Minimalist Beauty

The 4 Best scalp moisturizers for black hair: Easy, cheap and home-made

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I spent years growing back my natural hair only to shave it all off because my scalp was constantly irritated and my hair so dry. Thankfully, I came out the other side with a few good news, one of them being: I think I’ve finally found the best scalp moisturizer for my (black) hair.

Having tried both natural ingredients and store-bought hair products, The best scalp moisturizer for black hair I’ve found is fenugreek. Fenugreek water is effective, easy to make using only natural ingredients, and it works fast. Other effective and natural scalp moisturizers are coconut milk, rice water, and apple cider vinegar.

To go directly to the list of best scalp moisturizers for black hair, jump to section IV of this article.

best scalp moisturizer for black hair
The flakes were literally visible.

I- A little background on my hair type and my scalp healing journey

My hair type

Like many black women, I have different hair textures. Bouncy curls in the back, coarse hair at the top, and thin, almost straight, very brittle hair at the front.

I’m not sure what my hair type is but I would say that it lays somewhere between a 3C and 4C. It’s probably more like a general 4A, with the front looking more like a 3C and the crown more like 4B-4C hair.

black hair type
My curly hair before

My hair and scalp story

I had a relaxer for about 11 years, and then one day, in 2013, I had enough.

I then spent 7 years trying to grow my natural curls and more healthy hair while transitioning to more natural products.

The Curly Girl Method worked for me for a while and I managed to grow beautiful, curly hair in the beginning. During that time, coconut oil was my crack.

But that only lasted a couple of years. And then my skin and hair started to hate coconut oil. I’m not sure how it happened.

And so, after only a couple of years of healthy, moisturized, shiny-looking natural black hair, my scalp began to grow drier and itchier. And just like that, I began struggling again with coarse, brittle hair, and even hair loss.

I was trying all sorts of things: essential oils (lavender, rosemary, or tea tree oil), natural oils (like argan oil, sweet almond oil, jojoba oil, coconut oil), and even aloe vera… nothing seemed to work.

If anything, all these oils and essential oils seemed to make my scalp even drier, flaky, and sensitive.

And I still had excessively dry hair.

And then, it kept getting worse.

At some point, each strand of hair felt like needles coming out of my head. It was painful to even touch my scalp sometimes.

My hair was perpetually in a protective style, aka braids, and I was beginning to feel ugly and discouraged.

Until one day, I finally shaved all my hair off.

Shaving my head allowed me to finally shift some of the attention I was putting on my hair (and that was a lot of attention), toward my scalp.

Instead of only seeing the hair damage, I finally started to notice how irritated and dry my scalp was and I embarked on a mission to heal it.

Can’t have healthy hair on a sick scalp, can ya?

And that’s how I embarked on a search for scalp moisturizers.

II- The important role of water in keeping your dry scalp moisturized

In truth, one of the best scalp moisturizers for black, non-chemically treated hair is water.

Yep, plain ol’ water.

I say this because, we, black women, have been taught to never wet our hair and to not wash our hair too often: “it will break if you wet it too often!” (said every black mother in the history of black mothers).

You’ve probably heard that growing up, right? Especially if you have relaxed hair.

I don’t know about relaxed hair, but for natural hair, I find the opposite to be true.

When I only wet (aka co-wash) my hair once every 2 weeks, my scalp becomes excessively dry, irritated, and flaky in the medium term.

If, on the other hand, I wet and nourish my hair every day or every other day, my hair and scalp start to look and feel completely different. My scalp is less painful, my hair shinier, my curls bouncier, etc. I also experience “faster” hair growth, but it’s actually just better hair retention.

But who has the time for that?

Oh, and btw, noticed I said “wet” my hair, not ‘wash with soap’? Too much soap is a definite no, no.

The truth is, your hair is like a plant, your scalp is the soil, and the whole thing needs water to stay healthy.

It’s only once I shaved my hair that I finally realized how badly my scalp was craving water. Like a dying plant begging for the rain.

So, regular “washes” or spraying your scalp with water are important for keeping your scalp, and thus your hair, moisturized.

But…! There’s a “but”

However, it takes more than just water to moisturize a dry scalp.

Best moisturizer for scalp black
Source: Healthline

As water evaporates, it can evaporate with the skin’s natural oil, thus leaving your skin (or scalp) even dryer (Verywell Health).

This is why, water is important, but not alone, and applying too much water can be a double-edged sword.

Demineralized water for dry scalp

The type of water you use on your skin and scalp also matters. Especially for those of us with afro hair who live in a city with very hard water.

Hard water impacts your hair and can cause you to experience dry, flaky scalp (source: Lovedbycurls).

Washing your hair with demineralized water can help maintain your hair and scalp natural oils.

demineralized water for scalp
Source: Westlab

Demineralized water, often referred to as distilled water, has been extremely beneficial for my scalp, especially during the first 2 to 3 months after my shave.

I simply purchased demineralized water by the gallon and transferred some to a smaller 1L bottle with a sports cap.

Sports cap

I then used the demineralized water for my final hair rinse or for making the scalp sprays mentioned in section 4.

(I also use it on my face, btw. Game changer!).

Related post: 11 Secrets to my naturally glowing skin all year long

Note that, although demineralized and distilled water are often used interchangeably, they are not exactly the same (source: So Fresh).

Having only tried demineralized water, I will speak only of that.

But since distillation is considered a more effective method for purifying water (source: Westlab), my guess is that it would work just as well as (if not better than) demineralized water on your scalp.

III- Do natural oils moisturize your scalp?

Natural oils are not necessarily the best moisturizers for dry scalp. Well, I’ve tried for years and I didn’t achieve the best results.

As it turns out, oils, on their own, don’t moisturize; they lock moisture in. So, oils do have a role in moisturizing your dry scalp… it’s just not a one-(wo)man show.

Therefore, moisturizing your dry scalp is not about greasing it every day and, ta-dah! No more flakes…

If anything, my scalp becomes even flakier if I put just oil on it, day after day.

dandruff and natural oils
Source: Byrdie

However, if I regularly spray my scalp with a moisturizing lotion (like fenugreek water or the ones mentioned below), it is enough to durably moisturize my scalp.

From time to time, I will apply a drop of natural oil on damp hair or after I’ve sprayed my scalp with the solutions mentioned here… but I don’t do it daily.

And so, the fenugreek water will relieve the dryness and greatly reduce the flakes and itchiness, and the oil will lock that moisture in for a few hours/couple of days thus keeping your scalp moisturized.

Sesame seed oil for scalp care

I personally stay clear of castor oil when it comes to my scalp because it just makes dandruff worse.

My favorite oil, not just for keeping my scalp moisturized, but for my hair and face, is sesame seed oil. This oil is pure magic!

Oh, and btw, never, ever apply your styling products (such as hair butters or gels) directly to the scalp. And, although opinions diverge on this, I don’t recommend using mineral oil on your scalp either.

But just try stuff and figure out what works best for you.

IV- The best scalp moisturizers for black hair

I generally stay away from harsh chemicals and I no longer wish to spend a fortune on hair care products.

For this reason, these scalp moisturizers are home-made, using only natural ingredients you could (probably) find in your kitchen.

Not only do these ingredients promote a healthy scalp, but they are also some of the best hair moisturizers I’ve found, and they are all natural!

1. The best scalp moisturizer for black hair: Fenugreek water

Fenugreek water has been, and still is, the best moisturizer for my excessively dry and flaky scalp. Period.

If I had to recommend just one thing from this list, it would be fenugreek water. It is the best option if you have irritated, dry, and flaky scalp.

Well, it works incredibly well for me anyway.

Only 2 days of fenugreek water spray (once or twice/day), and already no visible flakes

What it does for your scalp

best moisturizer for dry black scalp
Source: Healthline

Fenugreek, also called, Methi, is an herb used in cooking and medicine, but also used as a natural home remedy for thinning hair, dandruff, or dry and itchy scalp.

Fenugreek seeds are a rich source of iron and protein and also contain flavonoids and saponins, which have anti-inflammatory and antifungal effects (Healthline).

How to make fenugreek water for your scalp

The main ingredients in this recipe are simply fenugreek seeds and water.

Image from OfIronandvelvet

Simply soak 2 or 3 tablespoons of fenugreek seeds in water (using a 250 ml jar), and let the seeds soak overnight on your counter.

The next morning, or 8-12 hours later, simply drain the seeds and transfer the fenugreek water into a spray bottle, using a small colander and a funnel.

Store in the fridge for about 5 days.

Don’t discard the seeds! Fenugreek is not just a good scalp moisturizer, it’s also great for moisturizing your skin in general.

Use the leftover fenugreek seeds as a gentle face or scalp rub.

Let the mixture sit on your face for about 15 minutes, then rinse with water, and proceed with your normal evening skincare routine.

During the first week, I make this spray part of my daily use, and I can start seeing results after only 2-3 days.

After a week or so, I do it less often, once or twice a week or as needed.

I prefer to use this fenugreek spray on a clean scalp so, after my shampoo.

2. Coconut milk

Although coconut oil doesn’t seem to do much when it comes to moisturizing my dry scalp (quite the opposite, in fact), pure coconut milk, on the other hand, is one of the best scalp moisturizers for black hair I’ve found.

What it does for your scalp

Coconut milk is made from the white flesh inside the coconut, mixed with water.

Coconut milk is reported to have a natural fatty acid profile with extreme moisturizing effects that can restore both dry hair and scalp.

Its anti-inflammatory properties may also help scalp conditions such as dandruff (Healthline).

All of this makes coconut milk a great scalp moisturizer, but of course, try it on your scalp and see if it works for you.

How to use coconut milk on your scalp

Although coconut milk is a great moisturizer for dry scalp, I don’t recommend using it daily.

Just 1 or 2 times per week will do.

Choose organic coconut milk with no additives, when possible, like this one. Find a brand that contains only coconut and water.

best coconut milk for dry scalp
Coconut Milk

Because of the thickness of the coconut milk, I don’t use a spray bottle for this.

I usually just put some coconut milk in my hands (using a spoon), and then gently rub my hands on my scalp.

Make sure the whole thing penetrates the hair and reaches your scalp.

It should be noted that I have a shaved head, so it is easy for me to simply bend over forwards (over the sink) and simply pour the coconut milk directly onto my scalp.

For those of you with hair (!), you might want to dilute your coconut milk a little with some (distilled or demineralized) water and use a spray bottle to target your scalp specifically.

It works great as a deep conditioner or a hair mask as well.

Let the coconut milk sit on your scalp for about 15 minutes before rinsing.

I prefer to use coconut milk on a clean scalp and I simply rinse with water after, just like a would with any store-bought, hair conditioner.

But you could also do this on a less clean scalp and then proceed with your normal hair washing routine.

3. Rice water

Another very effective and natural scalp moisturizer I’ve found is rice water.

Rice water is the starchy water you are left with after your rice has cooked but it can also be obtained by soaking your rice in water.

I use it just like the fenugreek water except that I only use rice water on my scalp once a month(ish)*, and the preparation varies a little.

*That’s when I’m not neglecting my scalp (Hello, winter months + lazy and cold me!).

What it does for your scalp

Although the benefits of rice water remain unproven by scientific research, rice water contains vitamins and minerals such as amino acids, B vitamins, vitamin E, minerals, and antioxidants (Medical News Today) which have many benefits for skin and hair.

According to experts, rice water can act as an antioxidant and scalp nourisher, and help support the scalp environment (Byrdie).

How to make rice water for your scalp

This should not be used more than once or twice per week.

There are different ways you can make rice water to moisturize your scalp:

Option 1. You can rinse thoroughly 1/3 or 1/2 cup of uncooked rice, then soak the rice for 30 minutes in 1 or 2 cups of water. (I leave it a little longer sometimes). Then drain and use.

Option 2. You can also simply recuperate the water used for cooking your rice, and use it for your scalp.

Option 3. And last but not least, you could use fermented rice water as a moisturizer for your scalp, although I haven’t tried that so I cannot comment on its effectiveness.

Fermented rice water uses the same steps as option 1. You just leave the rice water soaking at room temperature for up to 2 days, instead of just 30 minutes.

Again, I prefer to use this on a clean scalp. I spray the rice water onto my scalp and let it sit for about 15-20 minutes, then I rinse with water.

4. Apple cider vinegar

Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is reported to be an effective toner and moisturizer but there are no conclusive scientific studies regarding the benefits and properties of ACV for the skin (Healthline).

In any case, ACV sprays have been effective when it came to moisturizing my dry scalp and getting rid of dandruff. However, I use ACV on my scalp less often than the other mixes mentioned on this list, and I only use it on wash days, on a clean scalp.

I simply mix ACV with water keeping a 1:1 ratio or mix 1/3 ACV with 2/3 water in my spray bottle, then rub the mixture on my scalp using gentle, circular motions.

And voilà! Another simple, effective scalp moisturizer.

Although some people suggest leaving the ACV mix on your hair, I prefer to rinse it after with demineralized water.

Again, it’s about trying things out and figuring out what works best for you.

Have you been struggling to keep your dry scalp moisturized?

If you know of any other home remedies for moisturizing dry scalp, don’t forget to share them below!

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About Steph

I am a personal growth/self-management enthusiast. I was able to completely transform my life using everything I share here. I hope this blog helps you transform yours as well.
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