Anyone with dry sensitive skin will know that using the wrong shampoo can cause an itcy, dry, flaky scalp which is painful, frustrating and can get infected. Anti-Dandruff shampoo isn’t always the answer but you might think it would be easy to find the perfect shampoo. A quick trip to the local chemists or pharmacy will show you that there are so many on the shelves but very few that say they are suitable for a dry scalp, eczema, psoriasis, sensitive skin etc. So how do you know which to try?
I went shopping to the health food shops thinking, well this will be easy, I can grab something and try it out. But buying shampoo seems to be all about hair and nothing about scalp. The bottles all advertise their qualities for volumising, moisturising, cleansing, good for normal hair, oily hair, dry hair, dyed hair, damaged hair. What about people with dry, itchy, flaky scalps?
After much searching I did get some good advice from a lady at Holland and Barrett who I always find really helpful. She suggested their Dr Organic range and the Tea Tree and Aloe vera products which makes sense to me as I already use both of these natural products on my skin anyway. She also recommended the Dr Organic shampoo with olive oil in it but where do you start and how do you know which is going to work for you? I guess it’s just trial and error and more error than success if my experience is anything to go by.
I have a few that I’ve used regularly but recently noticed that the TreSemme shampoo I had been using was beginning to make my scalp a little dry. Not awful, but a quick scan of the ingredients wasn’t encouraging. I’ve tried a few others over the years and here are the best and some to consider which I found in my endless trawling of the shops for answers.
So, in no particular order, the best, the not so good and not that great shampoos that I’ve tried…
- Neutrogena T-gel shampoo
Everyone has heard of Neutrogena and I have used it in the past, not least because on first looking it appears to be the only suitable product in the shops.
However it’s very expensive and I have never found their products that great for my skin. This is what they say, “Neutrogena® T/Gel® Therapeutic Shampoo is a fragranced medicated shampoo, which should be used as often as needed or as recommended by your dermatologist or doctor, for the treatment of itchy, flaky scalp disorders such as dandruff, seborrhoeic dermatitis and scalp psoriasis.”
I’m not sure the ingredients are really that good for sensitive scalps and eczema. See what you think here: NeutarTM Solubilised Coal Tar Extract 20 mg/ml. Macrogol lauryl ether (4), Sodium lauryl ether sulphate (SLS), Cocodiethanolamide, Cocamidopropyl betaine, Imidazolidinyl urea, Methyl parahydoxybenzoate (E218), Propyl parahydroxybenzoate (E216), Tetrasodium EDTA, Citric acid anhydrous, Perfume (contains Esters of benzoic acid, methyl benzoate and benzyl benzoate), Sodium chloride and Purified water.
The only ingredient here that actually sounds healing, kind and suitable for sensitive skin is purified water. It contains both SLS and perfume which can be irritants to sensitive skin. I don’t like the sound of all those azo’s, ido’s and oxy’s much either. They also do other varieties, one of which is fragrance free, but this contains a whole bucket load of parabens. Not great either! Since this shampoo doesn’t leave my scalp even feeling that great and the ingredients are pretty nasty I’ve ditched the Neutrogena in search of something more natural and healing. At between £5 to £6 for just 125ml it’s also very expensive if you don’t really like the results.
- Allergenics gentle medicated shampoo
After using Neutrogena I didn’t think I would like this one much as I don’t like the medicated coal tar smell of Neutrogena but this one has a very pleasant light smell. Again though, this shampoo is not cheap at about £7.49 for 200ml from Holland and Barrett.
This is what they say, “Allergenics Preservative Free Emollient, Gentle Medicated Shampoo, with natural Phytosterols.
- Hypo allergenic
- 100% Natural origin
- Dermatologically Tested
- Allergy Tested
- pH 5.5
- A dermatologically proven, preservative free cleanser
- Suitable for those prone to dry, itchy skin conditions
- Dr Organic Aloe Vera Shampoo
This is the shampoo I’m using right now. It does have a faint perfume and looking at the ingredients below there are a few alarm bells ringing. It may be organic but are all these ingredients natural and good for you? There is an SLS though not the usual one and also Limonene, linalool and parfum.
This is what they say… “A strengthening and protecting shampoo formulated with Organic Aloe Vera. This extremely mild and gentle shampoo is recommended for dry and normal hair and scalp types leaving hair soft, hydrated and manageable even with frequent use. It protects and fortifies the hair, controls split ends, gives nourishment to the scalp and is perfect for maintaining hair in lustrous shiny condition.”
Aloe barbadensis leaf juice, Aqua (water), Sodium lauroyl sarcosinate, Sodium cocoamphoacetate, Cocamidopropyl betaine, Palmitamidopropyltrimonium chloride, Coco-glucoside, Glyceryl oleate, Sorbitan sesquicaprylate, Sodium hydroxymethylglycinate, Parfum*, Limonene, Linalool, Citric acid.
I couldn’t find a product in this range which was sold for sensitive skin and dry scalps. The skin on my scalp isn’t great at the moment, so kind of indicates that this stuff isn’t the best choice out there. It isn’t actually irritating my skin but it’s not really helping the dry skin condition much either. Keep on searching…
- Lush soak and float
Lush say that it is “A no-nonsense shampoo bar to help soothe scalps. Cade oil is derived from juniper and has long been used to treat scalps with psoriasis, dandruff and eczema. Rose and marigold petals calm the scalp and soothe redness, whilst lavender oil has been added for its antibacterial and balancing effects on the scalp.”
Ingedients: Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Water (Aqua), Cade Oil, Lavender Oil, Marigold Petals, Rose Petals, *Limonene, *Linalool, Perfume
What you do is get the soap bar wet and lather it in your hands then rub it over your scalp and work it into your hair till you’ve coated the hair. I find it has a very strong medicated, burnt kind of smell but it works OK, doesn’t keep my hair feeling clean and shiny for as long as normal shampoo. The next day it feels sort of coated and as if it needs washing again. I like it for travelling or holidays where you might be showering every day after a day on the beach, on the saddle or the slopes and it also won’t leak as it’s just a soap bar. Most importantly it is kind to my scalp and doesn’t irritate my skin. From the ingredients list there are things here that may cause irritation including Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), Linalool and Limonene. You can also buy a little tin to carry it in. They also do a nettle and tea tree soap bar which might be worth a try though I haven’t tried that one myself. Be aware though that most Lush products contain parabens and perfume so ask for the sensitive skin products and always read the ingredients list. https://www.lush.co.uk/products/soak-and-float
- Barefoot SOS Shampoo
I have this shampoo at home too and do enjoy using it, though I don’t use it all the time as it’s also not cheap at about £13 for 200ml, but cheap isn’t always best. If it’s a better product and kinder on your skin, scalp etc. then it’s a winner in my book. The BareFoot SOS brand also featured in the FreeFrom Skincare Awards so you can take that as proof it has great credentials.
Barefoot SOS Scalp Treatment Shampoo is a gentle, deep cleansing treatment shampoo that combines the highest quality blend of natural moisturisers, comforting botanical plant extracts and pure essential oils to leave the hair cleansed and shiny, and the scalp relaxed, hydrated and soothed.
Barefoot SOS Scalp Treatment Shampoo contains:
- Calendula and Nettle nourish the scalp and promote glossy hair
- Botanical extracts of White Willow and Aloe soothe and calm the scalp
- Horsetail Extract helps boost collagen and elastin for a healthy scalp and hair
- Pure Essential Oils of French Lavender, Rosemary and Geranium refresh the scalp
- Nizoral dandruff shampoo
- Green people Irritated scalp shampoo
I really like the look of this one as I love their sunscreen but haven’t bought any yet. It costs about £10-11 for 200ml but this does look to be the price you pay for something with a nice ingredients list.
This is what they say, “Finding your natural hair oils are over producing? Finding yourself with an itchy or irritated scalp? Look no further as Green People have created a marvellous shampoo that will cleanse, stimulate and control your hairs bad days! Not only will the shampoo leave your hair feeling fresh, it helps to relieve symptoms of itchy scalp and help to reduce the appearance of dandruff. Blended with Organic Rosemary and Pineapple, this gorgeously scented shampoo will last longer than mainstream products as a little goes along way!”
Ingredients: AQUA (SPRING WATER), GLYCERIN (VEGETABLE DERIVED), DECYL GLUCOSIDE (DERIVED FROM CORN), SODIUM COCOAMPHOACETATE (DERIVED FROM COCONUT), COCAMIDOPROPYL BETAINAMIDE MEA CHLORIDE (DERIVED FROM COCONUT), BETAINE (SOOTHING PLANT EXTRACT), ALOE BARBADENSIS (ALOE VERA) LEAF JUICE POWDER*, ANANAS SATIVUS (PINEAPPLE) FRUIT EXTRACT, AROMA [ROSMARINUS OFFICINALIS (ROSEMARY) LEAF OIL*^, LAVANDULA ANGUSTIFOLIA (LAVENDER) HERB OIL*^, LAVANDULA HYBRIDA (LAVANDIN) HERB OIL*], OLEA EUROPAEA (OLIVE) FRUIT OIL*, LINALOOL*. *ORGANIC INGREDIENTS, ^FAIRLY TRADED (Period After Opening 12M)
- Make your own shampoo with soap nuts and rhasoul
I bought my rhassoul from Natural Spa Supplies and all you need to do is mix the clay with water, leave for 10 minutes and then add a little more water to get the consistency you prefer.
For full details of how to make it visit the Natural Spa Supplies website above but although it sounds like a bit of a faff, it does last a week or so. You just make a little bit as you need it. I haven’t tried this one yet but have been reading lots of other blogs about how much others love it, mainly people going for a greener lifestyle.
It’s the next shampoo on my list to try and it sounds lovely, you simply massage the clay mixture into your scalp, don’t rub it into your hair. When you’ve massaged your whole scalp, comb the clay through your hair, especially if you have long hair, and rinse.
Allergenics Gentle Medicated Shampoo has been formulated after extensive research and dermatological studies in the field of allergies. It is a highly effective gentle cleansing treatment, particularly suitable for those with easily irritated, sensitive scalps. Free from harsh detergents, and does not damage the scalps delicate cellular structure.
100% Natural origin, 100% Preservative free and 100% Soap free.”
Ingredients: Aloe Barbadensis leaf juice, Aqua, Decyl Glucoside, Disodium Cocoamphodiacetate (from coconut), Brassica Campestris (Rapeseed) Sterol, Capryloyl Glycine, Coco Glucoside, Glyceryl Oleate, Aroma, Glyceryl Caprylate, Panthenol, Xanthan Gum, Borago Officinalis (Borage) Seed Oil, Sodium Hydroxide, Citric Acid.
Free from: No SLS, SLES, parabens
I quite liked this shampoo, much better than Neutrogena. It left my hair feeling squeaky clean and my scalp wasn’t too bad when I was trying this one out. The ingredients also look quite good, it doesn’t contain any of the known big nasties but there are some there I don’t really know. More research needed.
I have used this in the past, you have to massage into the scalp, leave for about 10-15 minutes and then rinse off. It did help a bit but it comes in such a minute little bottle that at about £6 a bottle for just 60ml of shampoo it’s VERY expensive.
I also couldn’t find out what the ingredients were, only that the active ingredient is Ketoconazole 20mg/g. Any product that doesn’t volunteer ingredients up front must have something to hide. I will keep searching for this information and update when I do.
From those featured above, my favourites so far have been Allergenics and BareFoot SOS. Dr Organics isn’t bad but isn’t helping my skin heal.
My search for the perfect shampoo has proved anything but easy. It seems most shops don’t know what products they sell and those shops you do trust have products which appear great but perhaps have ingredients which are not quite so appealing.
Maybe there isn’t a shampoo out there that won’t make my scalp dry and flaky but I do have a few things that help. Avoiding using a hair dryer makes a huge difference and if you really have to use one, try the cool setting so you don’t dry your skin out so much.
I also have some lovely scalp oils from Pure Potions and Organic babies. These really help, but as soon as I wash the oil out, which can take a few shampoos, my scalp is dry again.
Another website to follow to find out about great freefrom natural skin care products is the FreeFrom Skincare Awards website. Another great brand which featured in the awards for 2014 was Faith in Nature. They don’t feature in my list above because I tried one of their shampoos years ago and didn’t get on with it. However I shall be having another look at their range and ingredients and seeing what they have to offer too in 2015. Who said washing your hair was boring! I might have an improved list of amazing hair care products for you later this year.
For further reading I have literally just stumbled upon Shampoo for eczema website which has lots of other suggestions here.
Which is your favourite shampoo for dry scalps and eczematous, sensitive skin?