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Managing an itchy scalp doesn't have to break the bank — expert-loved picks starting at $5

Plus: How often should you really wash your hair?
Woman washing her hair in the shower with shampoo
Getty Images/iStockphoto
/ Source: TODAY

There are few beauty woes more annoying than an itchy scalp. Sure, it starts off innocent enough, but a slightly dry scalp quickly seems to turn into an itch you just can’t scratch enough.

If you’re hoping to kick that itch to the curb, finding the right shampoo to soothe your scalp can make a world of difference. To help you along the way, Shop TODAY tapped some top dermatologists and hairstylists and asked them to share their top picks for combating an itchy scalp. Plus, they answered one of your most common burning questions (no pun intended).

Best anti-itch shampoos and treatments for your scalp

Dove Dermacare Scalp Anti-Dandruff Shampoo

Best for: All hair types

"This is a great option for dry, flaky scalps as it contains pyrithione zinc that effectively tackles dandruff while gently restoring moisture to your scalp," says Dr. Shereene Idriss, cosmetic dermatologist at Union Square Laser Dermatology.

Head and Shoulders Itchy Scalp Care Dandruff Shampoo

Best for: All hair types, especially color-treated hair

"The main ingredient in this shampoo is pyrithione zinc 1%, and it has anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory properties," says dermatologist Dr. Marcelyn Coley. "Even better, it's affordable, effective for mild cases and comes in a variety of fragrances and formulas."

Denorex Extra-Strength Dandruff Shampoo and Conditioner

Best for: All hair types with moderate itching and flaking

New York-based board-certified dermatologist Dr. Debra Jaliman also likes Denorex, another pick with salicylic acid. "[It] helps to exfoliate and get rid of dead skin cells," she explains, adding that it will help relieve itchiness and target dandruff.

This medicated shampoo-conditioner combo contains 3% of the active ingredient and also tackles seborrheic dermatitis and psoriasis, according to the brand. Plus, the provitamin B5 to give your hair that extra nutritious boost.

Derma E Psorzema Scalp Relief Shampoo

Best for: All hair types, including color-treated hair

This 100% vegan and all-natural shampoo is formulated especially for cleansing, calming and de-flaking dry, itchy scalps, thanks to active ingredients like tea tree oil, menthol and salicylic acid. Plus, it nourishes hair thanks to vitamin B5 and is safe for color-treated hair. The cherry on top: It's under $10.

Native 2-in-1 Shampoo and Conditioner

Best for: All hair types, including color-treated hair

You may know the brand from its natural, skin-friendly deodorants, but Native also offers a two-in-one shampoo and conditioner that is free of sulfates, dyes, and other unwanted ingredients, so it's gentle enough for sensitive, itchy scalps, particularly those prone to eczema. It also contains citric acid that helps balance your scalp's pH levels.

TPH by Taraji Master Cleanse Scalp Treatment

Best for: All hair types and textures, weaves and braids

An Allure Best of Beauty 2020 winner, this rebalancing treatment from Taraji P. Henson's hair care line specifically targets your scalp with its tri-touch applicator. Made with a refreshing blend of eucalyptus, tea tree oils and witch hazel water, it's also perfect for every hair style, texture and type.

Vanicream Free & Clear Shampoo

Best for: Those with sensitive scalps, color-treated or permed hair

"In some cases, shampoo and other hair products may cause an itchy scalp in patients with sensitive skin. To treat this, I would recommend a hypoallergenic shampoo like Free & Clear," says Coley. "It's a gentle cleanser that is fragrance-, dye- and sulfate-free, in addition to being free of other ingredients that may be potential allergens for people with sensitive skin."

Nizoral A-D Anti-Dandruff Shampoo

Best for: All hair types and textures

"This is a great alternative if you don’t have time to see your dermatologist. Formulated with 1% ketoconazole, it helps reduce the amount of yeast of your scalp, which contributes to inflammation, redness and flaking," says Idriss.

Neutrogena T/Gel Therapeutic Shampoo

Best for: All hair types with chronic scalp psoriasis, seborrheic dermatitis or dandruff

"The coal tar extract in this shampoo helps tackle a dry scalp and continues to work even hours after you have rinsed it off. It also helps those dealing with psoriasis and seborrheic dermatitis of the scalp," says Jaliman.

Neutrogena also offers a version with salicylic acid instead of coal tar as the active ingredient, T/Sal Therapeutic Shampoo, that reviewers say has a lighter scent.

The Body Shop Ginger Scalp Care Shampoo

Best for: Sensitive and flaky scalps, those with product allergies

This fragrant shampoo is made from 90% natural ingredients and stored in fully recycled plastic, so your scalp and the environment can feel good. The active ingredients are purifying ginger essential oil and two kinds of birch bark extracts, which help get rid of loose flakes and soothe your scalp.

Honey Skin Organics Hair and Scalp Therapy

Best for: All hair types and textures

If you have fine or thinning hair in addition to an itchy or dry scalp, this all-natural shampoo won't weigh you down. In fact, it even boasts anti-thinning properties in the form of stimulating your scalp and strengthening hair to prevent breakage.

"[It's] made with natural and organic ingredients, like coconut oil, aloe, manuka honey and Australian cehami, that help soothe and/or prevent an itchy, dry, flaky scalp. I like it because it’s great for people with allergies or sensitive skin, and because it’s sulfate-free," says Stephanie Brown, hair colorist at IGK Salons in New York City.

Necessaire The Shampoo

Best for: All hair types and textures

A 2022 winner of Allure's Best of Beauty awards, this no-frills shampoo from Necessaire checks all the boxes for dry, itchy scalps.

It contains ultra-hydrating hyaluronic acid; niacinamide and panthenol (vitamin B5) to protect your skin barrier; and gentle, plant-based ingredients that won't strip your hair and scalp of moisture. Plus, it's fragrance-free.

Jupiter Balancing Shampoo

Best for: All hair types prone to dandruff

Dr. Rebecca Baxt, a New Jersey-based board-certified dermatologist, recommends this gentle shampoo, which uses a popular OTC active ingredient, for itchy, flaky scalps.

"Jupiter works to decrease itching because it has pyrithione zinc, which helps reduce seborrheic dermatitis, which is the leading cause of scalp itch," says Baxt, who recommended this shampoo in a previous Shop TODAY story on sensitive scalps.

It also has hardworking moisturizers like squalane, coconut oil and sea kelp extract (which Jupiter says also has anti-microbial and anti-aging benefits).

Rene Furterer Astera Fresh Soothing Freshness Shampoo

Best for: Sensitive and inflamed scalps, damaged hair

"The peppermint and eucalyptus oils in this shampoo relieve and soothe an itchy, flaky scalp, leaving hair soft, smooth and shiny," says Brown. "Peppermint oil helps with dandruff because it has antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties. It also helps strengthen hair roots, which will help with hair loss."

Philip Kingsley Flaky Scalp Cleansing Shampoo

Best for: All hair types prone to dandruff or itching, including color-treated hair

This cleansing shampoo does what it says, according to dozens of glowing reviews: It soothes itchiness from conditions like scalp psoriasis while helping clear build-up and flakiness. And it does all that while being gentle enough on even the finest hair, so you can use it regularly and not be afraid of it stripping your hair of moisture or color.

Its active ingredients, according to the brand, including cocamidopropyl betaine, which "gently cleanses without drying," and anti-microbial piroctone olamine, which helps preserve and protect.

Briogeo Scalp Revival Charcoal + Coconut Oil Micro-Exfoliating Shampoo

Best for: All hair types and textures

Specially formulated for those with itchy, red and flaky scalps or those with product buildup, this shampoo has "revival" in its name for a reason: The brand claims this scrub hydrates, detoxifies, exfoliates, balances and calms your scalp with natural, plant-based ingredients. These include Binchotan Charcoal which helps clear out follicles and coconut oil to moisturize your skin.

Oway Soothing Hair Bath

Best for: Those with sensitive and inflamed scalps

"This soothing bath is perfect for a sensitized, red or irritated scalp. It contains biodynamic fennel, which is cleansing and detoxifying. It also encourages micro-circulation of the skin and has smoothing properties," says stylist Sal Salcedo of Nova Arts Salon.

Questions about shampoos for itchy scalps, answered by experts

How often should I wash my hair if I have an itchy scalp?

"If you have trouble with an itchy scalp, you can wash your hair every other day or every day, if necessary, but make sure to use shampoos that contain hydrating components so that your hair doesn’t lose its moisture," says Jaliman.

"If you don’t use a shampoo with some moisturizing ingredients, you’ll find that your strands will be in a constant cycle of dryness," she adds.

Meet our experts

  • Dr. Rebecca Baxt, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist at Baxt CosMedical. She is based in New Jersey, but also has an office in New York City. Her practice's focus is on cosmetic dermatology and non-invasive cosmetic procedures.
  • Stephanie Brown was a master colorist at the Eddie Arthur Hair Salon in New York City. She now works as a hair colorist at IGK Salons in New York City.
  • Dr. Marcelyn Coley, MD, is a general dermatologist based in Berkeley Heights, New Jersey.
  • Dr. Debra Jaliman, MD, is a dermatologist specializing in cosmetic and general dermatology practicing in New York City. She's also an assistant professor of dermatology at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York City.
  • Dr. Shereene Idriss, MD, is a dermatologist specializing in facial rejuvenation and minimally invasive body contouring. She is based in New York City, where she is also a clinical instructor in dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai.
  • Kendall Dorsey is a celebrity hairstylist who also specializes in male grooming and editorials. He works in Los Angeles and New York City.
  • Sal Salcedo is a cut artist at Nova Arts Salon and is based in Los Angeles.