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Dry Patches on Scalp – Flaky, White, Scaly, Itch and Red

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What causes white dry patches on the scalp? What do red dry patches on scalp mean? What is the likely cause of dry scaly scalp patches on scalp? I have got red, dry patches on scalp, what can I do to get rid of them? These are some of the questions that pop out in online skin care forums every now and then. This article will give you handy tips on likely cause of such patches and highlight some of the treatment options that can be used.

Dry Patches on Scalp

Dry patches on scalp are annoying and can ruin a good hair day stealing from your self confidence and self esteem. There are many possible causes of dry patches on scalp some of which are rare conditions and some are common. Here are some of them:

Scalp psoriasis

Scalp psoriasis is a common skin ailment that is characterized by raised, dry, red, itchy patches on the scalp.

The patches can appear as just one or numerous of them sometimes spreading throughout the scalp and are often accompanied by silvery-white scales comprised of dead skin cells and in more severe cases, the patches may stretch to the back of the neck, behind the ears and to the forehead as shown in the diagram below:

Although its exact cause of scalp psoriasis is not yet known, some researchers believe it is triggered by abnormality of the body’s immune system.  In basic terms, the body mistakes normal body cells for invading ones and in return the immune system responds by attacking these healthy cells.

Consequently, the skin’s natural cell renewal cycle is accelerated leading to an accumulation of dead cells on the scalp. The dead cells are manifested as patches on the scalp. Scalp psoriasis and other forms of psoriasis for that matter are hereditary and you are likely to develop the condition of it runs in your family.

Scalp psoriasis is estimated to affect about ½ of the 7.5 million Americans suffering from psoriasis (in its numerous forms).

Scalp psoriasis is often mild and largely unnoticeable but when severe, it can lead to thick patches on the scalp and result in excessive itching and scratching as to affect your daily activities.

Frequent scratching can also lead to secondary bacterial infections and sometimes hair loss.  The hair loss is luckily temporary and the hair will often grow back as soon as the condition heals.

Treatment options for scalp psoriasis vary from topical application of medicated shampoos, soaps, creams, and ointments which are usually available over the counter. Such products usually contain Salicylic acid and coal tar which are the two FDA approved medications.

There are also stronger products that are available under prescriptions. Such products also typically have the above medications but in stronger concentrations. They may also feature other medications such as calcipotriene, Anathralin, Tazarotene, and antimicrobials to name but a few.

Actinic Keratosis

Actinic keratosis is a skin condition characterized by dry scaly patches on the scalp or the skin. It is normally linked to harmful effects of the sun due to prolonged exposure to the sun in adults or suffering from numerous severe bouts of sunburn during childhood.

The patches can be grey, brown or pink in color and can either be flat or raised. While the patches are typically not cancerous, they can turn into skin cancer although very rarely. Treatment therefore involves getting rid of the lesions through surgery.


Ringworm is a fungal infection that manifests itself in round, dry patches on numerous areas of the skin including the scalp, groin, body and feet. Ringworm is usually contagious. An over the counter fungal cream is usually enough to treat the condition.


Also referred to as atopic dermatitis eczema manifests itself as dry, itchy patches. Although it commonly affects the inside of the elbows and the area behind the knees, eczema can as well affect the scalp. Keeping the area moisturized by using moisturizing lotions such as Cetaphil can help, but if that doesn’t help, you should see your doctor. Hydrocortisone 1% cream is also used to treat eczema.

Dry skin

Skin dryness due to numerous factors such as low humidity in winter months, exposure to windy conditions, use of air conditioning, use of hard water, prolonged exposure to sunlight, ageing, and poor diet can be manifested in dry patches on scalp.

Scalp dryness is often associated with itching. Moisturizing the scalp is enough to treat dry scalp. Rinsing the scalp with apple cider vinegar or tea tree oil also helps to relieve itchiness.

Dry Scaly Patches on Scalp

If you have dry scaly patches that are red in color, your first course of action should be to use over-the-counter medicated soaps, shampoos and gels as scalp psoriasis is very likely the underlying causes. If however the dry scaly patches are brown, pink or grey in color, you should consider seeking the attention of your doctor as you might be experiencing a case of actinic Keratosis.

Dry White Patches on Scalp

Dry white patches on the scalp are often the result of scalp dryness due to loss of its essential moisture. Home remedies for dry scalp such as hot oil treatment can help. There are various dry scalp shampoos that can as well help.

Dry Flaky Patches on Scalp

Dry flaky patches can signify simple scalp dryness due to exposure to numerous moisture ridding factors. Hot oil treatment with extra virgin oil can help as much as any other of the home remedies for dry scalp.

Dry Itchy Patches on Scalp

Scalp dryness is often accompanied by itching and may be triggered by the use of harsh shampoos e.g. those that contain sodium lauryl sulfate, weather changes e.g. during winter, and use of hard water among others. You can combat those dry itchy patches on your scalp by using apple cider vinegar or tea tree oil rinse. Observing a stringent scalp moisturizing routine is also recommended. Scalp psoriasis can also be the underlying cause of dry, itchy patches on scalp

Red Dry Patches on Scalp

Scalp psoriasis and eczema are the two conditions that may manifest themselves in red dry patches on scalp. See the above section for more on these skin ailments.

Dry Patches on Scalp Treatment

Treatment of the dry patches on the scalp depends on the underlying causes. For example, if dry scalp is the underlying cause, a moisturizing routine is enough but if a skin ailment such as scalp psoriasis is behind the dry patches, treatment with over the counter medicated shampoos and soaps can help. If the symptoms persist or the dry patches are accompanied by other symptoms such as pus, fever or offensive smell, you should consider seeking the attention of a doctor right away.

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