What Causes Dry Scalp? 5 Major Reasons for This Problem

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what causes dry scalp
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Does your scalp skin flake and leave itchy patches? You might have a scalp condition known as dry scalp. Keep reading to know what causes dry scalp and gain relevant information!

What is a Dry Scalp?

dry scalp
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Dry skin can develop on any part of the body, including the scalp. Itching, flaking, and irritation are symptoms of dry skin caused by a lack of the oil that keeps your skin moisturized. Your scalp can also become dry, resulting in the same symptoms.

In clinical dermatology, dry scalp is also known as seborrheic dermatitis, and an individual with dry scalp may notice:

  • dry skin on the scalp
  • white flakes
  • itchy scalp

Although the symptoms of dry scalp and dandruff are similar, what causes dry scalp and how it is treated differ slightly from that of dandruff.

Dandruff vs. Dry Scalp

Even though they sound the same, dandruff and dry scalp are different conditions.

Dandruff is a relatively common skin condition. It causes grey or white skin flakes on the scalp and in the hair.

Dandruff only affects the scalp, but people who have a dry scalp, on the other hand, tend to have dry skin on other parts of their body as well.

In this article, we shall be focusing on what causes dry scalp as well as the treatment for the same.

What Causes Dry Scalp?

A dry scalp is not good for hair health and it leads to various serious problems. Hence, it is very important to treat it as soon as possible. Before that knowledge about its cause will be helpful.

There are numerous possible answers as to what causes dry scalp or just dry skin in general, and it might be difficult to determine the exact cause. But here we share with you the five most common reasons for dry scalp, and you might be able to avoid suffering from the same!

1-Excessive Washing

washing
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One of the major causes of dry scalp is excessive washing.

Shampoo’s purpose is to clean the scalp and eliminate oil. However, on the downside, shampoos can also damage your hair if used excessively or down the length of your hair as it removes the essential oils produced by the scalp and can dry out the hair and scalp.

Therefore, rinsing your hair every day can deplete your scalp’s natural oils, which must stay hydrated. You could even dehydrate your hair to the point at which it becomes fragile and breaks over time.

The type of hair you have determines how frequently you should wash it. Individuals with relatively coarse hair may only need to wash their hair once a week, while those with thin hair may need to wash their hair several times per week. Consult your stylist or dermatologist as to how frequently you should wash your hair based on its type.

2-Taking Hot Showers

Taking hot showers can prove to be a double-edged sword, as rinsing your hair with warm water has numerous benefits. It’s one of the most effective ways to clean your hair, solubilize dirt, and unclog your pores. It also helps to stimulate the flow of blood to the hair follicles, promoting hair growth.

Warm water also removes excess oil from your scalp and hair, and even though this could be a lifesaver for people with greasy hair, it has its disadvantages.

Warm water removes natural oils from your hair, especially if the level is too hot. This will deplete your hair’s natural, valuable oil, leaving it dry and brittle. Hot water also causes your hair to become overly porous, which leads to breakage, brittleness, and flyaways.

Furthermore, hot water dries out your scalp, causing itching and dandruff. It also weakens your roots, causing your hair to become frizzy and the texture takes a beating, and hair can easily break.

3-Harsh Cleaning Products

hair products
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As mentioned above, the purpose of shampoos is to clean your scalp and keep it healthy. However, at times, they can do worse than good, especially harsh shampoos that may make your hair appear nicer and cause your dry, itchy scalp.

What happens is that shampoos leave residues on your scalp that can cause irritation and eventually result in a dry scalp. Numerous hair products contain waxy substances that, if not thoroughly washed, can stick to your hair and scalp.

Furthermore, cleansers, soap, and water can strip the skin of its natural oils, keeping it nourished and preventing dryness.

4-Weather Variations

It might sound surprising, but the weather can play a crucial role in the health of your skin and scalp.

Cold climates, in particular, are responsible for dry and flaky skin. This happens because the humidity in the air decreases during the winter months. Such low humidity and cold weather dry out the skin on your entire body and your scalp, resulting in greater water loss from your skin and hair. Heat blasting, on the other hand, could also be drying.

To keep your skin and scalp moist, turn on a humidifier. Also, when washing your hair, use a gentle shampoo.

5-Underlying Health Conditions

A dry scalp can sometimes be caused by underlying health issues and other skin conditions. These could include the conditions listed below.

a) Eczema

Eczema is a skin condition that causes your scalp to become dry, red, itchy, and punctured.

Soap, detergent, stress, and weather changes can all cause dry eczema patches to appear on your scalp. Dryness may also appear on your hands, elbows, face, and the backs of your knees.

i) Atopic Dermatitis

The most common type of eczema is atopic dermatitis.

Atopic dermatitis in children causes dry, itchy rashes all over the body. Rashes are less common in adults, and a person’s skin may be incredibly dry and easily irritated.

ii) Contact Dermatitis

Contact dermatitis, another type of eczema, occurs when the skin reacts allergically to something it makes contact with. Itching, burning, or blistering of the skin can occur due to contact dermatitis.

This allergic reaction occurs when you use specific shampoos, soaps, or other hair products. Dermatitis may occur if you dye your hair black due to a reaction to the chemical PPD present in the hair dye.

b) Scalp Psoriasis

Psoriasis flare-ups on the scalp affect approximately half of all patients.

In psoriasis, your immune system malfunctions, and your skin cells multiply much faster than normal. These extra cells accumulate on the surface of your skin, forming itchy, scaly patches called plaques.

Psoriasis can appear on your face, inside your ears, hands and feet, back, and nails. It can also cause itchy patches on your scalp, brow, and back of your neck.

Other Possible Causes

Apart from the five causes listed above, there are numerous other potential causes and triggers for dry scalp. Among the reasons are:

  • Malassezia yeast overgrowth, which may cause skin inflammation
  • Oil glands hyperactivity, resulting in oily skin and possibly skin inflammation
  • Increased androgen hormone levels
  • Immune system deficiencies
  • Nutritional deficiencies involving vitamin B2, B6, niacin, and High zinc levels of stress
  • Genetics.

There are also certain factors or triggers, such as the ones listed below, that can cause a dry or itchy scalp.

  • Skincare products containing alcohol
  • Cold and dry air
  • Medical history of skin conditions in the past.

Dry Scalp Treatment and Prevention

Now that we are clear as to what causes dry scalp let us look into ways and methods of preventing and treating a dry scalp condition if needed.

There are numerous things that you can do to help prevent the development of dry scalp skin. These are some examples:

  • Wash your hair in lukewarm or cold, rather than hot, water
  • Only use gentle, fragrance-free hair care products.
  • Avoid sitting or standing near heat sources such as fireplaces.
  • Hair accessories that irritate the scalp should be avoided.
  • Consuming a lot of water
  • Getting enough sleep

These techniques can also help prevent dandruff! And as for the treatment, special shampoos to treat dandruff should help.

Use a dandruff shampoo once or twice a week to eliminate those pesky white flakes. Look for the following ingredients:

  • Coal tar
  • Salicylic acid
  • Pyrithione zinc
  • Ketoconazole
  • Selenium sulfide

Follow the directions on the bottle exactly. Some dandruff shampoos require you to leave them on your scalp for several minutes. Others immediately rinse off.

When to Contact a Doctor?

doctor
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The American Skin Association states that dry skin is usually not a cause for concern. However, if an underlying cause causes the dry scalp, you should get a proper diagnosis from a board-certified dermatologist.

So, if an anti-dandruff shampoo does not help, consult a dermatologist. You may have a skin condition that necessitates additional treatment, and only your doctor would be able to create and provide the best treatment plan for you.

In conclusion, dry scalp, as irritating as it is, need not be a cause of serious worry, and with the right scalp and hair care routine, it can easily be managed and treated.

With this, we come to an end to this article. We hope that we were able to provide you with apt answers to what causes dry scalp and some related questions. Feel free to leave comments down below!

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While at times contributed by guest authors, our content is medically reviewed periodically by professionals for accuracy and relevance. We pride ourselves on our high-quality content and strive towards offering expertise while being authoritative. Our reviewers include doctors, nurses, mental health professionals, and even medical students. 

Do note that any information found on the site does not constitute legal or medical advice. Should you face health issues, please visit your doctor to get yourself diagnosed. Icy Health offers expert opinions and advice for informational purposes only. This is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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