Dry scalp indicates that the scalp's skin is not in a healthy state. It is a common problem that arises when the scalp skin becomes extremely dry. There are small glands in the scalp skin called sebaceous glands that release sebum, a waxy substance, that provides lubrication to the hair and scalp. The scalp turns dry when there is not enough oil to keep the skin moist. Dryness makes the scalp sensitive and causes a lot of itching. Dry skin flakes fall off from the scalp surface when you scratch it. Frequent scratching can badly bruise the skin. Also, people with a dry scalp tend to lose hair at a faster rate.
Dandruff and dry scalp are two different scalp problems. Many people wrongly assume that both are the same. However, the fact remains that dandruff results from a fungal infection while dry scalp may occur due to many different reasons. Some of the most common dry scalp causes are as follows:
- Excessive use of wrong hair care products is one of the most common causes behind this problem. Shampoos, hair gels and hair sprays with harsh chemical components strip off the moisture and natural oils of the scalp skin and make it dry.
- Dry scalp can be triggered by dry environmental conditions. There are people who encounter the problem only during cold and dry weather of winter months. On the other hand, those who spend long hours in air conditioned rooms during summer months also face the same problem due to drop in the humidity level of the indoor air.
- If the scalp is exposed to high temperature, then the skin dries out. It may happen if you take hot bath or shower or use a blow dryer set at a high temperature. Similarly, prolonged sun exposure is bad for the scalp.
- Hard water contributes to this problem in a big way as the calcium present in the water gets accumulated on the scalp surface and makes it dry.
- When the body is dehydrated, then it loses out large amount of moisture from the skin surface, which in turn contributes towards dryness of scalp skin.
- Nutritional deficiency is another major factor responsible for dryness of scalp. Healthy nutrients are needed for proper functioning of sebaceous glands. Those who are suffering from deficiency of zinc, B vitamins or fatty acids are prone to this problem.
- Dry scalp can be a symptom of a number of health disorders. Seborrhoeic eczema is an inflammatory skin condition triggered by abnormal growth of specific fungus on the scalp surface. Ringworm infection of the scalp can lead to dry, scaly patches on various parts of the scalp. Dry, scaly patches all over the scalp can be a sign of scalp psoriasis too. It is an autoimmune disorder where the immune system increases growth of the new skin cells on scalp. As a result, large number of dry and dead skin cells get accumulated on the scalp, which appear dry and flaky.
Dry scalp triggered by extrinsic factors usually does not require medicinal treatment. Rather, proper shampooing of the hair and avoiding all those factors that can contribute to this problem are enough to resolve the issue. A good quality moisturizing shampoo should be used regularly to keep the scalp clean. Those shampoos, which have lavender oil or jojoba oil are particularity good for moisturizing the scalp. Avoid heat exposure in any form on the scalp as it can dry up the skin.
Always use lukewarm water on scalp and not hot water. Stay away from any harsh products to keep the scalp healthy. Eat healthy foods and stay hydrated to improve overall skin condition. If all these measures do not show any improvement in the skin condition, then you must visit a doctor for further treatment. They will ascertain the cause and treat it with suitable medicines. Scalp psoriasis is treated with medicated shampoos and topical medicines. Fungal infections are treated with antifungal cream and shampoo. Sometimes, oral medicines are also given.
Now that you know majority of the causes, you can avoid recurrence of the problem by avoiding the above mentioned triggers (for each cause). There's no doubt that dry scalp is an annoying problem but it is not a serious issue. However, it often becomes serious because you end up scratching the scalp too much to get relief from the itching sensation. The more you scratch the scalp, the more will you experience itching. Too much of scratching can lead to tender scalp sores that are more bothersome, which may require medical intervention. Therefore, try to control the urge to scratch as much as possible.