Run a finger through your scalp; does it come off with small, white flakes stuck to it? You might think it’s dandruff. However, itchiness and white flakes are also symptoms of a dry scalp. Accompanying hair loss due to a dry scalp is also a reality for many people.
Dandruff, mainly occurring due to seborrheic dermatitis, results from the clumping of skin cells. That happens because of the overproduction of oil. Dry scalp, therefore, is an entirely different matter.
You must know the difference between the two conditions. This will help you find the right treatment for it. One way to distinguish between the two is to check the size of the flakes:
Dandruff flakes are oily and larger.
Moreover, hair moisturization won’t make dandruff go away. Let’s understand the causes, symptoms and treatment for dry scalp and hair loss. However, before that, you should know if a dry scalp truly does result in shedding.
Can A Dry Scalp Cause Hair Loss?
Yes, hair loss can occur due to a dry scalp. One big reason why this happens is that itchiness can make you scratch your head rather intensely at times. And since the feeling of scratching an itch can be quite satisfactory, many people keep at it.
However, the itching motion can end up weakening the hair follicles. And if you don’t get any treatment, it can also cause permanent harm to the hair roots, which can result in permanent hair loss.
What Causes Dry Scalp and Hair Loss?
Water loss from damage to the lipid barrier of the scalp can result in hair loss.
When your scalp isn’t producing enough sebum to keep the scalp moisturized, it causes scalp dryness. You may notice skin dryness in other areas of your body as well. Dry skin is a condition known as xerosis.
According to the American Skin Association, normally, you shouldn’t worry about dry skin. It is a bother regardless. The constantly itchy scalp and the ‘snowflakes’ on your shoulders can also make you feel embarrassed.
To find the right treatment for your hair loss, you need to know what may be causing the dry scalp in the first place.
Moisture-Stripping Hair Products
A lot of the time, these are the culprits. Sulfates in shampoos are notorious for leaving the scalp dry and itchy. So, don’t get drawn in by the nice packaging of shampoos. Make sure to read the ingredients at the back.
Avoid shampoos with ammonium lauryl sulfate/sodium laureth (and lauryl) sulfate, sodium chloride (salt), and alcohols like ethanol, propanol, isopropyl, isopropanol, etc.
Also keep in mind that an allergic reaction to an ingredient in hair care products can leave your scalp dry, red, or itchy. This is known as contact dermatitis.
As much as you may want to scratch the itch, be aware that it can worsen the symptoms. So, avoid doing that.
Stop using the product with the allergen, and the symptoms of contact dermatitis may clear on their own in a month. Regardless, make sure to consult a medical professional.
Washing Hair Too Frequently
You definitely don’t have to wash your hair daily. It’s actually not a good idea to do that. You are stripping your hair follicles and scalp of moisture and natural oils. It can result in a dry scalp while your hair becomes weak and brittle.
People with very thick, oily hair may need to wash their hair daily.
Moreover, those individuals who perform vigorous physical activity might also have to wash their hair every day. The grime, dirt and sweat can otherwise clog the pores in your scalp.
Also, those who live in hot and humid weather conditions find it hard to go a day without shampooing their hair because of excessive sweating.
Eczema or Atopic Dermatitis
That’s another condition that can leave your scalp dry, itchy, red and inflamed. It usually runs in families. So, if someone in your family has it, you might also have eczema.
Other than that, environmental factors such as changes in weather, stress, and pollutants can also work together to cause atopic dermatitis.
It is important to use mild shampoos and moisturizing creams so that you don’t end up aggravating your hair loss. Get in touch with your doctor to get started on its treatment.
It is an autoimmune condition in which the hair cells form at a much faster rate than they shed. This results in a buildup of skin cells; crusty, scaly patches called plaques form on the scalp. It can cause redness, swelling, itchiness, and flakiness.
The exact cause of scalp psoriasis is not known. However, certain factors can trigger it, such as stress, physical injury, weather changes, and infection. Your doctor may prescribe you anti-inflammatory corticosteroids or, in severe cases, medicines that help suppress the immune system.
Changes In Weather
Cold weather and low humidity mean that your hair will get the worst end of it. The air will whip the moisture right out of your scalp and hair. That doesn’t mean that you should prepare yourself for dry scalp whenever winter’s around the corner.
No matter how much you like hot water baths, they can also leave your skin dry and tight. Therefore, it is important that you use warm water to wash your hair.
Other than that, you can consider doing a scalp massage before shampooing the hair. Moreover, use hair moisturizers and conditioners.
You may also benefit from buying a humidifier to keep your hair moisturized.
How To Avoid Dry Scalp and Hair Loss?
There are more than a few things that you can do to prevent a dry scalp (and the subsequent hair loss). These can also help stop hair loss from dry scalp.
Bear in mind they won’t work for every type of hair loss; you may need medication to treat certain types. However, if the dry scalp is the result of poor hair care or extreme weather conditions, these tips can help.
DIY Hair Masks
For a dry scalp, you can always apply coconut oil to your scalp or mix it with tea tree oil before application. You can also use jojoba oil, olive oil and aloe vera on your scalp. They can also provide nutrients to the hair shaft.
Other than that, the fatty acids in avocados can also help nourish your hair. You can add bananas, yoghurt, eggs, honey, and apple cider vinegar to your hair mask (not all together, but a combination of 2-3 ingredients). All of these can help hydrate your hair.
Massage the Scalp
There’s nothing better than getting a nice scalp massage, even for a few minutes. Surprisingly, it can also help with a dry scalp. Not only does it improve blood circulation, but it also stimulates the production of oils.
Gently move your finger in a circular motion on the scalp. You can always massage oils into your scalp to help with hair loss.
Drink Water and Eat Healthily
What’s the best way to keep your skin hydrated? Well, drink water, of course! Just as your throat gets parched, so does your hair. So, make sure to quench its thirst by drinking ample water. It helps in dealing with a dry, itchy scalp.
Also, eat foods rich in proteins, vitamins, zinc, iron, essential fatty acids and biotin as they ensure healthy hair growth. If you have thinning hair, it may be the result of nutritional deficiencies, not just a dry scalp.
Use Gentle Hair Care Products
It is important to shampoo your hair for the health of the scalp and hair, but most people don’t need to shampoo daily. Even when you do, use those with mild formulas so that they don’t cause scalp irritation, dryness or itchiness.
Cetearyl, cetyl, stearyl, and lauryl are good alcohols to have in your shampoo. They help in hydrating the scalp and hair follicles. Also, try incorporating a moisturizing conditioner into your hair care routine.
Lastly, try avoiding using many hair stylings products like curlers or straighteners. The heat from them can also damage the hair shaft and exacerbate hair loss.
Can You Get A Hair Transplant With A Dry Scalp?
Unfortunately, you’ll have to wait for your itchy, dry, and flaky scalp to get better before you can get a transplant surgery.
Flakes, wounds and scabs on the skin make it difficult for the surgeon to operate during the hair transplant procedure. So, you need to wait until complete recovery from a dry scalp.
Before the surgery, the medical team will ask for pictures of your scalp to see check if it is in good health.
You can also consult your dermatologist before booking the surgery to find out if you are a suitable candidate for a hair transplant.
You need to be in good health to undergo transplantation surgery. This may apply to any kind of hair transplant, including a stem cell hair transplant.
There are many different reasons for hair loss due to a dry scalp. Normally, it is nothing to worry about, but it can develop as a result of some health condition or may be confused with another one, so it’s best to get it checked.
There are more than a few things that you can try to take care of your scalp and hair to make sure that they don’t get dry. That’s because a dry scalp may result in permanent hair loss in extreme cases.
If you’ve been planning to get hair transplant surgery, you need to wait for your scalp to clear up to get the treatment.
Reviewed and Approved by Dr. Hassan Soueid.