A dry scalp can be super irritating and even a bit embarrassing at times. If you suffer from this issue, know that you’re not alone–it affects about 15% of people in the US. A dry scalp occurs when the outer layer of skin cells on your scalp can become compromised.
When this happens, moisture from the skin can escape, causing the skin to become itchy and flaky at times. Let’s take a look at some of the common reasons for dry scalp. Next, we’ll explore DIY remedies and treatments to help alleviate this issue.
Most Common Causes of Dry Scalp
Often, a dry scalp is caused by either skin conditions or your grooming routine. Here are the most common culprits.
Eczema and Psoriasis
Psoriasis and eczema or skin conditions can result in a thick scalene or a buildup of dead skin cells on the scalp. The best way to manage both of these conditions is to first see a dermatologist so that they can perform a biopsy and confirm your condition.
Next, they will provide you with meditation to help manage the issue. If you have eczema, your doctor may also describe and prescribe an over-the-counter antifungal spray or cream.
Too much washing
Your scalp can become dry if you wash it every day–and it can become dry and brittle over time. Howver, your hair type will determine how often you wash your hair. For coarser hair, you may only need to wash your hair once a week as it typically retains oil better.
And if you have fine hair you may need to wash it more often. But if you notice that your hair becomes dry the more you wash it, try lessening the frequency of your washes to see if it helps.
Drying Hair Products
Hair growing products can irritate your scalp, and cause it to become dry. If you noticed this, try to use all-natural hair products instead. You may need to do a bit of testing to see what works best. Some products can also cause contact dermatitis.
Contact dermatitis is a condition that causes your scalp to turn red, itches, and flakiness after washing it. It can occur when you dye your hair black. This could be due to chemical PPD in hair dye. You may also experience an allergic reaction if you use shampoos, soaps, and other products on your hair.
To treat contact dermatitis, the first step is to identify which product caused it. To see if your symptoms improve, cut out one product at a time and see if it improves within the next two to four weeks.
While you’re treating your scalp, don’t scratch it. Scratching can cause skin irritation and worsen your symptoms. To soothe itching, place a wet, cool washcloth on your scalp. Repeat this process a few times per day. A cortisone anti-itch lotion can be applied.
The humidity drops in the winter months when there are low temperatures. Cold weather can dry out your skin, even your scalp. The heat can also dry out the skin on your scalp, causing it to become irritable and itchy. If you notice changes in your scalp condition
During certain times of the year, the best thing to do is to change up your hair routine and find products that can provide it with the moisture that it needs. Never wash your hair with hot water and try not to spend too much time in the shower, as it can cause your skin to lose its natural oils. To add moisture to your home, turn on the humidifier and use a mild moisturizing shampoo to clean your hair.
Dandruff vs. Dry Scalp
Although it might appear that dandruff is caused by dry hair, it could also be caused by a yeast-like fungal infection that feeds off the oils of your scalp. Seborrheic Dermatitis is a form of eczema. Dandruff can be a sign of this skin condition. It can cause redness, itching, and flaky skin around oil-producing areas, such as your scalp and nose.
Use a dandruff shampoo at least once a week to get rid of the dry, flaky skin and try your best not to scratch your scalp during this time. Try to look for products with the following ingredients: Ketoconazole, Salicylic Acid, Selenium Sulfide, Coal Tar, Zinc Pyrithione
DIY – Home Remedies for Dry Scalp
Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar can be used to exfoliate your scalp. It can get rid of dead skin cells and it has antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and has anti-inflammatory properties. Apply the mixture of one part vinegar and two parts water to your scalp once or twice a week (if it causes irritation, discontinue this into your scalp has healed). Allow it to sit for ten minutes, then wash your hair with a gentle shampoo.
Coconut oil is an age-old treatment for dry hair and other skin conditions. It’s soothing and has anti-microbial properties that are beneficial for the scalp. Coconut oil can be applied directly to the scalp, or heated and then applied. Let it sit for at least 30 minutes, or overnight. Then wash your hair with a gentle shampoo.
Here are some tips to help you make your own coconut oil scalp treatment. It can be used in place of your regular shampooing and conditioner, or as an alternative.
Heat one to two teaspoons of coconut oil, if it isn’t already in liquid form. The oil should not be hot but it should be smooth. Heat the oil in a small bowl in your microwave or on the stove in a saucepan. You can also set the oil in a small bowl until it melts.
Apply the coconut oil to your scalp using your fingers or a brush. You want to get a smooth, even coat on your scalp. Allow the oil to sit on your hair and scalp for 5-10 minutes. You can leave the oil on your hair for longer periods of time (it can help with dull hair). To protect your pillow from stains, you can cover them with a towel before you head to bed.
Rinse your hair with cool to warm water to remove the oil. It’s best to apply coconut oil to your scalp later in the day. This way, you can shampoo the next day and won’t be left with a greasy scalp.
Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil can be used to treat dry scalp symptoms. Tea tree oil shampoos can be purchased and you can also mix some tea tree oil with coconut oil or olive oil to apply to your scalp. This popular skincare ingredient and essential oil has many antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. It’s even listed on the National Psoriasis Foundation website to be beneficial for some scalp psoriasis sufferers.
Witch hazel is a simple but effective scalp treatment for dryness and flakes. You may have noticed it in many over-the-counter shampoos used to treat dandruff. It’s been used for centuries and it’s super cheap. Jojoba oil can be used in combination with witch hazel oil for greater effectiveness.
Baking soda and olive oil
Baking soda can be used to make anything shine, from enhancing the appearance of your old utensils to whitening your teeth instantly. And olive oil has been well known to provide excellent moisturization and soothing properties to the skin and hair (thanks to the Omega 3’s).
Mix the antifungal properties of baking soda with the moisturizing qualities of olive oil for the best results with treating dry scalp. This will create a scalp moisturizer that can also exfoliate your hair.
Aloe vera moisturizes, reduces skin irritation, and is anti-inflammatory. Aloe vera gel can be applied directly to your hair and scalp, or you can buy products that contain it. Aloe vera is commonly used in cosmetology and in shampoos that treat seborrheic dermatitis.
And it’s super easy to use at home. You can extract the gel-like flesh from aloe vera plants and use it as a hair mask to soothe your dry scalp. You can also combine it with coconut oil or olive oil for better moisture retention.
Baobab oil has been used for centuries in African folk medicine to treat a wide range of conditions, including chronic dryness or irritation. Baobab oil was found to be more effective for dry and irritated skin than Vaseline or liquid paraffin in a study for dry skin.
Additional Dry Scalp Treatments
Jojoba oil is remarkably similar to skin’s natural sebum. This allows it to penetrate deep below the skin’s top layer for maximum hydration. Try using this oil and applying it liberally to your scalp. Let it sit for about 10 hours and then shampoo your hair with a moisturizing shampoo. Or, you can apply it as a light serum at night.
Castor oil is a highly hydrating oil that’s also anti-fungal. This may help to fight bacterial and fungal overgrowths on the scalp which can lead to dandruff. You can buy cold-pressed castor oil online or locally. Apply it to your hair liberally or combined it with coconut or olive oil as a weekly moisturizing treatment. If you apply it alone, be sure to do so sparingly, as it can cause your scalp to become greasy.
Rosemary is a well-known herb that has anti-fungal properties. However, essential oils derived primarily from grapefruit, peppermint and lemon have been found to be strong in their anti-fungal properties. This may help to prevent dermatitis caused due to fungus. Combine this essential oil with a carrier oil such as olive or coconut and apply it to your scalp at night for relief.
Unbalanced pH levels can sometimes cause an itchy, flaky scalp. Excessive hair products and adverse weather conditions can cause a disruption in the scalp’s natural pH levels. The citric acid found in lemon juice can help maintain healthy pH levels on your scalp.
Try using a lemon slice (or juice) to exfoliate your scalp. Massage your scalp in circular motions or spray your hair lightly with lemon juice (dilute it with 2 parts of water). Then, let the mixture sit for between 5-10 minutes. Finally, wash your hair with moisturizing shampoo and conditioner.
Ways To Prevent Dry Scalp
If you find yourself suffering from a dry scalp more often than not, it may be time to switch up your routine. Sometimes you have to take a minute to look at what could be causing the dryness and that means taking a look at your grooming regimen, home environment, and your diet (believe it or not).
1. Get More Water
Water intake is essential for glowing skin and a healthy scalp? Did you know that your scalp is just as important as any other part of your body? Your scalp skin, just like other skin parts of your body needs water to stay hydrated and not dry out. For optimal hydration, drink 6-8 glasses of water.
2. Avoid Heat Styling
Heat styling tools such as flat irons, curlers, and blow dryers can damage hair roots and shafts and dry the scalp. You can protect your hair with a heat protector serum if you’re unable to avoid them. Or, simply try to use them less often or apply a heat serum beforehand. Never let heating tools come too close to your scalp during the styling process.
3. Shampoo Less Often
Sulfates or alcohol in shampoos can strip your scalp’s natural oils. You may want to avoid shampooing your hair too often and switch to gentler grooming products that are free of sulfates, alcohol, and other drying agents.
4. Use moisturizing shampoos
Shampoos that contain moisturizing ingredients such as hyaluronic acids, rosemary oil, almond oil, moringa oil, olive oil, and coconut oil can aid with dry scalp conditions. Also, try to avoid using harsh chemicals (such as dye or relaxers) on your hair until you’re able to fully treat your dry scalp condition.
5. Use a humidifier
A dry scalp can be caused by a lack of humidity. You can use a humidifier to add humidity to your room for a moisture boost. Also, a few drops of essential oils can be added to your room for a soothing and fragrant experience.
You don’t have to suffer from a dry scalp forever. There are numerous ways to treat it, sometimes it’s just a matter of trying different things to find what works best for you.