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Ask the Strategist: How Should I Treat My Dry Scalp?

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In our advice column, Ask the Strategist, we take your most burning shopping questions and scour friends, call up experts, and draw from personal experience to answer them. As always, please comment with one of your own — we’re here to help.

Question: This dry, cold, BONE CHILLING weather has my dry scalp going into major overdrive. I have basically tried everything I can get my hands on to no avail. Strategist, you have to know of something that can save me and my black clothes — please help!!

We went straight to the professionals. First, Dr. Amy Perlmutter from New York Dermatology Group who recommends testing out four brands of shampoos, each one with a different active ingredient. Dr. Perlmutter suggests starting off with one type of dandruff shampoo and using it two to three times a week for six weeks. If it’s not as effective as you want it to be in that time, slow down to using it once a week (you can use your regular shampoo all other days) and then using a second scalp treatment shampoo, with a different active ingredient, every other week. Here are the four she likes, in the order she says you should try them in.

The first is Head and Shoulders, whose active ingredient is pyrithione zinc. Start with that and use it about two to three times a week.

The next is called Selsun Blue, whose active ingredient is selenium sulfide. This one’s effective, but if you have color treated hair beware because it might affect the color.

Then there’s Nizoral shampoo, which uses ketoconazole and is an anti-fungal treatment that works to stop the flaking, scaling, and itching associated with dandruff. It’s also a favorite of Redditors.

And lastly, T/Sal, which is a salicylic acid shampoo, that has actually been really helpful for me, personally (I have psoriasis on my scalp). Perlmutter says that this one’s specifically great if the scale on your scalp is thick. It works best at minimizing that. If you just have diffuse flaking, the first three are probably better for you.

We also reached out to Dr. Amy Rose of Sutton Place Dermatology who told us about a more homeopathic remedy. For people dealing with dry scalps and skin conditions like psoriasis it’s important to moisturize the scalp and build up the strength of the hair because a lot of the products that treat itchiness can also be drying. To that end, Rose recommends Paul Mitchell’s tea-tree oil products, which help get rid of impurities and prime the scalp for good health.

It’s a whole line of products that are all paraben-free and color-safe, and have a natural tingle that she says her patients love, “It feels like your hair is waking up.” This one’s a leave-in conditioner perfect for extra moisture.

Paul Mitchell also makes a line of tea-tree oil products that have anti-thinning properties, “It’s more of a natural, holistic approach to try to thicken hair and soothe the scalp,” says Rose. You can buy the whole set to test them out.

And if all of the packaging on these bottles is just too ugly for you to bear, on February 5 Oribe is releasing a Serene Scalp Line that comes in millennial pink bottles and works to soothe the scalp, remove dandruff, and prevent irritation.

Update: After this post went live, we heard from some people in the comments. We’ve added those reader-approved products below.

One commenter told us that they’ve tried all of the above recommendations and still nothing worked. What did? Davines Purifying Shampoo.

Other suggestions include apple-cider vinegar, which we’ve written about before as a great rash treatment and conditioner.

One last suggestion was mixing a bit of mouthwash in with your shampoo. We’ll let you decide if you’re desperate enough to try that one.

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Ask the Strategist: How Should I Treat My Dry Scalp?