Children's Shampoo for Dry, Itchy Scalp

If your child has a dry, itchy scalp, it is important to address the issue. Excessive scratching could introduce bacteria, but choosing a harsh, medicated shampoo could make the situation worse as well. Wisely choosing a shampoo for dry, itchy scalp can bring your child relief without compounding the problem.

Child washing his hair (Image: Vita-lina/iStock/Getty Images)

Harsh Ingredients

Some children can be sensitive to harsh chemicals, which can cause a dry, itchy scalp. Some of these chemicals can be found even in children's shampoo labeled as mild. According to Healthy Child Healthy World, sodium laureth sulfate can be irritating to a child's skin. Sodium lauryl sulfate is a somewhat stronger ingredient and is not meant for prolonged use, unless in low concentrations. Adult dandruff shampoos can cause irritation, inflammation and photo-sensitivity when used on children, according to Environmental Working Group.


Harsh shampoos may be the cause of your child's dry, itchy scalp, but there are also other causes that may require specific treatments. Ringworm, which is most common in school-age children and toddlers, is a fungal infection that can create itchy, scaly, bald patches on the scalp. Other causes, according to Better Medicine, include eczema, head lice, psoriasis and folliculitis. In addition, contact dermatitis, which can be caused by allergies, and seborrheic dermatitis, better known as dandruff or cradle cap, can cause dry, itchy scalp.


Do not assume children's shampoo is always the mildest choice. Look for a pH balanced shampoo that does not contain sodium laureth sulfate or sodium lauryl sulfate. Normal flaking and cradle cap are benign conditions. Washing daily with a mild shampoo to loosen dry skin and oils may be all that is needed to combat your child's dandruff. If you suspect an allergy or contact dermatitis, go one step further and choose a shampoo with as few ingredients as possible. Consult your child's physician if you suspect head lice, psoriasis, ringworm or eczema. Contact the doctor if the condition persists or becomes worse.

Additional Solutions

Washing your child's hair with shampoo every other day rather than every day can help a dry, itchy scalp if the problem is simply due to a lack of moisture. On days when you do not wash your child's hair, simply rinse with clear, lukewarm water; This will add moisture back to her scalp and help remove accumulation of particles like dust and pollen. Encouraging your child to drink more water can also help, especially if she is taking medications that dry out her skin or scalp. If you blow dry your child's hair, use a low heat setting.

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