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How to treat a dry scalp in winter: expert tips and products for dryness & irritation

We spoke to 'tricho-derm' Dr Sharon Wong…

dry scalp treatments
Fiona Ward
Fiona WardActing Fashion and Beauty Editor
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A dry, itchy scalp is never comfortable - and it can be tricky to figure out what's causing it. And while dandruff and dryness can occur at any time of year, the colder months can cause flare-ups.

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Wondering what's the best way to tackle those flakes? HELLO! chatted to Dr Sharon Wong - known as the 'tricho-derm' thanks to her specialisms in both skin and hair issues - and it turns out, there's plenty of things you can try to transform your scalp from scaly to smooth. 

dry scalp

A dry scalp is a very common problem

Find out more about what's causing your dandruff below…

What can cause a dry scalp?

"Dandruff, scalp eczema and psoriasis are the most common causes of a dry, flaky scalp," Dr Wong tells us.

How can we tell the difference?

Look out for any further symptoms. "Dandruff is not accompanied by inflamed skin or patches of hair loss," she says. 

"So if you notice itchy, red, inflamed patches and or hair loss, then this isn't just dandruff and will require proper assessment and likely prescription medication from your doctor or dermatologist."

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Targeted shampoos, scrubs and serums can help

What is dandruff?

"Dandruff - medically known as pityriasis capitis - is incredibly common and affects 50 per cent of the global population," says Dr Wong. 

"Despite the myths, it is not a contagious problem and has nothing to do with lack of cleanliness. Whilst there is no cure for dandruff, it is a highly treatable condition and with the correct products and haircare routine it can be kept under very good control."

What else can cause dandruff?

Hormonal changes can sometimes cause changes in the scalp.

"The decline in oestrogen during menopause means that the skin loses its water-retaining capacity – which is why dry skin including the scalp are common symptoms in women of this age group," says Dr Wong. 

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"However, in teenage years the surges in testosterone in both sexes pushes the oil glands into overdrive so instead of having dry scalp, a greasy scalp tends to be the norm. Overproduction of grease can worsen dandruff in some people."

hair mask

Changing your haircare routine will help with a dry scalp 

Which products work for dandruff?

"Many of the effective treatments for dandruff will contain anti-yeast actives, this is because dandruff is due to a group of yeasts called Malasezzia which normally live on our scalps, feeding off the sebum our oil glands produce," she says.

"The acids the yeasts produce causes irritation and flaking in some people. Anti-yeast actives commonly found in anti-dandruff shampoos include zinc pyrithione, piroctone olamine, ketoconazole and selenium sulphid."

She adds: "I often recommend Nizoral shampoo which contains ketoconazole – it's a potent anti-yeast medication, helpful for more severe dandruff."

10 scalp products with 5-star reviews for treating irritation and dryness

The Body Shop Ginger Scalp Care Shampoo

the body shop ginger shampoo

This refreshing shampoo manages to feel softening and gentle to use while still soothing and smoothing the scalp. We are in love with the results, and the gorgeous gingery scent!

The Body Shop Ginger Scalp Care Shampoo, from £2.00, The Body Shop

Nizoral Anti-Dandruff Shampoo

nizoral shampoo

Recommended by Dr Wong, this stuff packs a punch at an affordable price tag - it has countless loyal fans.

Nizoral Anti Dandruff Shampoo, £6.39, Superdrug

Monpure Hydrate and Soothe Scalp Serum

monpure serum

A few drops of this luxurious serum will inject vital moisture into your scalp - it's free from sulphates, silicones and parabens, too. Check out the rave reviews!

Hydrate and Soothe Scalp Serum, £96, Monpure

Philip Kingsley Flaky Itchy Scalp Shampoo

philip kingsley flaky itchy scalp shampoo

Another cult favourite, Philip Kinglsey's Flaky Itchy Scalp Shampoo is loved by many for its instant results and fresh apple scent. We love this super-sized bottle that will last you yonks.

Flaky Itchy Scalp Shampoo 1000ml, £67, Harrods

Neutrogena T Gel Shampoo

neutrogena t gel

For another budget-friendly option, Neutrogena's T Gel is very effective - some are unsure on its strong scent, but the results speak for themselves! 

Neutrogena T Gel Shampoo, £9.92, Look Fantastic

Oribe Serene Scalp Shampoo

oribe serene scalp

Fancy something a little more luxurious? Oribe's balancing shampoo is loved by its fans for its soothing effects and beautiful scent. We love the creamy texture, too.

Oribe Serene Scalp Shampoo, £45.50, Space NK

Living Proof Dry Scalp Treatment

living proof scalp treatment

Apply to towel-dried hair and leave-in, simple as that! A good option to add to your routine if you don't want to change your shampoo and conditioner initially.

Living Proof Dry Scalp Treatment, £25, Space NK

Briogeo Scalp Revival Treatment


With witch hazel, tea tree oil and peppermint, shoppers love Briogeo's naturally-focused formula. Use after shampooing to calm the scalp even further.

Briogeo Scalp Revival Charcoal + Tea Tree Scalp Treatment, £27, Space NK

Siliscrub Shampoo Brush


A great little tool for massaging your scalp, increasing blood flow and gently exfoliating. Use it in the shower with your favourite shampoo.

Siliscrub shampoo brush, £3.98, Amazon

Kérastase Soothing Scrub

kerastase soothing scrub

Another luxurious product which will feel like a treat in your routine! Perfect for stimulating the scalp and reducing flakes.

Kérastase Soothing Scrub, £34.40, Look Fantastic

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