Tricks to Relieve a Dry, Irritated Scalp

Aly Walansky

dry scalp

A dry, itchy scalp or dandruff can be embarrassing and uncomfortable. Whether your symptoms are minor or extreme, it’s a problem you’re going to want to deal with as soon as possible. Thankfully, there are surprisingly simple ways to take care of the situation. Below, experts weigh in on how to cure a dry scalp!


Dandruff is caused by three factors: The presence of malassezia globosa (a fungus that lives on the skin), sebum (oil on the scalp), and a genetic tendency toward inflammation, says Head & Shoulders Dermatologist Dr. Ilyse Lefkowicz. A mild form of dandruff presents itself as a dry and irritated scalp.

MORE: Damaged Hair: Ways You’ve Been Drying Out Your Hair Without Knowing It


“The best preventative measure is to choose a shampoo and conditioner with the zinc pyrithione ingredient, like Head & Shoulders Itchy Scalp Care, which also contains menthol and eucalyptus scent to ease itchiness and refresh the scalp,” says Dr. Lefkowicz, who recommends washing hair with an anti-dandruff shampoo and conditioner every day to keep your scalp issues at bay. “Also, don’t ever go to bed with a wet head as that will further irritate your scalp and can exacerbate dandruff,” Dr. Lefkowicz says.

Always wash your hair in warm (not hot) water and do a cool water rinse. “The cool water will cause the keratin-filled cells of the cuticle to clamp down and lay flat rendering you hair more shiny and insuring its natural integrity to protect the cortex of the hair shaft,” says  hair expert, Robert Dorin, D.O. ACOFP of True & Dorin Medical Group.


“Salmon, dark green vegetables, beans, nuts, poultry, eggs, whole grain bread, low-fat dairy, carrots, water and cucumbers are all conducive to a healthy scalp,” says founder of The Beauty Bean, Alexis Wolfer.

MORE: 8 Foods That Make Your Hair Grow Faster

Natural Fixes

Apple cider vinegar rinses are great as well. Mix a solution of 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar to 3 cups of water, pour into a spray bottle, saturate hair, cover with a plastic cap, and let sit for 20-30 minutes. “This will help with many irritating scalp conditions like psoriasis, eczema, and dandruff. It rinses out clean, removes product buildup, and also adds shine and restores the pH to the hair. A few drops of rosemary or tea tree oil will boost this rinse,” says Shera Lee, a Health Coach and Yoga Instructor. Those with a very sensitive scalp should use caution when  adding essential oils and may find comfort by increasing the amount of water used for the mix.

Coconut oil is also great to combat a dry itchy scalp. “I sometimes add a few drops of tea tree oil or rosemary oil. For best application, transfer the oil to a bottle with a pointed applicator tip so you can apply the oil directly to the scalp, and massage in. You can also do hot oil treatments with this oil to help penetrate into the scalp and nourish the hair simultaneously,” says Lee.

“I found that rubbing vitamin E onto the scalp before bed (and then shampooing in the morning) solves this dilemma almost completely for most people. Take two vitamin E capsules and pierce them with a pin. Then, squeeze out the oil and massage into the scalp and hair. Vitamin E is an anti-oxidant and is also reported to increase hair growth,” says Kyle White, lead colorist at Oscar Blandi Salon.

Image via Adrianna Williams/Getty Images