The Best Shampoo for Sensitive Scalp – 2017 Reviews & Top Picks

Are you the type who experiences pain in your scalp while taking a bath? Or when you are combing your hair using a hard-bristled brush?

If your head easily itches or develops stinging rashes, especially when introduced to new hair products, you may have sensitive scalp—and this article is for you. Here are our top choices of shampoo for sensitive scalp:

Maple Holistics Argan Oil Shampoo, which combines six essential oils and vitamins to ensure full nourishment for both hair and scalp.

Another one of Maple Holistics is the Tea Tree Shampoo. Aside from providing the benefits of its active ingredient, this shampoo is sulfate-free, anti-dandruff, and promotes hair growth.

These two shampoos are pure - organic, so they are a safe bet if you want to completely avoid harsh chemicals.

Pharmaceutical Specialties Free & Clear Shampoo is another option. It doesn’t have fragrance, parabens, sulfate, formaldehyde or gluten, to name a few.

Cetaphil Baby Wash and Shampoo with Organic Calendula is a popular mild shampoo for babies. Hypoallergenic and mild, this is often recommended for sensitive scalp.

The most affordable in this bunch, yet also widely positively reviewed, is Neutrogena TGel Therapeutic Shampoo. Its active ingredient is Neutar, and is used by people with other types of severe scalp conditions like seborrheic dermatitis and psoriasis.

Reviews of the Best Shampoo for Sensitive Scalp on the Market​

Ranking
Brands
Content
Packaging
Editor's Rating

#1

Maple Holistics

8 ounces

Bottle

#2

Maple Holistics

8 ounces

Bottle

#3

Pharmaceutical Specialties

12 ounces

Bottle

#4

Cetaphil Baby

7.8 ounces

Squeeze bottle

#5

Neutrogena

4.4 ounces

Squeeze bottle

#1. Maple Holistics Argan Oil Shampoo

The Best Shampoo for Sensitive Scalp - Maple Holistics Argan Oil Shampoo Reviews

This product seems to be made specifically for hair nourishment and hydration, but could also work just as well for sensitive scalp.

One of the sensations of sensitive scalp is dryness and tightness. Argan oil hydrates skin. Other hydrating ingredients include avocado, jojoba, almond, peach kernel, camellia seeds and even keratin.

It also helps that this product contains Vitamin A, E and D which promote skin health and slows down aging.

Most importantly, this shampoo does not contain sulfates, parabens and other artificial chemicals that strip off natural moisture and oil.

Many of our customers say that it doesn’t leave any smell at all. This is actually good because it means there’s no artificial fragrance added, but we wouldn’t say no to a mild, pleasant smell either.

If you are looking for something to actually treat sensitive scalp, you might find much better results with the other products in this list. We recommend this shampoo nevertheless for regular use because of its impressive list of ingredients and lack of harsh chemicals.

What We Like

  • Has 6 essential oils that promote overall health for hair and skin
  • Paraben-free
  • Silicon-free and sulfate-free

What We Don't Like

  • Expensive
  • Not made for treatment of sensitive scalp

#2. Maple Holistics Tea Tree Shampoo

The Best Shampoo for sensitive scalp - Maple Holistic Pure Tea Tree Oil Shampoo Reviews

Just like the previous shampoo, this one is also not particularly formulated for sensitive scalp treatment. The upside is it is hypoallergenic, free of sulfates, and is all-organic.

It is marketed as hair growth therapy and head lice treatment shampoo. Its active ingredient for lice removal are not chemicals though, but rosemary and lavender extracts.

Some people with sensitive scalp tend to have dandruff. This shampoo may help stop flaking and avoid dandruff formation altogether.

One huge con is that the bottles produced more recently seem to have lesser quantity of tea tree oil than the ones produced sometime in 2013. So if you want to try this out, best look for a bottle manufactured before 2015.​

What We Like

  • Anti-bacterial
  • Hypoallergenic, no sulfates or parabens
  • Fresh scent

What We Don't Like

  • High priced
  • Apparent decline in product quality in recent months

#3. Pharmaceutical Specialties Free & Clear Shampoo

The Best Shampoo for Sensitive Scalp - Pharmaceutical Specialties Free & Clear Hair Shampoo Reviews

Now this one is specially formulated for sensitive skin!

It doesn’t have a lot of organic ingredients to boast of, but it does check off the main requirements for the ideal shampoo for sensitive scalp: paraben-free, gluten-free, no sulfates, no artificial fragrances or dyes, no formaldehyde, and other known harsh chemicals.

We love that based on our customers' feedback, it can effectively—but gently—remove conditioner residue and clean out your hair without triggering irritation.

Many loyal users of this product were introduced to it by their dermatologists or consulting doctors for skin allergies. It therefore has experts’ approval, and that’s good enough for us.

This shampoo isn’t exactly cheap, but considering that it does a good job of cleaning your hair without using strong chemicals? That’s a pretty good deal.​

What We Like

  • No sulfates, parabens or formaldehyde
  • No artificial fragrance or dye
  • Specially formulated for sensitive skin

What We Don't Like

  • Mildly noticeable clinical scent

#4. Cetaphil Baby Wash and Shampoo with Organic Calendula

The Best Shampoo for Sensitive Scalp - Cetaphil Baby Wash and Shampoo with Organic Calendula Review

Frankly, the moment we started thinking about shampoos for sensitive scalp, Cetaphil is one of the brands that immediately came to mind.

This brand is known for hypoallergenic products that are so mild and good for the skin, doctors recommend them for infants.

This particular shampoo has organic calendula: a type of soothing, anti-inflammatory oil distilled from marigolds. It is great for treating rashes and has anti-bacterial properties to boot.

We recommend this shampoo because it also doesn’t contain parabens, sulfates, formaldehyde, preservatives and other harsh chemicals.

There have been complaints of some users getting dry hair, or not feeling very clean after showering. Hence, this product is likely more ideal for sensitive scalp due to oil buildup.

Still not the most affordable product, but this can be worth the price.​

What We Like

  • No harsh chemicals
  • Lathers nicely

What We Don't Like

  • Leaves a slightly sticky sensation

#5. Neutrogena TGel Therapeutic Shampoo

The Best Shampoo for Sensitive Scalp - Neutrogena T/Gel Therapeutic Shampoo Original Formula Review

This isn’t just well-known because of its brand. The TGel Therapeutic Shampoo is actually a favorite among people with scalp issues.

It supposedly treats conditions like seborrheic dermatitis (inflammation of the scalp) and psoriasis (also inflammation, but with plaque buildup).

It also uses FDA-approved coal tar, which is now acknowledged as an effective agent against dandruff.

Some users corroborate the brand’s claims that results can be observed from first use. We expect that the effectiveness will depend on the severity of the scalp’s condition, though.

Dermatologists have also recommended this to patients with scalp problems, so it’s a win for us.​

What We Like

  • Very affordable
  • Prevents flaking and dandruff
  • Soothes the scalp

What We Don't Like

  • Doesn’t exactly smell nice

Shampoo with Harsh Chemicals Can Cause Sensitive Scalp

Stress, hormonal imbalance, or exposure to extremities can all cause sensitive scalp. The most common one, however, is exposure to chemicals in commercial shampoo.

Dr. Robert J. Dorin, a hair restoration surgeon and co-owner of True & Dorin Medical Group clinics in New York, Boston and New Jersey, cited the following ingredients as harmful to sensitive scalp and hair:​

  • Alcohol – be wary of shampoo with alcohol as one of the first four ingredients listed because this indicates a high concentration of the substance
  • Formaldehyde – causes hair loss
  • Ammonium lauryl sulfate
  • Sodium laureth sulfate
  • Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) – this causes shampoo to foam when lathered on hair, but is unfortunately harsh for sensitive skin
  • Polyethylene Glycol (PEG) or Polyoxyethelyne – washes out natural moisture in hair and scalp
  • Propylene Glycol – this is the same antifreeze used in cars
  • Parabens – specifically, propylparaben and methylparaben
  • Diethanolamine (DEA) – can cause allergies
  • Triethanolamine (TEA) – can cause allergies
  • Dimethicone – can clog pores and cause cystic acne
  • Synthetic perfumes and fragrances

It will be difficult to find hair products that do not contain a single one of the above, though, because many of these chemicals are staple ingredients for commercial shampoo. Here’s a tip then: similar to what we said earlier about alcohol in shampoo, avoid a product if the first four ingredients listed contain any of the chemicals listed above.

So, which shampoo should you choose? Here is a short list of what you need to look for:

  • Mild (for babies)
  • Hypoallergenic
  • Organic
  • Fragrance-free
  • Formulations for sensitive scalp

How Often Should You Shampoo Your Hair?

Normally, how often a person shampoos his/her hair depends on his/her lifestyle. Athletes, laborers and roadside workers may need to shampoo every day to wash off the accumulated dirt, while people who stay in air-conditioned rooms most of the time don’t have to.

A sensitive scalp is another matter. If you have the right kind of shampoo, applying it every other day or every two days is perfectly acceptable.​

It also depends on the hair type:

Thin Hair

  • Looks flat once the natural oil builds up
  • Frequent shampoo with volumizer is recommended

Thick Hair

  • Frizzy when dry
  • Signifies that natural oil is stripped off
  • Shampooing less frequently is recommended
  • Use a product without sulfates

In truth, experts don’t have one answer to this question. We have to discover the best combination of hair product and frequency of washing that works for us.

For sensitive scalp, find the balance that will ensure the following:​

  • Scalp is not too dry that it itches and develops sores.
  • Scalp is not too oily that it becomes irritated.

Conditioner Can Help!

Choosing a mild and moisturizing conditioner will keep your hair healthy and beautiful. At the same time, it won’t cause any grief for your sensitive scalp.

Also, keeping your hair soft, moisturized and tangle-free will reduce the urge to keep combing or scratching your head.​

Rinsing is the Key​

Whatever product you put on your scalp, it has to be washed off completely—and gently—to avoid itching and increasing sensitivity.

It’s also better to use cotton cloth to gently squeeze your hair dry. Avoid hair dryers as much as possible.

Don’t comb your hair too much when it’s still wet, too. The pull on the scalp is stronger than when combing dry hair.

Is Herbal Oil Really an Effective Remedy?​

Don’t be too hasty to grab the nearest jar of herbal oil to treat sensitive scalp. Contrary to popular belief, direct application of undiluted herbal oils can make things worse.

There have been recorded cases of people requiring medication because their symptoms have increased after self-treatment.

Oil can clog the pores and cause buildup of flakes, dandruff, dirt, and bacteria. Massaging it into the skin may even make things worse because microbes can be transferred from your fingers to your scalp.

Instead of the soothing effect, you might be hoping for, you could instead suffer inflammation and erythema. Worst-case scenario would be formation of pustules.​

Conclusion

On that note, we give you our top pick for the best shampoo for sensitive scalp: Neutrogena TGel Therapeutic Shampoo.

It is very affordable, so it won’t be a big problem to use for long-term.

It is dermatologically tested and recommended. It doesn’t contain sulfates, parabens, formaldehyde, and other substances unsuitable for sensitive scalp.

By all accounts, it effectively washes out dirt and keeps hair soft without causing itchiness or discomfort. Patients suffering from chronic scalp conditions have also given this a huge thumbs up!

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