In this article, we will explore the most common reasons behind dry scalp, and offer some tips for the best dry scalp treatment.

A dry scalp can be a frustrating and uncomfortable condition to deal with. It is characterized by itching, flaking, and irritation, which can often lead to embarrassment and self-consciousness.

What Is Dry Scalp?

A dry scalp refers to when the skin on your head lacks moisture, causing it to become irritated, itchy, and easily flake off.

There are various reasons why this might happen, including dehydrating hair-care products, environmental factors, lifestyle habits like smoking, and certain medical conditions.

Likewise, you can easily restore moisture on your scalp by addressing underlying causes and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Dry Scalp vs. Dandruff

Most people may find it difficult to differentiate between dry scalp and dandruff. So how can you differentiate the two?

Dry Scalp


  • Caused  by lack of moisture in  the skin
  • Caused by excess oil on the scalp and an  overgrowth of Malassezia
  • Small dry flakes
  • Oily, large flakes that are white or yellow
  • Itchy scalp
  • Itchy scalp
  • Dry hair
  • Oily scalp
  • Dry skin  on other parts of the  body
  • Red, inflamed scalp

Woman having a bad hair day grimacing in disgust as she looks in the mirror and runs her hands through her hair

What Causes Dry Scalp?

While there are numerous factors that can contribute to dry scalp, understanding the root causes is key to finding effective treatments and preventing future occurrences.

1. Environmental factors 

a. Cold weather 

When the weather outside is cold, the air is dryer. Dry air is one of the most common causes of a dry scalp. When the air is dry, it can strip away the natural oils that protect your scalp from dehydration. This can leave your scalp feeling tight, itchy, and flaky.

b. Low humidity 

Humidity is the amount of water vapor in the air. When it’s low, it means there’s less moisture in the air, meaning the air is technically dry.

Again, this can strip away the natural oils from your skin, leaving it dry and irritated. If you live in a climate with low humidity, you may need to use a humidifier in your home to help keep your skin moist. You can also try using a deep conditioning treatment on your scalp once a week to help keep it hydrated.

c. Heat styling tools

While these tools can help you achieve your desired look, too much exposure to heat can dry up your natural oils and moisture, leaving the scalp dry and irritated.

If you must use any heat styling tools, ensure you regulate the temperature and minimize exposure to at most once a month or every other month.

d. Sun exposure 

The UV rays from the sun can strip away the natural oils that protect your scalp, leading to dryness.

Therefore, if you’ll be out in the sun for extended periods of time, make sure to wear a hat or scarf to protect your scalp from the drying effects of the sun. Also, be sure to drink plenty of water to keep your scalp hydrated.

2. Lifestyle habits

a. Use of harsh shampoos and hair products 

There are a number of different harsh shampoos and hair products on the market today. Many of these products contain chemicals that can strip the natural oils from your scalp, leaving it dry and irritated. 

In some cases, these products can even cause an allergic reaction. If you suspect your dry scalp is due to harsh shampoos and other hair products, try switching to gentler ones.

Look for products that are labeled “for dry scalp” or “moisturizing.” You may also want to try a gentle, sulfate-free shampoo.

b. Frequent washing or not washing enough 

If you have a dry scalp, you may be wondering if you’re washing your hair too much or not enough. The reality is, it can be either one! If you’re washing your hair too frequently, it can strip away the natural oils that keep your scalp healthy. 

On the other hand, if you’re not washing your hair often enough, sweat and dirt can build up on your scalp, leading to irritation and dryness.

The best way to find out what works for you is to experiment with different frequencies of washing. If you find that your scalp is feeling dry and irritated, try cutting back on how often you shampoo. 

You may also want to try using a milder shampoo or one that’s specifically designed for sensitive scalps. On the other hand, if you find that your scalp is starting to feel oily or greasy, try shampooing more often.

Remember, everyone’s scalp is different, so what works for one person may not work for another. The key is to pay attention to how your scalp feels and adjust your shampooing habits accordingly.

c. Poor diet and dehydration 

Poor diet and dehydration are major causes of dry scalp. When the body is dehydrated, it cannot properly produce sebum, which is the natural oil that keeps the scalp and hair moisturized. 

In addition, a diet that is lacking in essential nutrients can also lead to a dry scalp. 

Vitamin A, B vitamins, and omega-3 fatty acids are all important for healthy skin and hair. 

If you’re not getting enough of these nutrients from your diet, your scalp will suffer.

3. Medical conditions  

a. Psoriasis 

Psoriasis is a skin condition that causes the skin cells to grow too quickly. This can lead to the build-up of dead skin cells on the surface of the skin. The dead skin cells can then flake off, which can leave the scalp feeling dry and irritated. 

Psoriasis is often treated with creams or ointments that help to slow down the growth of skin cells.

b. Eczema/Atopic dermatitis 

Eczema is a chronic skin condition that causes the skin to become dry, itchy, and inflamed. The most common type of eczema is atopic dermatitis, which typically begins in childhood. 

Although eczema can affect people of any age, it is most commonly seen in children and infants. Eczema is often associated with other medical conditions such as allergies, asthma, and hay fever.

c. Seborrheic dermatitis   

Seborrheic dermatitis is a skin condition that causes the skin to become dry, scaly, and inflamed. In some cases, it can lead to stubborn dandruff.

It is most commonly found on the face, scalp, chest, and back. 

Seborrheic dermatitis is thought to be caused by an overgrowth of a yeast that naturally lives on the skin. This overgrowth can be triggered by a number of factors, including stress, weather changes, and oily skin. 

Seborrheic dermatitis is not contagious and cannot be passed from person to person. Treatment for seborrheic dermatitis typically includes the use of medicated shampoos and creams. In severe cases, oral antifungal medications may be necessary.

Happy young woman applying hair mask in bathroom

What Is The Best Dry Scalp Treatment?

Keeping your scalp hydrated and keeping irritation to a minimum will probably require experimentation to find the right combination of approaches that are right for your scalp. Here is what you should try to do:

Home Remedies for Dry Scalp:

1. Coconut oil 

Coconut oil is one of the most popular natural treatments for dry scalp. It has been used for centuries to moisturize and protect the scalp from the sun and other environmental factors. 

Coconut oil is also a natural emollient, which means it helps soften and hydrate the skin. It also has anti-inflammatory properties, which can help soothe the scalp and reduce irritation.

Additionally, coconut oil can help treat various skin conditions like atopic dermatitis.

2. Aloe vera gel

Aloe vera is a succulent plant that is often used in topical treatments for burns and other skin conditions. When applied to the scalp, aloe vera can help soothe dryness and irritation.

It also has anti-inflammatory properties that can help to reduce scalp inflammation. 

Additionally, it has hydrating properties that can help to moisturize the scalp and hair.

3. Apple cider vinegar  

Apple cider vinegar is a popular home remedy for dry scalp. Its acidic nature helps restore the natural pH balance of the scalp, which can help alleviate dryness and itchiness. 

To use apple cider vinegar for dry scalp:

  1. Simply mix equal parts apple cider vinegar and water in a bowl.
  2. Apply the mixture to your scalp with a cotton ball or clean cloth, and let it sit for 20 minutes.
  3. Rinse your scalp well with warm water and shampoo as usual.

4. Jojoba oil

Jojoba oil is a natural oil that comes from the jojoba plant. 

This oil has a similar makeup to the sebum that your scalp produces. Sebum is a natural oil that helps keep your scalp and hair moisturized. 

When your scalp doesn’t produce enough sebum, it can become dry and flaky. Jojoba oil can help replenish the sebum, providing relief from dryness.

To use jojoba oil for a dry scalp, massage a good amount into your scalp before bedtime. Wrap your head in a towel or wear a shower cap overnight to prevent the oil from getting on your pillowcase. 

In the morning, shampoo as usual. You can also add a few drops of jojoba oil to your shampoo or conditioner for extra moisture.

5. Witch hazel

Witch hazel is a plant that has been used for centuries for its medicinal properties. It is thought to be effective in treating dry scalp due to its astringent and anti-inflammatory properties.

To use witch hazel for a dry scalp, mix equal parts of witch hazel liquid and water in a bowl. Apply the mixture to your scalp with a cotton ball and massage it in for a few minutes. 

Leave it on for at least 15 minutes before rinsing it off with cool water. Repeat this process 2-3 times per week until your dry scalp improves.


If the cause of your scalp dryness is a medical condition, then treating that specific cause will alleviate the symptoms. Common medications often used include antifungal agents, topical steroids, and calcineurin inhibitors.       

How to Fix Dry Scalp?

Permanently fixing and preventing your dry scalp from returning also may require some routine and lifestyle changes. Things to consider are:

1. Choose the right hair products 

There are a few things to keep in mind when choosing hair products to avoid dry scalp. Firstly, consider your hair type and the specific needs of your scalp. 

If you have a dry scalp, you might need a more hydrating shampoo or conditioner, for example. 

Secondly, read the labels on hair products carefully to ensure they suit your needs. 

Avoid anything with harsh chemicals or artificial fragrances, as these can further irritate your skin. 

Ask your stylist or dermatologist for recommendations on the best hair products for dry scalp prevention.

2. Routine hair care 

When it comes to routine hair care, there are a few simple prevention measures you can take to avoid dry scalp. First, avoid over-washing your hair. Overwashing can strip the natural oils from your scalp, leading to dryness. 

Second, use a mild shampoo and conditioner that won’t further strip your scalp of its natural oils. And finally, be sure to use a moisturizing product on your hair after washing to help replenish any lost moisture.

3. Dietary modifications 

To keep your scalp healthy and hydrated, make sure you’re getting enough of the following:

  • Protein: Protein is essential for healthy hair growth and scalp. Foods like legumes, nuts, and seeds are all great protein sources.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids: These healthy fats help to keep your scalp moisturized and can be found in foods like olive oil, avocado, nuts, and seeds.
  • Vitamins A, B, and C: These vitamins are important for cell turnover and maintaining healthy skin. Make sure to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables to get these nutrients.

4. Drink enough water

When your scalp is dry, it can lead to dandruff, itchiness, and even hair loss. But by drinking plenty of water, you can keep your scalp hydrated and healthy. Not only will this help to prevent dry scalp, but it will also promote healthy hair growth.

So how much water should you be drinking? The recommended daily intake is eight glasses of water per day, but if you’re suffering from dry scalp, you may need to drink even more.

Start by increasing your water intake and see if that makes a difference. If not, try using a humidifier in your home or office to add moisture to the air and help keep your scalp hydrated.

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Final Thoughts

 A dry scalp is a common problem that can be caused by various factors. It can occur due to harsh hair products, cold weather, dehydration, and even diet deficiencies. 

While it may seem like a minor issue, it can lead to itching, flaking, and discomfort. Fortunately, several remedies can help alleviate the symptoms of a dry scalp.

These can include using gentle hair care products, applying aloe vera gel, and adding more nutrients to your diet. With proper care and attention, you can keep your scalp healthy and free from dryness.

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