One of the most annoying hair conditions is dry scalp and dandruff. Honestly, no one likes to spot those white specks over their clothes especially when they become noticeable. I have been a victim of the condition, and it did damper my confidence, but the good news is that it is curable.
With the right diagnosis, care and treatment you can get rid of the layer of scalp snow. But before we uncover these useful tips and remedies let’s first develop an understanding of what dry scalp is.
Dry Scalp – Is It the Same As Dandruff?
Usually, a dry flaking scalp is suspected as dandruff since both conditions appear to have similar symptoms in the initial stages. But there is a notable difference between both hair problems so getting the right diagnosis is imperative to be able to address it adequately.
Dry scalp is basically when the skin gets irritated due to dryness and flakes off. The loss of moisture from skin triggers the condition whereas in the case of dandruff the cause is excessive oil. This leads to cells building up and shedding off as flakes. You may experience scaling, itching, and redness with dry scalp, however, you may or may not have dandruff.
How Can You Tell the Difference?
Although it is difficult for one to determine which condition they are suffering from you may still look for these three symptoms until you can consult a dermatologist:
- If your scalp feels oily, it is most probably dandruff
- You experience intense itching without the scalp feeling dry- Yes it is likely to be dandruff
- And if your hair looks greasy- You guessed it right, it isn’t a dry scalp
What Causes Dry Scalp?
Various factors lead to excessive dryness and the stripping of essential oils from your scalp. Here are a few common causes that can trigger a dry scalp:
Lack of Moisture:
People with dry skin are at a higher risk of developing a dry scalp than others. If the skin on your arms, legs and other parts of the body seems dry, you may have a scalp with irritated skin.
Lack of Hydration:
Water plays a significant role in regulating and maintaining various bodily functions. If your body is dehydrated, you feel a lack of energy similarly when the skin isn’t hydrated it can dry out and begin flaking. Since our head is exposed to the sun, it does require moisture and proper hydration, particularly in winters.
Winter is the worst season that doesn’t work in favor of our hair and skin as the skin becomes dry and requires frequent moisturization. The cold air causes itchiness, flaking, so you need to take extra care during the adverse weather to put a stop to dry scalp.
Synthetic Hair Care:
Many commercially available products such as shampoos, conditioners, hair masks, etc. contain chemicals that can be harsh on our skin. Although various popular brands market their products as organic or natural, the reality might be different. Most of us do shampoo our hair quite a few times in a week without even realizing what exactly are we putting on our scalp. It was after I developed the condition that I began researching and realized that the hair care products I was using were full of harsh chemicals.
Since then I try to use organic products only, but of course, that isn’t always possible. Whenever I have to buy a shampoo or conditioner, I make sure that I read the label and buy those that contain the lowest number of baddies. Here are a few ingredients that can cause your scalp to dry out or may even have other effects so try avoiding these when buying hair care essentials:
- Ammonium lauryl sulfate and Ammonium laureth sulfate
- Sodium Methyl Cocoyl Taurate
- Hydroxypropyl methylcellulose
- Cocamidopropyl betaine
- Ammonium chloride
- Propylene glycol
- Disodium EDTA
- DMDM hydantoin
Many of us may not know of the role of correct pH balance for healthy skin and hair. There are sebaceous glands in our scalp that secrete an oily substance known as sebum. It moistens our hair and prevents the scalp from drying out. Due to a thin layer of sebum oil, salt, and water (known as mantle) on each follicle, our hair has an acidic pH of around 4.5 – 5.5. Any disturbance in the pH level of the sebum can cause loss of moisture leading to a dry scalp. The skin even becomes susceptible to infection and bacterial attacks due to this scalp imbalance.
Again this is where hair care products come into play, as many of these aren’t at the right pH balance. Such products strip the hair of the mantle layer which causes them to dry out and become frizzy.
Other factors that contribute to the painful skin condition include age (since dry skin tends to worsen with age.) Some of the causes behind the excessive dryness can be hereditary, so you do have your genes to blame for it, but luckily you can fix the problem so keep on reading.
How do I Determine if I am Suffering from this Skin Condition?
You can only treat the problem once you identify what it is and to be able to determine the skin condition you need to know the symptoms. As I have already stated above, a significant sign of dry scalp is flaking of the skin and irritation. With dry scalp, the flakes tend to be whiter and smaller whereas those with dandruff maybe yellow-tinged and appear oily.
As the condition advances, you may feel excessive itchiness leading to redness or soreness. Other symptoms include tightness of the scalp, dull and rough hair, in a few cases, people may also experience hair fall.
Dry scalp in the early stages can be managed at home, and with the right care, you can easily banish those flakes. However, if the problem persists it may either be any either hair condition that you have been confusing for dry scalp for instance Scalp psoriasis. At times the causes behind a dry scalp may be severe conditions such as eczema that require medical help.
If you notice redness or sores on your scalp that doesn’t seem to go away or if you develop open wounds, immediately consult a dermatologist before the condition worsens.
How to Treat a Dry Scalp?
There a few tips that you can focus on if you suspect that your scalp lacks moisture. These tips and tricks can aid in treating and also preventing dryness:
Massaging Your Hair:
Scalp massages can help boost the production of natural oils and improve the flow of blood to the hair follicles. Using oil for massaging even works better as these have anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal properties. Coconut oil, for instance, is an anti-inflammatory agent rich in vitamin E & K. It can help moisturize the scalp and promotes healthy hair.
Massage it into your hair before washing and let it sit for about 10 to 15 minutes to see excellent results. Another product with anti-bacterial and antiseptic properties is tea-tree oil. It can act as an antibiotic agent which helps in relieving dry scalp. Since it is an essential oil, you must mix it with any carrier oil such as coconut or almond for massaging into hair.
Brushing the hair is beneficial as it carries the natural oils from the scalp to the end of the hair shaft. It helps to remove any build-up on your scalp and makes the hair shiny & well-conditioned. You can massage the scalp using a boar brush gently before a wash as well.
Focus on Nutrition:
Specific deficiencies such as the lack of vitamin B6 and B12 in our diet can also trigger a dry scalp. To ensure that you get sufficient amount of the vitamin incorporate fruits, vegetables, cereals and whole-grain bread into your diet. Make other dietary changes such as avoiding sugary foods and desserts as a high-sugar diet can further aggravate the condition.
Cut down on spice, salt, and alcohol as all these may dehydrate the skin. Add omega-3 fatty acids, zinc, and vitamin A to your diet and drink plenty of water to prevent dryness.
8 Beneficial Home Remedies to Treat Dryness of the Scalp!
As much as I stress upon getting the right treatment, there is no harm in trying out some remedies to tackle a dry scalp or to prevent the condition from occurring. I can personally attest for some of these remedies as they worked wonders for the dryness of my scalp and I noticed instant results. However these natural treatments require consistency and patience, what works for someone may not work for you, so it is all about trial and error.
Let’s have a look at some useful tips that can help combat the dryness and help you achieve healthy, shiny and well-conditioned hair:
Apple Cider Vinegar Rinse:
This one is my personal favorite, and I tend to use the remedy whenever I notice build-up on my scalp. Apple cider vinegar is a cleanser and an anti-microbial agent that can fight against bacteria causing itchiness, exfoliate the scalp and rebalance the pH of the scalp.
You can create an ACV rinse by mixing two parts of water with the vinegar. Apply it to your scalp and wash out after 10 to 15 minutes.
Aloe-vera helps reduce itchiness and skin irritation and works as a moisturizing agent to combat the dryness. You can apply it topically to the scalp and rinse out after 10 minutes.
Avoid using Harsh Chemicals on Your Hair:
As much as treatment and remedies such as ACV rinse and conditioning helped, what made a significant difference to my hair was switching my hair care products. My hair has become healthier; they are moisturized (which means that there is minimal frizz) and appear shiny. I prefer using organic brands that use natural ingredients.
However, if I do have to use a commercially available product I look for shampoos that are free from ammonium lauryl sulfate, Sodium Laureth Sulfate or Sodium Lauryl Sulfate. As for conditioners, I choose the ones that don’t contain dimethicone but do have 18-MEA as that occurs naturally in our hair and aids in rebalancing moisture.
Like other oils, jojoba works as a moisturizer and has anti-inflammatory properties for treating other scalp conditions. You can add a few drops of the oil to your shampoo to ensure regular hydration and can prevent the shampoo from drying the hair out.
What a dry scalp requires is moisture, and home-made conditioning treatments can provide just that without the use of chemical compounds. These can help nourish the scalp and soothe the dryness and itching.
Here are a few options to try out;
Honey and Coconut Oil:
Honey attracts moisture and is rich in anti-oxidants and nutrients which can nourish the hair. Take ¼ cup of honey and add three tablespoons of coconut oil to it. Massage it to damp hair and let it sit for 10 minutes.
Yogurt and Egg:
Egg contains fat and protein which can protect the scalp against free radical damage whereas yogurt works as an exfoliating agent that soothes the scalp. Mix a few tablespoons of yogurt (make sure it is unflavored and doesn’t have added sugar) into one beaten egg. Apply it to your hair and wash out after 10 minutes using cold water.
Banana and Oil:
The delicious fruit has plenty of benefits for your hair as it is moisturizing and has anti-microbial properties. Mix a banana (mashed) with a few tablespoons of olive or coconut oil. Apply the mask to your hair and wash out after 15 minutes.
If the problem persists after trying out these remedies and making the essential changes to your diet, I would recommend consulting a dermatologist. They will be able to diagnose the condition and suggest the proper course of treatment.
However, once the condition heals you can follow these remedies to prevent dry scalp, make sure you check with the doctor in case your scalp is extremely sensitive.