Your scalp probably isn’t high on your list of beauty priorities. It’s hidden away beneath our hair, and we tend to only pay it any attention when it’s acting up. However, there’s no such thing as a healthy head of hair without a healthy scalp.
Why do we get dry hair?
Your scalp is covered in hair follicles. These can easily get clogged with dead skin and sweat, as well as random particles (such as pollen or dust) and environmental pollutants that find their way on to the scalp throughout the day.1 Hair follicles that are blocked don’t do as good a job of growing strong, healthy hair, and general build-up on the scalp can leave it flaky, itchy and sensitive. This is why looking after your scalp is so important.
Why is dry hair often itchy?
As we’ve just mentioned up above, clogged hair follicles can lead to hair that’s not in the best condition, and this clogging and general build-up of sweat, dirt, bacteria and hair products can make our hair and scalp itchy over time.
What’s more, a dry itchy scalp can also be caused by numerous reasons. The most common reason behind the itchiness is dandruff, which looks like little flakes within your hair and on your clothing. Other reasons for scalp itchiness include allergic reactions to hair products and skin concerns involving sensitive scalps.
Can a dry scalp cause hair loss?
Having a dry scalp may lead to hair loss in the sense that dry hair tends to be more brittle, so is prone to breaking more easily, which can lead to hair loss. For instance, you may find some strands of hair break off and end up in your brush every time you brush your hair.3
Other symptoms of dry hair
If your hair is dry, chances are you’re going to know about it when you wash and brush it and when you look in the mirror. Common symptoms of dry hair include:4 5
Hair frizz can be caused by all sorts of things, ranging from genetics and the weather, to dry hair. Just like the skin on our face and the rest of our body, the skin on our head can lack moisture too, and minimum or zero moisture can mean dehydrated and frizzy-looking locks.
Coarse strands of hair are usually the sign of damaged hair that’s far from healthy and doesn’t have enough moisture or nourishment. This can be down to dehydrated scalp issues, clogged hair follicles and more.
When hair is dry or damaged, the cuticles (or shafts) stick up. This means light cannot be reflected properly on the hair surface.
We all get them, but none of us want them. If you look at the ends of your hair and some of them look like they’re separating from each other, they’re split ends. They can be caused by everyday life and styling, e.g. brushing and straighteners, to hair dye and bleaching.
Damaged and dry hair tends to lack any oomph because your hair isn’t as healthy and voluminous as it ought to be! Hair frizz, brittleness, dullness, all of the culprits listed above, are to blame for zero volume issues.
Hair that breaks off halfway down is a sign that your hair isn’t being sufficiently moisturised.
Healthy strands of hair are pretty flexible in that you can pull them at either end and they will flex a while before snapping. Dry, damaged hair will break pretty much straightaway. Try it yourself: take a hair from your head and gently pull either end, how much give does it have?
Scalp itchiness and dryness
Dry hair can sometimes be a symptom of having a dry scalp, some of the reasons for which we mentioned at the start of this article. If the skin on your head is itchy and dry, then it’s highly likely your hair may be as well.
What to use for a dry scalp
Dry scalps are usually a sign of dryness so, just like the rest of your skin, use products that will be kind to your scalp and give it the goodness and nourishment it needs.6
This includes using hair shampoos, conditioners, masks and scrubs (check out the examples below) that have been specially formulated for dry scalps, as they have been designed to soothe and maintain the right balance for optimum scalp and hair health. Try not to over wash your hair, as this can strip your hair and scalp of its natural oils, which can lead to dryness. So too can overdoing it on hair scrubs.
Treatment for dry scalp
So if you have a dry scalp, which products should you be using and how should you be using them? Find out how to perfect your haircare routine by giving your hair and scalp what they need.
8 of the best dry scalp treatments
Choose the right shampoo for your scalp type. If you don’t know your scalp type, it’s simple. Dry or sensitive scalps tend to flake and itch, whereas oily scalps are prone to flat, lank hair. If you have oily or dry skin on your face, you’re most likely to have this type of skin on your scalp, too.
You could ask your hairdresser next time you’re in their chair if you’re unsure.
The best shampoo for dry, itchy scalp is a nourishing formula which helps to relieve dandruff. Try the Jason Dandruff Relief Shampoo.
Using too many detergents and strong shampoos could upset a sensitive scalp. The best shampoo for sensitive scalp is one with organic plant extracts and natural ingredients, such as Natura Siberica Shampoo - Neutral for sensitive scalp.
Alternatively, another option for sensitive scalps is the Ethique Heali Kiwi Shampoo Bar For Touchy Scalps.
Conditioners shouldn’t be applied to the scalp. Instead of giving you shiny, soft hair, you’re more likely to overload your scalp with heavy products and cause the hair at the scalp (where it’s newest and naturally most soft) to become lank and oily.
Keep conditioners for the ends of your hair, where hair is oldest and driest.
Serum for dry scalps and oil for dry scalps
Your scalp is covered in skin. You wouldn’t consider a flaky, itchy face par for the course, so why do we often ignore such issues on our scalp?
Moisturise your scalp with a scalp serum, scalp cream or scalp oil. Some formulas are designed to be washed out and others are supposed to be applied to towel-dried hair and left in, so check the label.
A hair mask for dry scalp issues will give you serious scalp TLC and can make a real difference in the condition of your scalp and hair over time.
The best dry scalp treatment will work like a scalp conditioner, delivering both clarifying ingredients and moisture to a parched scalp without weighing down your hair at the roots.
- The Sea Magik Seaweed Scalp Mud Mask harnesses natural minerals from seaweed and Dead Sea mud. Used like a deep conditioner, but concentrating on the roots and not the ends, this mask is used after shampooing.
- Dr Organic Hemp Oil Rescue & Restore Hair & Scalp Treatment is a leave-in scalp treatment that contains lots of natural ingredients, such as aloe leaf juice, hemp seed oil and horsetail extract.
Handpicked content: Hair masks: how to make and use them
Dry scalp home remedy
If cash is short or if you just prefer making your own products, you can easily make a scalp mask at home. Try this:
Honey is one of nature’s best offerings for beauty. It contains antioxidants and is also a humectant, meaning it attracts water, which is great news for dry, flaky scalps.7
Manuka honey scalp scrub mask
- 1 tablespoon manuka honey (vegan alternative - use 1 mashed ripe avocado instead)
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon sugar
How to use
- Mix ingredients apart from the sugar in a suitable bowl and microwave for 15 – 30 seconds. Once warm, add the sugar.
- Massage the warm mask into damp hair, allowing the sugar granules to act as an exfoliating scrub.
- Cover hair with a warm towel and leave for up to 30 minutes before rinsing out and shampooing thoroughly. Use weekly.
How long until you can expect to see results?
It all depends on how dry and damaged her hair is in the first place and the type of products you apply to your hair and scalp, as well as how often you use them. There’s no set timeframe as to when you will start to see results, but if you’re using the right type of products and are using them regularly (without overdoing it and aggravating your scalp), there’s no reason why your efforts won’t pay off sooner rather than later.
Dry scalps can happen to us all. They’re a sign our scalps need a bit of additional TLC, which is available in abundance, as you’ve most probably realised now you’ve reached the end of this article. Just because we can’t see our scalps doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take care of them.
For more healthy scalp and hair insight read, ‘Hair detox: 15 ways to do scalp cleansing & look after your hair.’
Last updated: 31 May 2021