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How to Get Rid of a Dry Scalp And How It Affects Your Hair

Healthy hair grows best from a scalp that is nourished and moisturized. The exterior layer of our scalps is made up of derma (skin cells) which needs protecting and moisturizing just like the rest of our skin.

Healthy hair grows best from a scalp that is nourished and moisturized. The exterior layer of our scalps is made up of derma (skin cells) which needs protecting and moisturizing just like the rest of our skin.

Sebum, the oil produced by glands all over the body and particularly the face and scalp, is the scalp’s natural moisturizer. It coats and protects hair strands and contributes to a healthy scalp microbiome (the bacterial ecosystem that maintains a balanced scalp environment) – but sometimes our bodies don’t produce enough of it and we can get a dry, itchy scalp.

Can A Dry Scalp Cause Hair Loss?

A dry scalp without adequate levels of moisture is not a supportive environment for healthy-growing hair. It will be sore, red, and possibly flaking or itchy. If it is itchy, sufferers might find themselves frequently scratching at the roots which, in turn, damages the scalp and existing hairs. If you have a dry scalp, the source of your problem may also affect the quality of hairs being produced (such as dehydration or poor diet); hair loss can itself be a sign of excessive dryness in the scalp.

What's The Difference Between A Dry Scalp vs Dandruff?

Dandruff is a fungus which results in the shedding of dead cells over the scalp. Though it is sometimes related to having a dry scalp, the two are not always experienced together. People with greasy or well-moisturized scalps can still have problems with dandruff. Read more about dandruff here. A dry scalp is not always accompanied by dandruff, though scratching a dry and itchy scalp can cause skin cells to shed faster. Scalp derma may be red, sore or irritated without shedding more skin cells than usual.

What Causes A Dry Scalp?

A number of environmental, hormonal and medical causes can result in a dry scalp:

  • Changes in the weather, whether due to seasonal variance or travelling, can affect your skin and hair. Different levels of humidity, wind, heat, cold weather and exposure to sun can all irritate your skin1

  • Dehydration and diet – if you aren’t consuming enough moisture and nutrients, your body may not be producing enough sebum2

  • Sulphates are a common ingredient found in many beauty and hygiene products (they are often responsible for the foaming action). However, sulphates are known for their intensive cleansing properties, which may be unsuitable for a dry or sensitive scalp and can exacerbate existing skin conditions3

  • Washing hair too frequently removes the sebum that protects our scalp and so can leave scalps more sensitive

  • Residue of hair products, through using too much or not rinsing hair properly, on the scalp may irritate it4

  • Hormonal changes, such as from pregnancy or ageing, can affect sebum levels and the scalp microbiome

  • Skin conditions like Seborrheic Dermatitis (SD) or psoriasis can result in a dry scalp. Other medical conditions or medication may also affect sebum production, hormone levels or hair production, and may dry the scalp out

What Are The Options For Dry Scalp Treatment And Prevention?

Before deciding how to treat a dry scalp, it is important to first understand what is causing it. If your scalp’s condition has changed recently, it may be a response to other changes in your life such as stress, or pregnancy. Consider whether your scalp has changed in response to external stimuli like the weather, or a difference in your day-to-day environment. A number of lifestyle adjustments, or specially-formulated scalp products , can help to stop a dry scalp.

  • Don’t wash your hair daily – your scalp and hair need at least some sebum to build up

  • Drink plenty of water – standard guidelines for adults recommend eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day, in addition to other drinks

  • Try different hair products, such as gentle shampoos designed for sensitive scalps, or products without sulphates.

  • Don’t use high heat or harsh chemical treatments on your scalp. Try using a lower heat setting on hairdryers or using a heat protector before your styling tools instead.

  • Moisturize your scalp with a mask or nourishing treatment. These can be purchased in salons.

  • Protect your scalp from UV rays with sun cream (creams designed for the hair and scalp exist)

  • Eat the right nutrients. Oily fish like salmon contains omega-3 fatty acids, which stimulates sebum glands, and vitamin A (found in orange root vegetables like carrots and pumpkin) is crucial for sebum production. These nutrients also support overall hair health.

If you greatly increase consumption of these nutrients, you may find this is only necessary for a short period of time – monitor your scalp’s condition weekly and ease off on some of these foods once its natural balance has been restored. Consult a dermatologist if you are concerned about any changes in your scalp or hair condition, or if you think you may be suffering from an underlying medical issue.


  1. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/dandruff/

  2. https://www.cosmopolitan.com/uk/beauty-hair/advice/a33385/11-ways-to-sort-out-your-itchy-scalp/

  3. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/beauty/hair/sulfate-free-shampoo-really-better/

  4. https://www.headandshoulders.com/en-us/healthy-hair-and-scalp/non-hair-care/hair-gel-or-dandruff


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