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What Causes Dry Scalp and How to Treat It

Dry scalp is not the same as dandruff. Those little white flakes that appear on your favorite black blouse typically are from dry scalp, not dandruff. Luckily, there are several remedies for basic dry scalp. Before you attempt any treatments, it’s best to first determine what’s causing the dry scalp.

What Causes Dry Scalp?

Unlike dandruff, which is caused by too much sebum (oil), dry scalp occurs when the skin on your head loses moisture. There are several things that can cause dry scalp to develop. These include:

  • Certain shampoos and soaps
  • Hair product build-up
  • Hard water
  • Change in weather/cold weather
  • Certain foods
  • Certain medications

Anything that leeches the moisture from your hair and skin can contribute to dry scalp. A combination of hard water, cold temperatures and shampoo containing high concentrations of alcohol (a drying agent) can cause dry scalp to develop. Some medications dry out the skin, so it’s best to check with your doctor if you think your dry scalp may be a side effect of any medication.

Tip: With any type of condition, if you feel unsure, ask your doctor. Your doctor can determine if it’s dry scalp, dandruff or another skin issue and then help with a safe, effective treatment.

Easy Ways to Treat Dry Scalp

Hard water shampoo. Hard water contains minerals like copper, iron and magnesium that can dry out your hair and skin. Washing your hair with hard water over time also can dull the hair and even cause discoloration. If hard water is causing dry scalp and other issues for your hair, try a hard water shampoo designed to moisturize and help prevent the build-up of those damaging minerals.

Healthy Scalp Shampoo and Conditioner. A shampoo and conditioner dedicated to treat the health of your scalp is always another option to consider when dealing with dry scalp. The Sulfate-free formula works to balance the hair and scalp’s moisture as well as remove excess buildup, giving your scalp and hair a more balanced and protected start. All while without damaging your color.

Clarifying shampoo. Dry scalp due to product build-up is easy to remedy. Switch to a clarifying shampoo that deeply cleans and removes oil, dirt and product build-up.

Apple cider vinegar. Combine two cups of warm water with about 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar and carefully pour it over your head in the shower after you’ve shampooed and rinsed your hair. Massage the solution into your scalp. The apple cider vinegar has antibacterial properties and can help restore the scalp’s natural pH balance. Allow the solution to sit for about 30 minutes and then rinse with warm water. Only perform this treatment as needed, once a week.

Coconut oil. After washing your hair with a clarifying shampoo, rub a little coconut oil into the scalp and allow it to sit for at least 30 minutes. Rinse thoroughly and/or re-shampoo.

Tea tree oil. A natural antifungal and antibacterial, tea tree oil is ideal for an itchy, dry scalp. Add two drops of tea tree oil to one tablespoon of vegetable oil. Massage the oil solution into your scalp before washing your hair. Allow the oils to sit for at least 30 to 60 minutes.

Hydrate. Keeping properly hydrated can help soothe dry scalp or any other area of skin that’s dry and itchy, especially in the winter. Cold temperatures naturally cause skin to dry out. You must stay hydrated. Drink at least eight to ten glass of water daily. If you exercise or are active, you may need more. Check with your doctor to determine the right amount of water intake for your optimum health.

Dry, itchy scalp that results in white flakes on your beautiful dark outfit is never fun. Fortunately, you can fight dry scalp with a few simple home remedies and the right type of hair products.


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