Home Dry Scalp What Causes Dry Scalp, What Is, Hair Loss, Dandruff and Prevention

What Causes Dry Scalp, What Is, Hair Loss, Dandruff and Prevention


What is dry scalp? What causes dry scalp? These are some of the questions that pop up in the mind of many when they suddenly have to contend with the problem. In this article, we’ll take a look at various causes of dry scalp and make the distinction between dry scalp and dandruff. We’ll also highlight various ways to prevent dry scalp and list an easy to use home option that you can turn to if dry scalp comes knocking on your door.

What Is Dry Scalp

The term dry scalp is used to refer to a condition characterized by production of small flakes of dry skin that are typically white in color and comes out relatively easily. The flaking is usually accompanied by some itchiness which varies from mild to intense and, in some instances dry scalp also leads to some degree of hair loss.

What Causes Dry Scalp – Causes of Dry Scalp or Reasons

So, what causes dry scalp? Well, first of all dry scalp is on the general scale attributed to loss of the skin’s moisture balance due to various factors. Among the causes of dry scalp are:

A woman shampooing
Using harsh shampoos and soaps is one of the most common causes of dry scalp


Harsh shampoos and soaps

Using harsh shampoos and soaps is one of the most common causes of dry scalp. The chemicals in such shampoos may strip off the natural oil that is usually found in hair and scalp leading to a drying-out effect that culminates in dry scalp and brittle hair that is devoid of its lustrous shine.

Poor diet

Without proper diet, the sebaceous glands may not be able to produce essential oils that are required for scalp health. This can end up in a dry scalp.

Hard water

Using hard water also ranks among the common causes of dry scalp. Even when a shampoo formulated for dry scalp and hair is used, its effectiveness may be weighed down when hard water is used to rinse the hair after using the shampoo.

This problem can be overcome by installing water filters on the shower head to get rid of some of the minerals responsible for water hardness.

Medical conditions

Some medical conditions such as eczema, atopic dermatitis and scalp psoriasis can also cause dry scalp.

Environmental factors

Changes in environmental conditions e.g. during winter can also lead to dry scalp. Winter is usually characterized by low humidity levels which

Teenage girl smoking
Smoking is one of the causes of dry scalp

can cause a drying-out effect on the scalp. The use of furnace and other heating elements during winter can as well exacerbate the scalp dryness.

Other causes of dry scalp are:

  • Emotional stress
  • Genetic predisposition
  • Side effect of certain medications
  • Age: ageing is usually associated with drier skin which can be manifested in drying of the scalp
  • Hormonal changes e.g. during adolescence or menopause
  • Exposure to harsh environmental conditions e.g. during winter
  • Smoking
  • Environmental pollution
  • Exposure to excessive heat e.g. very hot showers

Difference between Dandruff and Dry Scalp


Although normally treated synonymously dry scalp and dandruff is not exactly the same thing. Dandruff, or pityriasis if you like, affects 45-50% of the people globally but dry scalp is usually rare. Here are some differences between dandruff and dry scalp:

Underlying cause: The first difference between dandruff and dry scalp lies in the underlying causes of the conditions. As is to be expected of skin, the scalp renews its cells by producing a new layer of cells beneath the old ones before sloughing the old skin cells off to uncover the new ones.

This typically happens every 24 days or so and takes place gradually in such a way that it is not easily noticeable.

According to WebMD, Dandruff is often attributed to a fungus called malassezia which is normally present on the scalp. The fungus feeds on the fatty acid from the scalp’s sebum producing an acid that often causes scalp itchiness.

Dry scalp
Dry scalp

If there is too much of the fungus or it becomes overactive, an excessive production of new skin cells may result in such a way that there is not enough time for old skin cells to slough off undetected.

Dry scalp on the other hand is often caused by exposure to any factor that leads to loss of scalp’s moisture e.g. over-processing the hair, harsh weather, improper diet etc.

Size: another difference between dandruff and dry scalp is the size of the flakes produced. While dry scalp is often characterized by small flakes, dandruff manifests itself in relatively larger flakes.

Color: dry scalp flakes are usually in between transparent and white while dandruff flakes are typically yellowish white.

Texture and smell: while dandruff produces flakes are typically greasy and harder to get off the scalp, dry scalp flakes are usually dry and light.

Dry Scalp Hair Loss – Dry Scalp and Hair Loss

Hair loss due to dry scalp
Hair loss due to dry scalp

A healthy scalp is necessary for normal hair growth. It is thus not surprising that dry scalp sometimes eventually lead to hair loss. This can be quite a concern especially among women since hair is an integral part of beauty and fashion for most if not all women.

The hair loss that often accompanies scalp dryness can be explained from the fact that when dry, the hair usually becomes brittle and tends to break or fall off easily. Dry scalp is also frequently accompanied by itchiness and scratching the head often results in breakage and falling off of the hair that is already brittle. This is then manifested as hair loss.

Dry scalp hair loss is often attributed to factors such as hormonal fluctuations e.g. at menopause, use of oral contraceptives, climatic conditions, diet, and use of harsh shampoos and soaps among others.

Addressing the underlying cause of dry scalp and hair loss can help to halt the problem.

How to Prevent Dry Scalp

Now that we know what causes dry scalp and the differences between dry scalp and dandruff, the question then is, “how do I prevent dry scalp?” The best ways to prevent dry scalp is to avoid the factors that typically cause it.

To start with, avoid excessive shampooing of the hair, more so with harsh shampoos and soaps. Instead use mild moisturizing shampoos when necessary.

It is also advisable to stay away from shampoos and other hair-care products that contain sodium lauryl sulfate, betaine, and phthalates as these compounds often exacerbate dryness. Proper nutrition is also recommended to prevent dry scalp.

What to Use for Dry Scalp

What if dry scalp has already set in? What should you use to get rid of the symptoms? Well, a hot oil treatment can help to heal the scalp. Simply mix teaspoonfuls of primrose, coconut, olive and castor oil in a small pot and warm the oil-mixture before applying it all over your scalp and hair. After 30 minutes, wash it off with warm water.

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