Medic for Dry Scalp: What Works Best and Why?

Dry scalp is a discomfort that is faced by many individuals. If you have dandruff, rest assured that you are not the sole sufferer.

The scalp contains sebaceous glands that produce oil to keep it moisturized and healthy. When the production of oil is reduced due to some reasons, the scalp becomes too dry and flaky.

Causes of Dry Scalp

Dandruff can occur due to a number of reasons. Some common causes include:

  • Eczema
  • Dietary deficiencies
  • Scalp infections
  • Exposure to cold and dry weather
  • Shampooing your hair too often
  • Using hair care products that contain alcohols and harsh chemicals

Symptoms of Dry Scalp

A dry scalp can be itchy, red, and irritated and can also make your hair appear dry and dull. The absence of adequate moisture also can weaken the hair follicles and increase hair loss. So, it is important to treat the problem as soon as you notice it.

Standard Treatment for Dry Scalp

A dry scalp can be treated by following a dermatologist’s advice on hair care.

Keeping in mind the causes of the dry scalp, your dermatologist will recommend the following:

  • Hair cleansing products
  • Good nutrition
  • Avoiding irritants and allergic products
  • Medications to treat an underlying infection

How to Soothe Dry Scalp?

There are several remedies that can help restore the moisture in your scalp and treat the dryness. Outlined below are some of these.

1. Give a Warm Oil Massage

A warm oil massage is the best and most effective way to restore lost moisture and treat dry scalp. Massaging with oil encourages the natural production of oil, improves blood circulation to the hair follicles and scalp, and provides essential nutrients to the scalp.

This remedy also helps reduce itchiness.

You can use the following oils to massage your scalp:

  • Coconut oil, which penetrates into your hair and helps reduce protein loss
  • Argan oil, which is rich in essential fatty acids and vitamin E
  • Jojoba oil, which has anti-inflammatory properties and can also help tackle scalp infections
  • Olive oil, which is rich in essential fatty acids and vitamins

Coconut oil or olive oil offers the best results.

  1. Warm 2–3 tablespoons of coconut oil.
  2. Use the warm oil to massage your entire scalp.
  3. Wrap your hair in a towel and leave it on for 1–2 hours.
  4. Rinse the oil from your hair, and then shampoo as usual.
  5. Do an oil massage once or twice a week to keep your scalp free from itchiness and dryness.

2. Use Aloe Vera

Aloe vera is another very effective home remedy for dry scalp. As aloe vera is a great skin moisturizer, you can use it to get relief from an itchy scalp as well.

In fact, aloe vera is especially beneficial for dry scalp caused by psoriasis.

  1. Extract pure aloe vera gel from an aloe vera leaf.
  2. Apply the gel on your scalp.
  3. Leave it on for 15–20 minutes.
  4. Wash your hair with a regular shampoo.
  5. Repeat this treatment one to two times a week.

3. Apply a DIY Honey Mask

Honey is also a good remedy for dry and itchy scalp. The antimicrobial properties of honey can help destroy any harmful microbes present on your scalp and reduce the risk of infection.

  • Dilute raw honey with some warm water in a 4:1 ratio. Massage the solution into your scalp for 2–3 minutes. Cover your head with a warm towel and leave it on for 2 hours. Shampoo your hair as usual. Use this remedy twice a week.
  • Alternatively, mix ½ cup of warm olive oil and 2 teaspoons of honey. Apply this on your scalp and massage gently. Allow it to sit for about 10 minutes, and then shampoo your hair as usual. Use this remedy two to three times a week.
  • Lemon can help wipe out the dead cells and also keep the scalp moisturized. Squeeze out the juice of 1 lemon and add honey to it. Use this mixture to massage your scalp. Rinse it off and shampoo your hair after 10–15 minutes.

4. Try Yogurt

Yogurt also works as a great remedy for dry scalp. It has antibacterial and antifungal properties that help keep your scalp clean and free from infections. It also makes your hair soft, smooth, and shiny.

According to studies, a mixture of yogurt and eggs can keep dry scalp and hair loss at an arm’s length.

  • Apply plain yogurt on your scalp and massage thoroughly for 5 to 10 minutes. Allow it to sit for 30 to 45 minutes before rinsing it off with lukewarm water. Use this remedy a few times a week.
  • Alternatively, mix together ½ cup of yogurt and 3 tablespoons of ground fenugreek seeds. Apply this mixture on your scalp and hair. Wait for 1 hour, and then wash it off with a mild shampoo. Repeat this remedy once a week.
  • Whisk an egg and add 2–3 tablespoons of plain yogurt. Apply this mixture to your hair. Let it sit for 15 minutes. Try this remedy every two to three times a week before giving your hair a shampoo wash.

5. Spritz Apple Cider Vinegar on Your Scalp

Apple cider vinegar is an excellent treatment for a dry or itchy scalp, especially if the problem is due to psoriasis, eczema, or dandruff. It has been used since ancient times for its medicinal and therapeutic properties, which have been published in recent studies conducted in 2017.

It helps cleanse the scalp and hair, eliminating accumulated product residue and restoring the pH of your hair.

  1. Mix ¼ cup of raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar with 3 cups of water.
  2. Spray this solution on your scalp.
  3. Cover your head with a shower cap.
  4. Leave it on for 20 to 30 minutes.
  5. Shampoo your hair as usual.
  6. Repeat this remedy once or twice a week.

6. Massage with Oatmeal

Oatmeal is a great healer for dry scalp as well as dull and lifeless hair. The vitamin E in it helps keep the scalp and hair well moisturized and prevents dryness, flaking, and itching.

  1. Mix 1 tablespoon of oatmeal powder into ½ cup of water.
  2. Massage the mixture gently onto the scalp.
  3. Leave it on for 20 to 30 minutes.
  4. Rinse it off with cold water.
  5. Repeat once or twice a week.

7. Give Your Hair a Beer Wash

If you have a bottle of beer at home, then it’s time to use it to get rid of your dry scalp. Beer is a great natural conditioner, especially for dry scalp and hair. It also has surprising beauty benefits for the skin and hair.

High in vitamin B and yeast, beer also makes your hair soft and shiny.

  • Mix 2 cups of beer and 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar. Apply this mixture on your hair after shampooing. Wait for 5 minutes, and then rinse it off with cool water. Repeat once or twice a week.
  • Alternatively, mix a few drops of jojoba oil into 1 cup of dark beer. Apply the mixture on your hair and leave it on for 15 minutes. Rinse it off with water, followed by regular shampooing.

8. Add Tea Tree Oil to Your Shampoo

Tea tree oil has been used for its antimicrobial properties since ages.

Its antifungal action is exhibited in wiping out the yeast Pityrosporum ovale, known to be associated with the growth of dandruff in the scalp, hence treating the related dryness.

  • Pour about 6 drops of tea tree oil in your shampoo. Also, try to use hair products that contain tea tree oil for best results.

9. Use Indian Gooseberry

Indian gooseberry is a storehouse of antioxidants such as vitamin C, gallic acid, and quercetin, to name a few. Aside from its antioxidant content, the richness of minerals, amino acids, and vitamins can help impart moisture to your hair and scalp, encourage growth, and remove dandruff.

  1. Cut the gooseberry into pieces and let it dry in shade.
  2. Add the dried gooseberry pieces in coconut oil and heat the mixture on a low flame for about 15 minutes.
  3. Store the oil in a dark place away from heat.
  4. Use this as hair oil. Apply it the night before a hair wash.

10. Apply a Banana Hair Pack

Bananas host an ample amount of potassium and vitamins. These nutrients can help add moisture to your scalp and soothe it from an existent dry condition.

  1. Blend 1 ripe banana into a paste.
  2. Add ¼ cup of yogurt, 2 tablespoons each of honey and olive oil to it.
  3. Apply this mixture evenly on your scalp and hair.
  4. Leave it on for about 30 minutes.
  5. Rinse your hair with a shampoo and conditioner. Follow this remedy once a week.

11. Consider Eggs

Eggs can help soothe dry scalp.

Egg yolks contain fat and protein that can keep the scalp moisturized, and the enzymes in the egg whites are antibacterial and can help remove the excess oils.

  1. Break an egg and whisk it properly. Add 1 teaspoon of olive oil to the mixture.
  2. Apply the mixture evenly on your hair.
  3. Wash away the hair mask after half an hour.
  4. Make sure to wash your hair with a shampoo thereafter.
  5. Do this twice a week to get a smooth scalp.

12. Give Your Hair an Herbal Rinse

Herbal rinses can give your dry and flaky scalp the relief it needs. Several herbs such as calendula, nettle, rosemary, sage, comfrey, burdock, and chamomile can be used to prepare a rinse. These herbs have medicinal and antimicrobial properties that can help solve the dryness and moisturize your scalp.

Nettle Leaves, Chamomile Flowers, and Fresh Rosemary

This concoction can help fight dry scalp through the cumulative benefits that these herbs provide. Nettle leaves can tend to the hair loss, dried chamomile flowers can help fight inflammation, and rosemary can promote blood circulation and encourage hair growth.

Recipe:

  • Dried chamomile flowers – ½ teaspoon
  • Dried nettle leaves and fresh rosemary – 1/3 teaspoon each
  • 1 cup of hot water

How to prepare:

  1. To a cup of boiling water, add the chosen herbs. Let the herbs steep.
  2. Strain the tea and keep this liquid aside.
  3. After shampooing your hair, condition your scalp with the herbal water, pouring it on your scalp. Massage your scalp gently for a few minutes. A hair wash is not needed thereafter.

Fenugreek, Mint, and Lemon

The proteinaceous fenugreek can help nourish your hair, give shine, and remove dandruff. Mint can tend to the itching sensation by its cool and refreshing effects. Lemon juice can help clean the scalp by removing dandruff.

Recipe:

  • Fenugreek seeds – 1 teaspoon
  • Mint leaves – 1–2 teaspoons
  • Lemon or lime peel – 1 teaspoon
  • Water – 2 cups

How to prepare:

  1. Combine everything in a pan, and bring it to boil.
  2. Let it simmer for about 2–3 minutes.
  3. Let it steep.
  4. Strain the liquid and use it to condition your scalp after a shampoo wash.

Anecdotal Remedies

There exist a plethora of remedies that, although used by a large user base, lack scientific evidence. Because their effectiveness is endorsed by many, they do deserve a mention here.

Outlined below are some of these remedies that can help dry scalp.

1. Avocado

A fruit that is commonly used to help combat dry and itching scalp is avocados. An experimental study conducted in 2017 indicated that the topical application of avocado oil promoted collagen production and reduced inflammation in rats.

Avocados are rich in minerals, vitamins, and natural oils that help fight the dryness. They also make your hair soft, glossy, and shiny.

  • Mash the pulp of an avocado and rub it on your scalp. Leave it on for 25–30 minutes, and then wash it out. Do this at least once a week.
  • Alternatively, mash a ripe avocado and mix it with 1 teaspoon of wheat germ oil and 1 teaspoon of jojoba oil to make a smooth paste. Apply this mixture on your freshly washed scalp and hair. Cover your scalp and hair with a shower cap for 30 minutes, and then shampoo your hair with lukewarm water. Use this remedy once or twice a week.

2. Coconut Milk

Coconut milk houses abundant proteins that can help nourish the scalp and avert the dryness. It can also help treat frizzy hair.

  1. Heat 2 tablespoons of coconut milk until warm. Do not overheat it.
  2. Apply this on your scalp and keep it covered overnight.
  3. Wash your hair in the morning.
  4. Repeat this remedy twice a week to reap the best results.

3. Mayonnaise

Mayonnaise is full of oils and fats that condition the scalp and hair. This conditioning action helps reduce scalp dryness.

The vinegar in the mayonnaise also helps deal with any bacterial or fungal infection, one of the key reasons behind dry scalp.

  1. Apply a generous amount of mayonnaise on your scalp.
  2. Cover your head with a shower cap.
  3. Allow the mayonnaise to sit for 15–20 minutes.
  4. Rinse your hair with warm water, and then shampoo as usual.
  5. Repeat this remedy once a week.

4. Pumpkin

Pumpkin contains abundant vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals including beta carotenes, zinc, potassium, magnesium, and vitamins E, C, and A. These nutrients help provide your hair strength, volume, and hydration.

When combined with honey, pumpkin can provide nutrition to your scalp and give your hair the shine and gloss it has been yearning for.

  1. Cut a pumpkin in two parts. Use half of it to make a puree.
  2. To the puree, add 2 tablespoons of honey. Stir it nicely.
  3. Apply this mixture evenly on your hair.
  4. Let it settle for 15 minutes before you rinse it off.
  5. Repeat this one to two times a week.

When to See a Doctor

Most scalp issues can be taken care of at home with persistent use of simple remedies and small lifestyle changes. It is rare for a scalp issue to need medication or the attention of a dermatologist. However, seek an appointment with a dermatologist in cases when:

  • You have an existent dandruff problem that fails to improve despite diligent care and use of antidandruff shampoos for at least a month.
  • Your scalp hurts or is swollen or red.
  • Your scalp is itchy.
  • You are undergoing chemotherapy, have HIV, or are taking immunosuppressant medication and experience dry scalp.

If the problem recurs frequently, give your doctor a call.

Additional Tips

  • Brush your hair with a soft, pure boar-bristle brush before washing it to remove any buildup of oil, hair products, and skin cells.
  • Brush your hair regularly, as it increases blood circulation and distributes the natural oil in the scalp.
  • Keep yourself hydrated by drinking an adequate amount of water to prevent dry skin as well as scalp.
  • Eat foods rich in essential fatty acids such as flaxseeds, walnuts, and salmon.
  • Wear a scarf to protect your hair from the sun and other harsh weather conditions. Do not use hot water to wash your hair, as it further dries out your hair.
  • Do not use an alcohol-based shampoo, which also dries out your hair.
  • Do not tie up wet hair, as it can increase the chance of a fungal infection.
  • Avoid using hair products that contain various chemicals that can irritate the scalp and cause an allergic reaction, redness, and itchiness.
  • Do not over style your hair, as it can lead to structural and heat damage.

Resources:

  1. Bin Saif GA, Ericson ME, Yosipovitch G. The itchy scalp–scratching for an explanation. Experimental dermatology. . Published December 2011.
  2. Nayak BS, Ann CY, Azhar AB, Ling ECS, Yen WH, Aithal PA. A Study on Scalp Hair Health and Hair Care Practices among Malaysian Medical Students. International journal of trichology. . Published 2017
  3. Koyama T, Kobayashi K, Hama T, Murakami K, Ogawa R. Standardized Scalp Massage Results in Increased Hair Thickness by Inducing Stretching Forces to Dermal Papilla Cells in the Subcutaneous Tissue. Eplasty. . Published January 25, 2016.
  4. Zaid AN, Jaradat NA, Eid AM, Al Zabadi H, Alkaiyat A, Darwish SA. Ethnopharmacological survey of home remedies used for treatment of hair and scalp and their methods of preparation in the West Bank-Palestine. BMC complementary and alternative medicine. . Published July 5, 2017.
  5. Witman CE, Downs BW. Topical Honey for Scalp Defects: An Alternative to Surgical Scalp Reconstruction. Plastic and reconstructive surgery. Global open. . Published June 5, 2015.
  6. Zaid AN, Jaradat NA, Eid AM, Al Zabadi H, Alkaiyat A, Darwish SA. Ethnopharmacological survey of home remedies used for treatment of hair and scalp and their methods of preparation in the West Bank-Palestine. BMC complementary and alternative medicine. . Published July 5, 2017.
  7. Lin T-K, Zhong L, Santiago JL. Anti-Inflammatory and Skin Barrier Repair Effects of Topical Application of Some Plant Oils. International journal of molecular sciences. . Published December 27, 2017.
  8. Reynertson KA, Garay M, Nebus J, et al. Anti-inflammatory activities of colloidal oatmeal (Avena sativa) contribute to the effectiveness of oats in treatment of itch associated with dry, irritated skin. Journal of drugs in dermatology : JDD. . Published January 2015.
  9. D’Souza P, Rathi SK. Shampoo and Conditioners: What a Dermatologist Should Know? Indian journal of dermatology. . Published 2015.
  10. Satchell AC, Saurajen A, Bell C, Barnetson RSC. Treatment of dandruff with 5% tea tree oil shampoo. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. . Published December 2002.
  11. Yu JY, Gupta B, Park HG, et al. Preclinical and Clinical Studies Demonstrate That the Proprietary Herbal Extract DA-5512 Effectively Stimulates Hair Growth and Promotes Hair Health. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM. . Published 2017.
  12. Zaid AN, Jaradat NA, Eid AM, Al Zabadi H, Alkaiyat A, Darwish SA. Ethnopharmacological survey of home remedies used for treatment of hair and scalp and their methods of preparation in the West Bank-Palestine. BMC complementary and alternative medicine. . Published July 5, 2017.

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Published by
Robert Signore, DO - Dermatologist

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