Dry, flaky scalps are a very common problem but the causes are not always as simple as you might think. Getting to the root of causes for dry scalps can be tricky!

Find out all the common causes for dry scalp and treatment


The scalp is often the most ignored part of the body when it comes to skin, but in fact scalps are often very sensitive and highly vulnerable to skin conditions. To add to the problem a lot of hair products on the market contain harsh chemicals, so the scalp is constantly being bombarded with harsh chemicals. In addition, sun exposure, dehydration and stress can also cause extra dry scalp issues.

Below are the most common causes for dry scalp that can lead to a dry scalp, sore scalp, spotty scalp or itchy scalp;


7 Common Causes for Dry Scalp:


1. Using Hair products / hair dyes


Most styling hair products and heavily scented shampoos and conditioners contain extremely harsh preservatives and foaming agents, namely Sodium Lauryl Sulphate. These can lead to dry scalp and scalp irritation. Hair dyes are also a major culprit for contact scalp dermatitis and can cause anything from mild allergic reactions to extremely severe toxic shock allergies. Contact dermatitis of the scalp from hair products can cause extreme itching and flaking that is often mistaken for normal fungal dandruff. If you have scalp psoriasis, these hair product preservatives can make the psoriasis much worse.


2. Using Anti-dandruff shampoos


Normal dandruff is caused by a fungus called Pityrosporum ovale that grows on the scalp. Anti-dandruff shampoos and treatments contain harsh antifungal agents to kill the fungus on the scalp. However approximately 40% of dandruff is actually caused by dry scalp flaking due to scalp dermatitis. 

One of the most common forms of dry scalp dandruff is caused by Seborrheic dermatitis, and is attributed to over-active oil production by the sebaceous glands. With this type of dandruff, excess oil on the scalp mixes with dead skin cells, causing them to cluster together and form clumps of crusty, yellowish, oily flakes. Often, the scalp will itch or burn and flakes can also be found on other oily areas of the skin, including around the eyebrows or even the nose.


3. Daily Blow drying


Daily blow drying of hair is a main culprit for causing scalp dryness and flaking. If you have a dry, itchy or flaky scalp, try to let hair dry as much as possible naturally before blow drying. Using a lower heat when blow drying and applying a conditioner such as the Oregon anti-plaque conditioner by the Skin Shop will help prevent any dryness.


4. Stress


Stress tends to have a drying effect on the skin and the scalp is no exception. Stress can cause flare ups of both eczema and dermatitis as well as make psoriasis worse. The scalp is one of the last places on the body to receive natural moisturisation oils plus the daily stripping of these oils from chemical hair products, makes the scalp especially prone to dryness from stress.


5. A Change in Diet


The scalp is very sensitive to changes in diet and if you are trying to lose weight and are cutting out fats and oils from your diet, your scalp will probably be the first place that suffers. While dieting the hair can also become weaker and the combination of an irritated and dry scalp and weakened hair can raise the risk of hair loss. Use mild and cleansing shampoos such as Skin Shops Hydrosil Dry Scalp Shampoo and cut down on hair styling products and blow drying.


6. Too Much Sun


Sunburn on the scalp is very common as the head gets the most sun and very few people remember to either cover their heads or put an SPF on their scalps. Sunburn on the scalp can cause severe itchiness and flaking for many weeks after. Remember the skin on your scalp is not accustomed to sun and is usually very pale so it burns very easily. The best sun protection for a scalp is a hat. But many hair products now contain SPF or you can purchase SPF sprays to protect your scalp from sunburn.


7. Reacting to Washing Powder


Many people have mild allergies to washing powders and fabric conditioners. Bedding is a common culprit for scalp dermatitis due to the length contact the scalp has with pillow bedding. Try swapping to a non perfumed washing powder for sensitive skin and see if symptoms improve.


Flaky scalp treatment:


  • For dry scalp dandruff caused by dermatitis or eczema switch to a non-chemical shampoo that specifically targets scalp dryness. Hair products containing the plant extract Cardiospermum have good evidence for helping to reduce the symptoms of dry scalp and scalp eczema or dermatitis.


  •  For spotty scalps try tea-tree and/or eucalyptus based shampoos and conditioners that have natural antibacterial actions.


  •  For moisturising a dry scalp after blow drying while also giving hair some texture try Neem, Coconut or Starflower oil. After blow drying rub a small amount on the palm of the hand and run through hair and scalp.


  •  Homemade hair masks made from honey and oats can be hugely beneficial for dry scalps. Put natural honey and porridge oats in a bowl and add a little warm water until you get a putty. Rub into hair and wrap in a warm towel and leave for 30 minutes. Rinse well and wash hair normally.


  •  For scalp psoriasis stop using normal shampoos and switch to hair products that are specifically targeted at scalp psoriasis. Hair and scalp products containing the plant steroid Oregon Grape Root are particularly effective for relieving scalp psoriasis.