When we think about wintertime, thoughts of skiing, snowboarding and holiday cheer may come to mind. We imagine hot chocolate by the fire, snowball fights and snowflakes descending upon us from the sky. What we don’t think about is flakes from our scalp landing on our shoulders and staying there.
No one really talks about dry, flaky scalps. But most people experience it at some point. Recently, we’ve discussed the importance of protecting and hydrating your skin—especially to combat dry, harsh winter conditions.
Dry conditions can lead to a dry scalp—and if your scalp becomes too dry, itchy and even painful, there are some remedies to try at home to alleviate this uncomfortable and often embarrassing result of dead skin scattering from your scalp.
First, it’s important to understand the cause of these flakes so ask yourself a few simple questions.
- Is this a new problem?
- If not, do I get an itchy, flaky scalp seasonally?
- Have I tried any new products?
Sometimes a new product could cause itchiness and irritation of the scalp. Often dry scalp happens during the winter season. And winter depletes our bodies of moisture due to the lack of moisture in the colder months.
What is dry scalp?
Dry scalp symptoms include small white flakes caused by cold weather, excessive dry heat or diet and often causes itch and tightness on the scalp, according to the Mayo Clinic. However, if you are experiencing excessive itching scalp itching, dandruff, eczema, dermatitis or an allergic reaction may be the cause. Dry scalp and dandruff are not one and the same.
What is dandruff?
Often mistaken for dry scalp, dandruff is chronic non-contagious scalp condition caused by yeast-like fungus called malassezia, which is normally found on the scalp without causing problems. But if it grows unchecked (possibly due to hormone imbalances, stress, immune suppression, infrequent shampooing, illness, or increased oil production), there is mild inflammation that produces dead skin cells. In adults and teens, oily white flakes appear on hair and shoulders. In infants, a common type of dandruff called cradle cap affects them.
To soothe dry scalp at home, try these remedies:
- Review your shampoo. Dry scalp can be caused by using harsh shampoos. Find a gentle, hydrating, and moisturizing shampoo and do not use a shampoo for oily hair as it will be too drying. Use warm water not hot in the shower.
- Go easy on the styling products. Also avoid gels, mousses, hairsprays, and other products that contain alcohol and can dry out your scalp and hair. Limit the use of heat appliances, like a blow dryer, to give hair a chance to recover.
- Massage your scalp. Treat yourself to a massage to stimulate your scalp. Hot oil treatments can alleviate the itchy feeling and moisturize dry scalps.
- Exfoliate your scalp. While you can buy specific products targeted at scalp exfoliation, at home you can use Epsom salt or sugar with olive, jojoba or coconut oil to create your own scrub. Then gently rub the paste into damp hair and rinse. Use these oils without salt or sugar to moisturize your scalp as well.
- Try a medicated shampoo. Over-the-counter shampoos containing zinc, ketoconazole or selenium oxide (Selsun Blue shampoo) may help. For instance, DHS Zinc Shampoo may help to reduce inflammation and aid with exfoliation using zinc. And shampoo containing salicylic acid like Neutrogena T-SAL Therapeutic Shampoo will help exfoliate dead skin cells. Do not over-shampoo, which can strip the skin of its protective oils, leading to more dryness. If you have mild dandruff, these shampoos may alleviate the symptoms as well.
- Hydrate with a healthy diet and lots of water. Drink lots of water and eat food with omega 3s, like salmon and other fresh water fish, nuts, avocado, flax seeds and more.
- Make sure you’re getting enough vitamins B and D. Dry scalp may be caused by nutritional deficiencies, such as not getting enough vitamins B6 and B12 in your diet. Boost your intake through fruits, vegetables, and whole-grain breads and cereals and, if necessary, through supplements such as flaxseed oil, zinc, and selenium.
- Reduce stress. Like anything, stress makes conditions worse. Exercise, get enough rest, go for a walk or try yoga to help. Any ways to help you relax will be helpful.
- Seek help. If the problem persists, it’s important to seek help to alleviate the condition. Your dermatologist can assess the symptoms to determine if you have seborrheic dermatitis caused by yeast, eczema, psoriasis or other issues.
We are here to help you properly diagnose and treat conditions of the scalp for adults and children.