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The best shampoos for sensitive scalps

It's all about finding the right ingredients.
woman drying hair with towel
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When we think of beauty routines, we typically think of skin care and makeup — but what we use on our hair is just as important. Using the right tools and formulas can make all the difference when it comes to having a good hair day.

For those with sensitive scalps, it's especially important to pay attention to the hair products you're reaching for in the shower. According to New York-based celebrity hairstylist Anthony Dickey, the scalp is often the most overlooked part of the body.

"The health of your scalp is super important for healthy hair growth, and your scalp is the most abused and neglected skin on your body," Dickey told us. "You need to keep it healthy and free of impurities to keep it producing healthy hair on your head."

One of the first steps to upgrading your hair routine is making sure your products have the right ingredients. Drew Schaefering, Brooklyn-based hairstylist and owner of Cruxe, recommends looking for hydrating, soothing formulas that include argan, grape seed and coconut oils.

"Tea tree and lavender oil are commonly used to mitigate symptoms and naturally restore balance," Schaefering said. "Sometimes more of a medical approach is needed and should be consulted with your stylist or doctor. In these cases, ingredients like pyrithione zinc and ketoconazole can be very impactful."

In an effort to help you navigate the sometimes confusing world of hair care, we asked experts to recommend their favorite products for sensitive scalps.

Expert-recommended hair products for sensitive scalps

1. Vanicream Free and Clear Shampoo

For the best results, board-certified dermatologist Dr. Amy Wechsler encourages you to avoid products with harsh chemicals and fragrances. This shampoo is one of her fragrance-free favorites that aims to clean and nourish all hair types.

"Your scalp should be treated with care and kept healthy," Wechsler told us. "This means being gentle and avoiding overly scrubbing the scalp. One of my favorites is Free and Clear Hair Shampoo. It is for sensitive skin, but is very moisturizing and gentle."

2. Briogeo Don't Despair, Repair! Shampoo

Our hair covers our scalp, which can make it hard to keep track of its health. But New York City-based dermatologist Brendan Camp says just because it's "out of sight" doesn't mean it should be out of mind. Camp considers this shampoo safe to use on color-treated hair because of its lack of sulfates.

3. Dae Daily Shampoo

An itchy and flaky head can be irritating, so Camp suggests this shampoo for its soothing aloe leaf juice. He also advises that you maintain healthy habits, such as getting a haircut and shampooing regularly.

"Maintaining regular habits, such as getting a haircut, shampooing, conditioning, and styling keeps you in tune with the health of your scalp so that new problems can be identified and treated early," Camp said.

4. Davines Naturaltech Calming Shampoo

If you're looking for a shampoo that combines natural ingredients with modern technological advancements in hair care, then Schaefering recommends this shampoo that aims to calm and soothe. The brand recommends gently massaging the product into the hair and letting it sit for a few minutes before rinsing.

5. Act and Acre Cold Processed Essentials Bundle

"I approach scalp and hair health the way I think of dietary needs," Schaefering told us. "We may need more of something specific that will benefit us, however, if we only give our body that one thing for long periods of time, we will have an abundance of x, and then need more of y."

If you're looking to treat your scalp to all the essentials at one time, this may be the kit for you. This bundle from Act and Acre is made without any harmful chemicals and includes a shampoo, conditioner and scalp detox treatment.

6. Aveeno Scalp Soothing Shampoo

New York-based dermatologist Marisa Garshick likes this shampoo by Aveeno because of its natural ingredients.

"This oat-based shampoo is a great option for those with sensitive scalps," Garshick said. "It also incorporates rose water and chamomile, so it is soothing and soft on the scalp. Free of sulfates, dyes and parabens, it is gentle on the scalp and is also a good option for those with color-treated hair."

7. Heeta Hair Scalp Massager

Already using a great shampoo? Then Camp suggests incorporating a scalp massager into your shampoo routine.

"While not a shampoo, this massager helps to gently apply shampoo or conditioner throughout the scalp and remove scale," Camp said.

Rated a No. 1 Amazon bestseller, this device is well-loved by thousands of reviewers. Made of silicone, the massager was designed to help ease scalp itchiness while promoting blood circulation.

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