How to treat a dry scalp naturally
We spend so much time (and money) keeping our hair in tip-top condition, that we forget about the scalp underneath it – until it starts to bother us, that is.
Ironically, a dry scalp could be a symptom of paying just a little too much attention in that department. For instance, before I simplified my haircare routine, I would use a shampoo, a rinse-off conditioner occasionally alternated with a leave-in conditioner, moisturising lotion, styling gel (edge control), a misting spray, and a clarifying shampoo.
Sound familiar? A dry, irritated scalp could be a cry for help.
Your scalp is made up of five layers. The outermost layer you see when you part your hair (the epidermis), is the thick skin that contains hair follicles (lots of them if you’re lucky), sweat glands, and sebaceous glands.
Sebaceous glands produce sebum, natural oils that keep your hair and scalp lubricated. So, excessive shampooing can strip your scalp of this sebum, leading to dryness or itchiness.
Your scalp is also home to microbiome, which refers to (brace yourself) a healthy dose of microscopic fungus and bacteria.
But before you dive head-first into a vat of shampoo, microbiome is perfectly natural. It’s your scalp’s (and, incidentally, your skin’s) first natural defence against the outside world, such as the harmful UV rays of the sun, allergens, pollution, temperature extremes, stress, your diet, and other habits, such as smoking or drinking alcohol.
Your scalp’s microbiome can become imbalanced due to any one or more of these. For example, a poor diet can deprive your scalp of the nutrients it needs to repair itself and remain healthy.
It can also become imbalanced due to product build-up – cue my conditioners, styling gels, misting sprays, and whatnot – as particles can remain on the scalp even after shampooing.
Some people struggle with chemicals found in hair care products (such as sulfates in shampoos) which can cause dryness or itching.
And finally, hormonal changes, ill-health, allergies or medical conditions such as seborrheic dermatitis, can be a contributory factor.
How to maintain a healthy scalp microbiome
First, determine if there are any external causes.
- Have you checked your diet? On a personal note, my scalp and skin have vastly improved since giving up dairy.
- Are chemicals an issue? It was in the case of our two girls. See a list of common chemical irritants below and check whether your hair products contain any of them. If they do, try swapping for a product without the suspected offending ingredient, and see whether your scalp improves. You may need to consider eliminating the product altogether.
- Are you protecting yourself sufficiently from the weather or other environmental factors, such as air conditioning? Remember to drink plenty of water, as our bodies need to stay hydrated for optimum healthy hair and skin.
- For a severely inflamed or sore scalp, it might be best to see your GP or a dermatologist, as you may need prescribed treatment. [Please see my disclaimer at the foot of this article].
Consider cutting down on shampooing, as excessive washing can strip your scalp of its natural sebum. At the very least, check that your shampoo is pH balanced. A healthy scalp has a pH between 4.5 and 5.5, so a shampoo designed for regular use should be formulated within that range to maintain the scalp’s normal acidic pH.
Use a gentle exfoliating scalp mask once a month to remove dead skin cells and product build-up. It will leave your scalp looking brighter and feeling fresher. Massaging the scalp while you exfoliate also boosts circulation, which can promote hair growth, so that’s an added bonus.
Are your hair products delivering the protection your scalp and hair needs to keep it in good condition? They should:
- strengthen the hair’s follicles,
- protect the scalp’s microbiome, and
- maintain its natural oils.
For an dry, itchy scalp, consider applying a pre-shampoo oil, formulated to soothe the scalp and infuse it with a blend of light oils for stronger, healthier-looking hair. Simply part your hair, massage in well, cover with a towel for 15-20 minutes, then shampoo out and style as normal. Alternatively (or in addition), if you have type 3c to 4c hair, apply to the scalp after shampooing while your hair is still damp. As well as soothing your scalp, it will seal in that all-important moisture and nutrients to those delicate strands.
Can you relate to having a dry scalp? Will any of these tips help you?
Let me know in the comments section below or connect with me on social media.