If your scalp is dry, you may not notice until you end up with white flakes and an itchy scalp. Can a dry scalp cause hair loss? Yes, it can. However, there are many things that can cause your scalp to be dry, and each one will affect your scalp and hair differently.
Depending on what is causing your dryness, there are different things you can do about it. There are also situations in which you are more likely to get a dry scalp and ways you can prevent this from causing hair loss.
What Causes A Dry Scalp?
Having a dry scalp means your scalp does not have the moisture it is supposed to. Many factors can cause this dryness, which we will touch on here.
No matter what is causing it, a dry scalp and hair will eventually lead to hair loss. This is because your hair needs moisture to stay supple. Dry hair is brittle and tangles more easily, causing hair breakage.
You may think that dandruff is the same thing as having a dry scalp. However, true dandruff is caused by a yeast-like fungus. This fungus is probably on your head even if you have a healthy scalp.
One way to tell if your dry and flaky scalp is because of dandruff or something else is to examine the flakes. Dandruff flakes tend to look yellowish and are often oily, even when the scalp itself is dry.
Seborrheic dermatitis is what severe dandruff is called. While seborrheic dermatitis often requires some type of medicated shampoo or other treatment, mild dandruff can often be dealt with by natural remedies.
Psoriasis is a dry skin condition that can affect your scalp. This autoimmune condition causes dead skin cells to build up, leading to itchy patches. When this happens on your scalp, it clogs up your hair follicles and can prevent hair from growing.
Besides scalp psoriasis, alopecia areata is another autoimmune condition, but one that directly attacks your hair follicles and causes hair loss.
Though dandruff is the most common type of scalp infection, a fungal infection can also cause a dry scalp. One of these is scalp ringworm, which is a fungal infection and not an actual type of worm.
Scalp ringworm causes redness, swelling, itching, and flaking. It can also damage the hair follicles by causing scarring. It is not to be confused with Malassezia, which is another fungus that causes extra cells to grow similarly to psoriasis.
Other Rare Conditions
There are many other conditions that a dermatologist could tell you about that causes a dry scalp. Lichen planopilaris and folliculitis decalvans are rare scalp conditions that can both lead to scaring and which involve dryness.
The former is a type of scarring alopecia that involves chronic inflammation. Any part of your body can be inflamed, with redness and itchiness being side effects.
Meanwhile, folliculitis decalvans is a type of inflammation that affects the follicle and can cause pustules with a dry crustiness. As this crust breaks off, it can look a lot like dandruff.
There are many hair products you might be using on your scalp and hair. Shampoos are one example of a product that almost always has some type of drying agent in it, which is there to help clean your scalp.
This strips away all the natural oils your scalp makes and can sometimes prevent your scalp from making more. Some ingredients to watch for include:
ammonium lauryl sulfate
sodium laureth (and lauryl) sulfate
sodium chloride (salt)
Products can also damage hair follicles directly and can damage the glands that make your scalp’s natural oils. Additionally, hair products can cause hair loss if you have an allergic reaction to one of the ingredients in the product.
This is called contact dermatitis and can cause an itchy scalp, thinning hair, and even permanent hair loss if you keep using the product you are reacting to.
Finally, some products cause buildup on your scalp. In this case, the white flakes are actually hair styling products and not dead skin cells.
Though less common, weather changes can cause dryness in certain conditions. Windy weather can take the moisture right off your scalp if you aren’t covering your head.
Cold weather can also make both your skin and scalp dry by decreasing your sebum production.
What To Do About A Dry Scalp
As you can see, there are many causes for a dry scalp. There are also just as many things you can do for your scalp and hair to ensure your dry scalp doesn’t lead to hair loss.
So, if your dry scalp persists in spite of taking action to correct the problem, you may need to see a board-certified dermatologist to diagnose what the problem is and how to treat it.
A few tests might be needed to determine what is causing your dry scalp before they can tell you what the right treatment is.
Treat Your Condition
If you have a condition like dandruff or scalp psoriasis, you should follow the appropriate scalp treatment for it. For example, if your dry scalp is caused by dandruff, the proper scalp treatment will be to wash your hair daily with a dandruff shampoo.
It is by not treating your condition that you increase the chances of your hair follicles becoming damaged, which will result in permanent hair loss.
Though a faulty immune system is one of the harder hair and skin conditions to fix, frequent washing with a growth shampoo may be helpful. You should also faithfully take whatever medication your doctor prescribes.
You should keep your scalp moisturized to encourage healthy hair growth. Natural oils like coconut oil are great. Since black hair tends to be especially dry, products for black hair are often very moisturizing.
When you apply the oil or whatever you are using for moisture on your scalp and hair, you should also give yourself a scalp massage. A scalp massage will both work the oil into your scalp better and assist blood circulation getting to your scalp.
Increase Blood Circulation
Speaking of circulation, your sebum glands need blood flow going to them in order to make their oils. Even if your hair thinning is for another reason besides a dry scalp, better circulation can slow hair loss.
Stress rarely causes dryness directly. However, stress does weaken your immune system. This causes your scalp to be more susceptible to the yeast infection that causes dandruff and the various types of fungal infections that can lead to a dry scalp and hair loss.
Ways To Prevent A Dry Scalp
If you are seeing a dermatologist for some other type of hair loss, you can ask them about preventative measures you can take to keep your scalp healthy.
Keeping your body healthy is always a good place to start. This includes eating a balanced diet with plenty of fatty acids in particular. Fatty acids will help keep your hair shaft and scalp moist.
There are some cases where it is impossible to prevent your scalp from getting dry. However, you want to catch the signs as soon as possible to prevent hair loss from happening because of it.
The best method to prevent hair loss is by making sure you moisturize in dry weather. If you have dry skin for any reason, you are likely to have a dry scalp sooner or later.
So, keep an eye out for dryness of any type, and use coconut oil or some other type of oil if you notice anything. Tea tree oil is a good thing to add to kill bacteria that might cause a fungal infection.
Aside from tea tree oil, other essential oils like lavender can be added to your shampoo or other hair products. By using these on your hair shaft, you may be able to soothe any itchy sensation before it even starts.
Avoid Drying Hair Care Products
As mentioned, some hair products are very drying to your hair, especially shampoos designed for oily scalps. However, other hair products like styling gels can also be drying as they take away the moisture from your hair as you rinse them off.
You should avoid putting anything on your hair that could potentially cause you to have a dry scalp. Also, don’t wash your hair too frequently. Even shampoos that aren’t drying can cause a dry scalp if used too often.
That said, not shampooing often enough can result in dirt clogging your pores. This will prevent healthy hair growth just as much as a dry and flaky scalp.
An itchy scalp is not pleasant, even without the possibility that it can cause hair loss. Itchiness is often a sign that something is wrong, sometimes signaling that your scalp is dirty rather than it being dry.
Have you had a dry scalp at some point? I’d love to know what worked for you to treat it! If you are your scalp is dry right now, don’t wait until it starts itching or gets worse to do something about it!