by dermatologists and is recognized by the National Psoriasis Foundation. This shampoo does well in tackling an itchy dry scalp. It isn't recommended for everyday use, but can be used once or twice a week, depending on skin conditions.

Neutrogena is a well-known skin-care brand that creates many products for both skin and hair. This dermatologist-recommended brand is easy to find in stores and online. 

7. Nizoral Anti-Dandruff Shampoo

Best Men's Shampoos for Dry Scalp - Nizoral

Clinically proven to help with scaling, itching and flaking dry scalp, Nizoral Anti-Dandruff Shampoo does wonders even for men who don't have dandruff issues. This product reduces the amount of yeast on the skin, which is often a feeding ground for fungus. While you don't need to use this product every day, it can be an excellent addition to a shower routine once or twice a week to help keep everything in check. 

Nizoral Anti-Dandruff Shampoo is the only over-the-counter shampoo that includes ketoconazole, a powerful dandruff-fighting ingredient. At 1% concentration, ketoconazole is clinically proven to reduce flakes and itchiness. This product is great for men who have tried everything else and are looking for a powerful shampoo that will fight dandruff and dry scalp. The brand states that this product is 10 times more effective at fighting the primary cause of dandruff than the leading competitor. 

8. Aveeno Apple Cider Vinegar Sulfate-Free Shampoo

Best Shampoos for Dry Scalp - Aveeno

If you’re looking for a shampoo that uses natural ingredients often found in the kitchen, try this Apple Cider Vinegar Sulfate-Free Shampoo from Aveeno. Oats are the main part of this shampoo, which soothes itchy scalps (remember those oat baths when you had chickenpox?)

Apple cider vinegar is known for its antimicrobial properties that help soothe irritation and battle skin infections. While it is good for the gut, apple cider vinegar can also help detox the skin. It includes enzymes, amino acids and beneficial vitamins that balance out skin pH. We also like that it helps clarify hair follicles that could cause itchiness from excess oil or product buildup. This shampoo from Aveeno is sulfate-free, dye-free and paraben-free, meaning it won’t damage your health. Pick up a 12-ounce bottle for about $8 online and in stores. 

Aveeno is a trusted personal care brand that focuses on using natural ingredients in its products. Nature and science work together to provide a boost of powerful natural ingredients to consumers. Aveeno works to offer products that are gentle on sensitive skin, yet powerful enough to get the job done.

9. LivSo Moisturizing Shampoo

Best Men's Shampoos for Dry Scalp - Livso

Another great option to help hydrate the scalp is this Moisturizing Shampoo from LivSo. The dermatologist-developed formula includes xylitol to help balance out moisture in the skin and support proteins that strengthen and smooth skin texture. Glycolic acid exfoliates dead skin cells in a gentle way. It unclogs pores and encourages a healthy environment for ultimate hair growth. Coconut oil adds a layer of moisture to the skin to help with dry scalp irritation as well as reduce the breakage of hair follicles.

We love the fresh lemongrass scent of this product. The luxe lather has a great texture that foams well and rinses clean. Men with brittle and dry hair generally see a transformation after using this product, experiencing healthy and robust locks. LivSo Moisturizing Shampoo is sulfate-free, and a small bottle costs about $20 online. Not convinced? Try a $2 sample on their website to see if it's a good fit.

LivSo is proud of its commitment to men with kinks and curls. Started by a board-certified dermatologist, LivSo uses clinical experience and scientific research to create products that really work. The company strives to support the love and beauty of curls and coils by providing products that moisturize without doing harm.

10. Philip Kingsley Flaky Scalp Cleansing Shampoo

Best Shampoos for Dry Scalp - Kingsley

Enjoy the scent of fresh green apples with this dry scalp shampoo from Philip Kingsley. Developed by trichologists who study problems related to the hair and scalp, this product is on our list thanks to its award-winning success. 

Unlike some other dandruff shampoos, the Flaky Scalp Cleansing Shampoo has a pleasant scent. The formula includes piroctone olamine, an antimicrobial element that targets fungus and yeast on the skin. Cocamidopropyl betaine works to cleanse the skin. Flakes and buildup will be things of the past when you use this product, which does a great job of clarifying and cleansing the skin barrier.

We liked that this product doesn't strip the skin of natural oils and is safe enough to use daily if desired. It is a great option for men with color-treated hair. Pick up an 8.45-ounce bottle for about $40 at select retailers.

Philip Kingsley is a leader in hair loss and scalp care. The brand offers trichological clinics that see patients who have trouble with hair loss, psoriasis, dandruff and seborrheic eczema. 

Tips to Properly Care for Dry Scalp

Now that you have the best men's shampoo for dry scalp picked out, what should you do? There are many opinions when it comes to caring for dry scalp issues, so we gathered the information that most experts agree on.

Wash Frequency

We all probably grew up in households where daily showers were part of life. Not only does cleansing every day help rid the body of sweat and odor, but it also provides a time to clean and condition hair. 

However, recent studies have shown that washing the hair every day can do more damage than we imagine. Waiting in between washes has become a hot topic recently, as both men and women spread out the days between shampoos. Most people agree that rinsing every day is important, but washing every day may be overkill.

It all depends on the individual and the amount of natural sebum or oil on the skin. Most experts recommend washing hair every three days, so you’re not stripping the skin of oil by washing every single day. If the hair feels greasy on day two, then by all means wash it. However, don't feel bad if the hair hasn't been cleaned for a few days or even a week.

Brushes vs. Combs

The kind of detangler used can also significantly impact scalp irritation and itching. A comb may work well for wet hair, but it could irritate the scalp. Hair brushes are also an option, as long as they don't tug hair or dig deep into the skin.

Detangle With a Wide-Toothed Comb

Choose a comb that has ample space between each tooth to allow more hair to pass through. Using a wide-toothed comb when hair is wet will help separate hair strands and reduce pulling on the hair follicle. Start at the bottom of the hair strand, and work up the hair toward the root. Never start at the root, as a comb can significantly damage follicles and create pain.

Consider Natural Brushes

Men with oily scalps but dry locks should consider using a brush with natural bristles, such as boar's hair, to distribute the oil evenly. Using an extra-dense brush can help pull the oil from the roots and move the oil down the hair strand to provide extra hydration. However, boar's hair can cause friction, so be careful not to pull hair at the roots.

Choose Rounded Ends

When choosing a brush or comb for dry scalp, look for options that include a rounded or polished end. This will help cut down on the damage done to the scalp and encourage less gouging and tugging on the skin. 

Try a Scalp Brush

A scalp brush is a pronged, flat brush that is often held in the palm of the hand. Using a scalp brush helps break down the buildup left behind from other products, dirt, dust and grime. Move the brush in a circular motion all over the scalp to stimulate the hair follicles and clear away dead skin cells. 

Final Thoughts

When it comes to finding the best men's shampoo for dry scalp, it is essential to reach for a product that hydrates the skin with extra moisture. Add in soothing ingredients, as well as those that offer antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties, to boost overall scalp health. 

While these best men's shampoos for dry scalp target dry scalp itch and irritation, they all provide additional benefits with unique blends of ingredients and scents. Price points also vary widely, but there is a dry scalp shampoo in the list above that fits any budget. Consider picking up one of these 10 best men's shampoos for dry scalp soon to alleviate itch and irritation.

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