What Is a Good Shampoo & Conditioner for a Dry, Flaking Scalp & Dry Hair?

Shampoos with zinc pyrithione can help alleviate a flaking scalp.

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Whether you rock a short bob, dreads or a mane that's long and loose, having a dry, flaking scalp can jeopardize your whole look. Aside from the fact that dandruff isn't the best way to accessorize that new black cashmere scarf, a dry scalp can affect the health of your strands. If your tresses are brittle, frazzled and lusterless, your hair is crying out for help. Give your 'do some relief with commercial and homemade products that can hydrate parched hair and soothe a flaking scalp.

Causes

Cold weather, dry conditions, over-shampooing, harsh hair products and heat styling can all do a number on your tender scalp, drying out your tresses in the bargain. A medical condition could also be the culprit. A flaking scalp with a powdery, grayish appearance can be a tipoff to a skin disorder such as psoriasis. A seriously flaky scalp, accompanied by scaly patches and large, yellowish dandruff flakes, may indicate seborrheic dermatitis, which is linked to a yeast fungus called malassezia. If you have symptoms of psoriasis or seborrheic dermatitis that don't improve with self care, consult your doctor or dermatologist. Finally, an allergic reaction to a specific hair spray or gel can also cause itching and dryness.

Shampoos

To soothe an irritated scalp and moisturize dry hair, Mothernature.com recommends ditching your regular shampoo in favor of a mild formula enriched with protein and essential fatty acids. You can also take a flashback to the 1960s and whip up a natural herbal shampoo that hydrates hair while combating dandruff. To make "Scarborough Fair shampoo," inspired by the herbs listed in an English ballad popularized by Simon and Garfunkel, simply add a few drops each of sage, rosemary and thyme essential oils to any high-quality commercial herbal moisturizing shampoo. This traditional hair cleanser actually has some modern scientific cred, with the University of Maryland Medical Center reporting that rosemary has potent antimicrobial properties. These antifungal effects can promote scalp and hair health, and may help you say "seeya" to malassezia. To be on the safe side, check with your doctor before using essential oils.

Conditioners

If giving up blow drying is a deal breaker for you, conditioners that feature thermal protection can help protect against heat damage. Cosmopolitan.com recommends sulfate-free conditioners formulated especially for dry, brittle hair, as well as those that include hair-friendly ingredients such as argan oil and aloe vera. To banish pesky flakes, Everyday Health suggests products with zinc pyrithione, ketoconazole and selenium oxide.

Dry Hair and Scalp Deep Conditioner

Natural oils can be your best buddies when it comes to moisturizing scalp and hair. Guide to Less Toxic Products advises gently warming 1/2 cup of sunflower oil, adding 5 drops of rosemary oil and massaging the mixture through your hair and into your scalp. Wrap your hair in plastic and apply a hot towel for 20 minutes, then shampoo the mixture out. Sunflower oil is packed with linoleic acid, a beneficial polyunsaturated fatty acid, while antioxidant vitamin E helps to protect hair by scavenging destructive free radicals. According to Leah Hechtman, author of "Clinical Naturopathic Medicine," researchers found that Vitamin E can reduce levels of histamine and prostaglandin D, the chemicals that trigger annoying itching. Apply the treatment twice a week; your scalp and hair will thank you for it.

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