Causes of dry scalp

Is It Dandruff or Dry Scalp? Symptoms, Treatment, and More

If you have dry scalp, wash with a gentle shampoo and then use a moisturizing conditioner. One way to tell whether you have dry scalp or dandruff is to apply a light moisturizer to your scalp before you go to bed. If the cause is dry scalp, the flakes should disappear once you shower the next morning. Some hair stylists can perform a scalp treatment that uses steam to deliver more moisture to your scalp.

For mild dandruff, wash your hair every day with a gentle shampoo to reduce the amount of oil on your scalp. If your dandruff is more severe or a regular shampoo doesn’t work, try a dandruff shampoo.

Most dandruff shampoos contain medicine that kills the fungus on your scalp or removes flaky skin. Here are some examples:

Pyrithione zinc (Head and Shoulders, Jason Dandruff Relief 2 in 1) is an antifungal drug. It kills the fungus on your scalp that causes flaking. Pyrithione zinc shampoos are gentle enough to use every day.

Selenium sulfide (Selsun Blue) reduces fungus and prevents too many skin cells from dying off. If you have blond or gray hair or you dye your hair, ask your doctor before using shampoo containing selenium sulfide. It can change your hair color.

Ketoconazole (Nizoral) kills the fungus that causes dandruff. You can buy it in over the counter or prescription strength.

Salicylic acid (Neutrogena T/Sal) removes extra scale from your scalp before it can flake. In some people, salicylic acid can dry out the skin and cause more flaking.

Coal tar (Neutrogena T/Gel) slows the growth and shedding of skin cells on the scalp. Tar-based shampoos can also change your hair color if you have blond or gray hair.

Shampoos containing tea tree oil are an alternative remedy for dandruff. Tea tree oil is a natural ingredient with antifungal properties. An older study from 2012 showed that a 5 percent tea tree oil shampoo reduced scaling without causing side effects. Some people are allergic to tea tree oil. Ask your doctor before you try it. Stop using the product if you have any redness or swelling.

No matter which dandruff shampoo you try, read the instructions on the bottle and follow them carefully. If you’re not sure which shampoo to use or how often to use it, ask your doctor or pharmacist for advice. You might have to try a few brands before you find one that relieves your dandruff.

Once your dandruff improves, you might be able to cut back on the number of days that you use the shampoo. For more stubborn dandruff, your doctor can prescribe a stronger shampoo or a steroid lotion.

  1. Wash oily hair with special shampoo
    Clarifying shampoos designed for oily hair help regain the scalp’s balance and eliminate excess oil, soothing the scalp and reducing itching. Clarifying shampoo should be used two to three times a week. Tip: If you wash your hair daily, switch between an oil-fighting shampoo and a very mild shampoo. This will keep your scalp from drying out and becoming more irritated. Those trying to prevent dandruff and greasy hair from occurring in the first place can use a clarifying shampoo once a week.
  2. Wash oily, flaky hair the right way
    Brush hair before washing. This will release dandruff flakes from the scalp and untangle hair. Wash hair using lukewarm water. Give anti-dandruff shampoo time to work in your hair before rinsing it out. For extra care, you can still use a hair mask or conditioner. However: Only apply these to ends and lengths – not the roots!
  3. Dry oily, flaky hair the right way
    Heat generated by blow drying can further irritate the scalp. But you probably don’t want to leave the house with wet hair! If you can’t avoid using a hairdryer, always dry on a cold or low setting. Tip: Hang your head upside down when blow drying – this is gentler on the scalp. And: As often as possible, try to let hair dry naturally.
  4. Use styling products in moderation
    To avoid making the hair even more greasy, use styling products such as hair wax sparingly, as these can further weigh down hair. And don’t apply to the roots – just the lengths and ends. Excessive hairspray can also make hair greasy and the scalp itchy. A few sprays will suffice. Also, exercise caution when using hair oils: These are for dry ends only!
  5. Emergency help for greasy hair
    Your hair is already looking less than fresh in the afternoon – but you’re going out tonight! No problem. Dry shampoo to the rescue! Although dry shampoo can’t replace a proper shampooing routine, it can temporarily refresh hair by absorbing excess oil. Spray dry shampoo onto greasy areas from about 8 inches away. Let it sit briefly, work it through with your fingers, then brush out.

LarsZahnerPhotography/iStock/Getty Images

Human hair gets greasy when it is not washed enough, but some people naturally have oily scalps, even if they shampoo frequently. This can lead to a condition called seborrheic dermatitis, more commonly known as dandruff, according to the National Institutes of Health, or NIH. Other things contribute to the problem, but an oily scalp is a common factor.


Dandruff is characterized by oily skin patches, redness, itching, skin lesions, scales and hair loss, according to NIH. Its most readily identifiable symptoms are itchiness and white skin flakes that get stuck in the hair and eventually fall off onto the shoulders, but the other symptoms can happen in severe cases. It is usually limited to the scalp but can spread to the eyelids, eyebrows, lips, nose creases, ears and skin folds on the body.


Many dandruff sufferers produce an excess amount of skin oil, NIH explains. It combines with malessizia, a yeast commonly found on the scalp, and irritates the skin. People who do not wash their hair regularly can also develop dandruff because dirty hair gets greasy. The CNN Health website states that men are more prone to dandruff because they have larger oil glands on their scalps. Other contributing factors include heredity, fatigue, stress, obesity and other skin problems like acne. People who have had strokes or head injuries and those who suffer from Parkinson’s disease and HIV are also more likely to get dandruff.

Time Frame

People with naturally oily scalps may suffer with dandruff throughout their lives, although NIH states that it can be controlled with regular maintenance treatment. It sometimes disappears for several months or years before reappearing.

Dandruff treatment involves regular shampooing with a medicated product. This serves two purposes. It ensures the hair is clean, which cuts down on scalp oil, and attacks malessizia with yeast-fighting ingredients. NIH recommends daily use of a shampoo with salicylic acid, resorcin, ketoconazole, selenium, zinc or coal tar as the main active ingredient. The shampoo should remain on the scalp for five minutes while the skin is massaged to loosen the flakes. Medicated lotion is available for body dandruff.


A good maintenance program helps keep dandruff from recurring. Wash hair daily to prevent excess oil build-up. NIH explains that people who are prone to dandruff can use a medicated shampoo twice a week and a regular product on the other days. They should also avoid greasy or sticky products like styling gels, mousse and hair spray, according to CNN Health.

Simple Ways to Get Rid of That Dry Scalp

A dry, itchy scalp is embarrassing and frustrating, to say the very least. If you want to get rid of dry scalp and the dandruff that sometimes accompanies it, it’s important to first get to the root cause. Here, you’ll learn a few different ways to get rid of dry scalp based on your symptoms and environment.

Use Less Shampoo

Believe it or not, one of the most common causes of dry scalp is using too much shampoo in the shower. Most shampoos act as surfactants, which means they bind to just about anything on your hair – including natural oils – which allows them to be rinsed away. Though it does leave your hair clean, it can also be very drying. What’s more, some shampoos leave residues behind that can build up on your scalp, cause irritation, and eventually lead to dry scalp. Using less shampoo is one way to fix this common problem.


Most people take the time to exfoliate their skin, especially on their face, to reveal brighter, newer, and healthier skin below. Exfoliation is important for removing dull, dead, and dry skin, so it only makes sense that you should exfoliate your scalp, too. The best way to do this is to mix a bit of sugar (about a tablespoon) into your shampoo, then massage it into your scalp with your fingers. The sugar acts as a mild abrasive and will help remove dry skin, much like exfoliating agents for your face.

Take Cooler Showers

This tip for getting rid of dry scalp will also work for dry skin in general. Hot water is excessively drying, so the hotter your showers, the more of your skin’s natural moisture the water strips away. If your scalp is already dry and flaky, you might believe that taking a hotter shower will wash away any shampoo residues left behind and help resolve the problem. Unfortunately, this tends to have the opposite effect. Instead, take cooler showers, and be sure that you rinse your hair and scalp in cool water after showering. There’s a bonus: cool water rinses make your hair shinier, too, by flattening the cuticle and banishing frizz!

Get a Scalp Massage

Simply massaging your scalp for a few minutes each day while you’re watching television or just resting is a great way to help treat dry, flaky, itchy scalp. When you massage the skin on your scalp, it stimulates blood flow, and in turn, this can clear blocked pores that produce sebum. Sebum is natural oil that your skin produces to keep your skin moisturized, so it’s important in the prevention of dry scalp. You can even massage with a little olive oil or coconut oil for some added shine.

Over-the-Counter Treatments

Last, but certainly not least, if the tricks above don’t seem to help resolve your dry scalp issues, you can turn to your stylist to recommend a product that can start the healing process. There are many take home products that now work to target dry, flaky scalp.

Dry, flaky, itchy scalp can be irritating, and depending on the severity, it can also be quite embarrassing. Fortunately, by changing a few of your habits and perhaps even looking into special shampoos, it’s possible to resolve the issue in just a few days’ time.

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Haven’t you heard?

Our obsession with watching gross but satisfying things has moved on from the pimple popping and ingrown hair tweezing videos you’ve slowly grown accustomed to.

Those still rage on, obviously (may we never tire of watching pus squirt from a lump on someone’s forehead like a volcano), but the hot new trend is dandruff scraping.

Take a gander on YouTube and Instagram and you’ll find a bunch of ASMR-style videos showing someone scraping flakes of skin from their scalp, titles declaring there are ‘BIG FLAKES’ and a ‘peeler’s paradise’.

Usually scrapers will use a fine-tooth comb, a picking tool, or long nails, zooming in close to show flakes of dry skin lifting and falling away from the scalp.

It’s really vital to see dandruff scraping to understand it, so take a look at the video below:

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You’ll either find the videos so repulsive you want to close the tab straight away (hi, hello, that’s me) or so oddly satisfying that you can’t stop watching.

Judging from the thousands of views these videos receive, a lot of people fall into the second camp.

And that’s okay – no judgement if something other people consider weird fills you with peace and joy.

But if you’re considering getting into the dandruff scraping scene as someone participating in the videos, proceed carefully.

As tempting as scratching and scraping your scalp may be, it’s really not a great way to deal with dandruff. In fact, it can end up making dandruff worse, causing irritation and inflammation.

‘Scratching is a natural reaction to an itch but unfortunately scratching dandruff can cause an unhealthy scalp as well as damage your hair,’ Dr Imogen Bexfield, director of White Swan Aesthetics, tells

‘Over scratching the head can lead to inflammation, causing the skin to become tender and sore and can even result in wounds and scabs.’

The more distressed your scalp becomes, the more it’ll react with itchiness, soreness, and dry flakes of skin.

That’s good news if you’re trying to make money from scraping away as much dandruff as humanly possible, but it’s not going to be pleasant during the times you’re not filming. A constantly itchy and painful scalp is no fun.

It’s also worth noting that in many of the videos, what’s being scraped away isn’t actually dandruff; the standard flakes of dry skin anyone can experience. In many cases we’re looking at seborrheic dermatitis, an advanced type of dandruff caused by excess levels of the yeast malessezia furfur which causes sensitivity, inflammation, and large, oily flakes of skin.

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While the occasional scratch of dandruff isn’t great, scraping at seborrheic dermatitis can be extremely damaging.

Underneath those flakes, skin with seborrheic dermatitis can be sore and red, and scraping away the skin can expose the scalp to infection.

Large dandruff flakes can also be pityriasis amiantacea, an even more severe form of seborrheic dermatitis which can be caused by a fungal infection. Getting in there with a tool or your nails could introduce further bacteria, making the scalp a hotbed for all kinds of nasty stuff.

If you have severe dandruff, the best thing you can do is seek treatment from a dermatologist and avoid scraping and scratching.

But if we’re talking about a small amount of dandruff, you can treat that at home without getting a camera and scratching at your scalp.

Dr Bexfield advises: ‘Use a dedicated anti-dandruff shampoo, this will reduce the yeast and help the dandruff to break down.

‘Dandruff is often caused by an imbalance of pH levels on your scalp, so a natural alternative would be lemon juice as its acidic content will help balance the pH levels and break down the dandruff scales.’

Tea tree oil can also do the trick.

In short: Yes, watching someone scratch away flakes of skin can be oddly satisfying, but it’s not wise to get involved in the trend hands-on. Keep any scraping implements away from your scalp, treat your skin with some care, and try some ASMR that won’t leave you with a sore head and a scalp infection.


We hear cutting up soap can be very relaxing.

MORE: The vegan, cruelty-free guide to skincare: Oils and serums

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How are psoriasis and dandruff different?

A person with moderate-to-severe scalp psoriasis may wish to talk to a dermatologist. This is a doctor who specializes in skin conditions and can recommend appropriate treatments.

When psoriasis has involvement with the scalp, symptoms can be challenging to treat. A person with lesions on the scalp may need to try several treatments or combinations before they see significant results.

Treatments may include the following.

Topical treatments

Severe cases of scalp psoriasis may require topical therapies, such as:

  • Corticosteroids: These are the most effective topical treatments for scalp psoriasis. A dermatologist might prescribe another medication alongside steroids to reduce side effects.
  • Medicated shampoos: These usually accompany a stronger treatment as part of a regimen. Shampoos containing clobetasol propionate are among the most effective shampoos for scalp psoriasis. People can safely use them every day for 4 weeks or less.
  • Scale-softening agents: Ointments, creams, and lotions containing salicylic acid and urea can help soften scales, which makes removing them easier.
  • Calcipotriene: This is a synthetic type of vitamin D-3 that people with scalp psoriasis often apply before bed. People sometimes combine this with a steroid to boost the effects of treatment.
  • Tazarotene (Tazorac): A person with psoriasis can apply a thin layer or tazarotene before bed. They can shower off the layer when they wake up. A treatment plan might include this medication alongside a steroid.


Systemic medications target specific parts of the immune system to reduce the frequency of flares and the severity of symptoms.

For scalp psoriasis, however, doctors do not usually prescribe systemic drugs unless symptoms are severe or do not respond to other medications.

These medications include:

  • Injected corticosteroids: A dermatologist can inject steroids directly into the psoriatic lesions. However, they will only be able to carry this out for a limited number of injections.
  • Biologic medications: These come from living cells and target specific parts of the immune system. They can help reduce the frequency and level of skin responses to flares.
  • Cyclosporine (Gengraf, Neoral, SandIMMUNE): People with severe plaque psoriasis can use cyclosporine, an off-label drug that suppresses the immune system. People normally use it to prevent the body from rejecting an organ after a transplant. However, it may be useful for people with psoriasis.
  • Acitretin (Soriatane): This is an oral retinoid that manufacturers produce from vitamin A. It can slow cell growth and bring down swelling and redness.
  • Apremilast: This inhibits an enzyme within the skin cells that is responsible for inflammation.

People with more severe scalp psoriasis may need to try and combine several treatments before they find one that works for them.

Off-label medications that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have approved for other conditions but also have an effect on scalp psoriasis include fumaric acid esters.

After repeated use, a person’s psoriasis may become less responsive to the medication. If this happens, they should combine and rotate different types of treatment.

From Instagram clips of people destroying their lipstick to those pimple popping videos that exist in the dark recesses of the web, we all have those things that make us tick. Beauty Fetish is a regular column where we uncover the weirdest beauty trends the internet has to offer and meet the people behind them.

It was a Wednesday afternoon in December when I put up an Instagram story asking people who love dandruff ASMR to get in touch with me for this very important piece of investigative journalism.

Now, not to brag, but my stories usually get up to three responses (all from my housemates, and this one iconic girl who sends unprompted pseudo-sexual literotica twice daily). But this snowy story caused a divide on my social media like I’d never seen. First, I lost six followers (thanks Dazed Beauty); next, I received approximately fifteen judgemental responses telling me that this was gross, questioning what I do for a living, and asking why on earth anyone might be into listening to – and watching – the intense moment where scalp becomes druff, where follicles shed flakes, where the skin around one’s hairs sheds like that of a snake. “Well,” I replied, “that’s why I’m asking!”. Three more followers gone.

But, as with any divisive ASMR trend, I found myself with five responders, all with deeply impassioned reasons for loving listening to the sound of dandruff being shed.

“It feels like a release, and frankly a sexual one,” my literotica fan responds when I probe a little further into why she “can’t get enough” of the druff. A sexual one? “Yes, it’s like the utter gobsmacking catharsis of an orgasm, with the same kinda build up – slow slow slow, then a big release.”

I had to find out more: and so I trawled YouTube for increasingly intense examples of people scratching their scalps off. Now, I’ve had dandruff – hell, I’ve bleached my hair for eleven years – and I’ve even had scalp psoriasis so bad I was problematically recommended the sunbed by a doctor back in the early noughties. The idea of dandruff doesn’t freak me out.

But these video accounts have 20k – 80k strong followings, invested fanbases who watch them scrape off their scalps. It turned my stomach – a video entitled Big Dandruff Flakes – and the more I watched the more I was convinced I couldn’t get on board with what some 2 million viewers evidently could, and had to switch it off.

So I had to ask those impassioned responders in order to understand. And it helped: for some it is sexual, for others, it’s about family, for one it was about order and for another it’s just because she loves picking her own head scabs.

Your dandruff may be a bummer, but it’s harmless to your health.

Dandruff is a “cosmetic” problem, says New York dermatologist Michele Green, MD. “It will not cause anything bad.”

No one knows precisely what causes dandruff, though a fungus called malassezia may play a role. It’s normal to have malassezia on your skin. Too much of it, though, is linked to dandruff.

These are some of the common reasons your scalp can get dry and itchy:

Seborrheic dermatitis (or seborrhea): This common skin condition causes redness, itching, and flaking. It can occur on many parts of the body. When it affects the scalp, it’s called dandruff. It’s treatable. Most often, over-the-counter medicated shampoos will stop the flakes from falling. More stubborn cases will likely benefit from prescription-strength shampoos and steroid creams.

Scalp psoriasis can cause dandruff-like itching and flaking. Psoriasis happens when the immune system triggers too many skin cells to grow on various parts of the body. That can include your scalp. People with psoriasis may be more likely to get dandruff, but psoriasis is not dandruff.

Eczema. This skin condition can make your scalp itchy and flaky. It’s most common in babies and children, but anyone can get it. The cause is unknown. Moisturizers and prescription steroid creams can help relieve the symptoms, as can avoiding harsh soaps and scratching. It also helps to avoid stress whenever possible.

Certain diseases, such as Parkinson’s and HIV, have also been linked to dandruff. People with these diseases have higher rates of dandruff, says Heather Onoday, RN. She’s a nurse practitioner who specializes in dermatology at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, Ore. Having dandruff doesn’t make either of those diseases more likely, though.

A poor diet also has been suggested as a culprit, although Green says there’s no proven link. Jeffrey Benabio, MD, agrees.

“We may see associations but we can’t say that, for example, vitamin D deficiency from lack of sunlight in winter causes dandruff,” says Benabio, a dermatologist with Kaiser Permanente in San Diego.

Eat a well-rounded diet for your overall health. A dry scalp doesn’t mean you’re lacking any particular nutrient, though.

If you’re constantly scratching your head because of an itchy scalp, it could be more than just dandruff.

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Many conditions can cause an itchy scalp — from dandruff to ringworm or something more serious like a bacterial infection or autoimmune condition. Before you can stop the itch, you need to find out what’s causing it.

Here are five common causes and treatments for itchy scalp:

1. Dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis

These are the most common reasons for an itchy scalp.

“Your body’s inflammatory response to an overgrowth of yeast causes the itching and flaking associated with these conditions. Yeast normally lives on the scalp and other hairy areas of the body, but the problem arises when there’s too much yeast present,” says dermatologist Melissa Piliang, MD.

The fix: For mild cases, you can use an over-the-counter shampoo containing selenium or zinc pyrithione — ingredients that help control yeast. For more serious cases, you may need a prescription-strength antifungal shampoo, topical cortisone or medicated foam, solution, cream or ointment.

RELATED: Does Dry Shampoo Actually Keep Your Hair Clean?

2. Psoriasis

This is a chronic autoimmune disease that causes raised, reddish, scaly patches on the skin or scalp. You can’t get psoriasis from other people. Experts don’t have a clear understanding of what exactly causes this skin disorder, but you’re more likely to develop it if someone in your family has it.

The fix: Dr. Piliang recommends trying over-the-counter medicated shampoos containing coal tar or salicylic acid to control scalp psoriasis. If those don’t work, make an appointment with your dermatologist. He or she can prescribe stronger shampoos and topical cortisone.

3. Tinea capitis

This is a fungal infection commonly known as ringworm, which can infect the scalp. Tinea capitis extends deep into the hair follicle, causing round patches of hair loss that increase in size over time. The rash may appear raised and with black dots or a stubbly appearance.

The fix: If you have a ringworm infection of the skin, you can use an over-the-counter antifungal formulation to get rid of it. Not so with the scalp.

“Since the organism exists deep in the hair follicle, you’ll need to take oral anti-fungal medications to resolve the problem,” says Dr. Piliang. Your doctor will verify that this is actually what’s causing the problem before prescribing these powerful medications.

4. Head lice

Although most people think of schoolchildren when they hear about head lice, they can invade anyone’s scalp. Dr. Piliang says that lice prefer clean hair, so having a case of head lice doesn’t mean you have poor hygiene.

If you look closely, you can see tiny nits (eggs) attached to individual hair strands. They look a bit like dandruff, but they aren’t easily shaken off because they’re “glued” to the hair shaft. You might also be able to see adult lice moving around the head, but they’re harder to spot than the nits.

The fix: You can treat head lice with over-the-counter shampoos containing insecticides pyrethrin or permethrin.

“Each head lice shampoo formula has its own treatment protocol,” warns Dr. Piliang. “You must follow the instructions on the box exactly to get rid of the lice.” These work well if you use them as directed.

RELATED: How You Can Beat Medicine-Resistant ‘Super Lice’ for Good

5. Allergic reactions

Hair dyes, eczema and atopic dermatitis are other, less common causes of itchy scalp.

The fix: Allergic reactions will generally go away on their own if you can identify and avoid the chemical to which you are allergic. This is challenging and specialized tests in a dermatologist’s office may be needed to sort out which chemical is causing the allergy.

When to worry about scalp itchiness

Most of the time, an itchy scalp isn’t cause for concern. But there are times when it can indicate something more serious. See your doctor when:

  • Over-the-counter shampoos don’t make any difference
  • The itching keeps you up at night and affects your work or study
  • You see lice or nits in your hair
  • The itchy spots are very sore to the touch

Dr. Piliang says that it’s always a good idea to see your dermatologist when you have a persistent itchy scalp – even if you think it’s just common dandruff. Your dermatologist can check it out and tell you which remedies will bring you some relief.

RELATED: Itchy Bottom? Why You Shouldn’t Blame Hemorrhoids

It’s not always clear to most people which scalp issue they are experiencing. Understanding what condition is present is imperative to know how to address it properly. I’m sharing insight on how to determine your condition and I recommend visiting a professional in person as well before self-treating.

Dry scalp doesn’t necessarily mean you have dandruff. Dry scalp is characterized by a tight, itchy scalp. Dandruff is when there are pieces of dead skin in hair. A person can have a dry scalp without dandruff, as well as Dry Scalp Dandruff, which is a type of dandruff, or Oily Scalp (Sebum) Dandruff, another type of dandruff that doesn’t have the typical symptoms of a dry scalp.


Dehydration is a common cause of dry scalp because most people don’t drink enough water. Cold weather or a cold indoor environment, hard water and harsh detergent shampoos can contribute to symptoms as well. Synthetic hair care, which is not bio aligned, often very harsh, and full of allergens, plastic/polymers, silicones and many other highly questionable and proven toxic ingredients, can contribute to dry scalp and dandruff.

Harsh shampoos, conditioners, and synthetic styling products leave synthetic chemical residue on the scalp and sensitize the tissue. This build-up weakens follicles and disrupts the acid mantle which leaves the scalp vulnerable.

Apple cider vinegar rinses can help clarify scalp build-up and restore damaged PH. Massaging the scalp with any number of nut and seed oils can dramatically improve dry scalp conditions by soothing the dryness and helping restore a barrier that locks in hydration. When dry scalp dandruff is present, the scalp has lost its ability to retain moisture and the acid mantle is compromised. Remember, after massaging oils into the scalp, cut the oil first with shampoo before adding water.

If you suffer from a dry scalp, I highly recommend that you stop using conventional synthetic chemical shampoos and conditioners that contain harsh ingredients that can further aggravate the condition. Switch to a natural shampoo and conditioner, formulated without sulfates, silicones, alcohol, polymers, artificial color, and fragrance.

Jojoba, coconut, hemp, olive oils, and many other fatty acid-rich oils work incredibly to assist the scalp in its ability to trap moisture and heal dry scalp. Oil massage treatments can also help clear hair follicles, activate and support healthy hair growth.


The cause of dandruff is not fully understood and there are different types. Internal causes of Dandruff range from stress, hormone imbalance, poor diet, excessive sugar consumption. Top external causes lean towards infrequent shampooing, poor hygiene, not removing a synthetic product from hair and scalp, harsh weather conditions, harsh hair color.

Dandruff is treatable, but not curable and there’s a lot of conflicting information, even coming from doctors and dermatologists.

Here are a few common types of Dandruff and their symptoms:

Dry Scalp Dandruff – Itchy, dry scalp with little white ball-like flakes

Sebum (Oily) Scalp Dandruff – Oily small to large white flakes.

Seborrheic Dermatitis – One of the most severe types of Dandruff. Oily scalp with large white flakes and a red and irritated scalp. Sores can also appear.

Fungal Dandruff – Oily Large white and yellow flakes, crusting, and redness.

Psoriasis – tends to produce a drier, silver-colored, flakey condition

There is a small amount of harmless fungus on everyone’s scalp called Malassezia. A popular understanding is that a fungus present with Fungal Dandruff tends to reproduce at a faster rate by feeding on the excess oil, causing the chronic issue. The origin of the condition is unknown but the overproducing sebaceous glands are part of the cause.

Hormones may play a part as well. The renewed cells constantly pile up on top of one another resulting in thick, oily flakes with patchy redness on the scalp as well.

Causes can also be attributed to stress, poor nutrition, oily skin, weather extremes and allergies. Sunlight is good for helping to cure dandruff and I recommend heading outdoors for at least fifteen minutes a day for direct sunlight.

Dandruff is not contagious.


As with science and medicine, ideas and treatments evolve – skin and hair care is no different, ideas have changed because treatments have expanded. Effective treatment for skin and scalp conditions should always be addressed holistically.

Tea tree essential oil is excellent for a dry scalp and dandruff. This oil is anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, anti-fungal, and contains antiseptic properties as well as 98 different compounds. Apple cider vinegar can balance the ph levels of the scalp and help with an overly dry condition. Apple cider vinegar acts as a fungicide and helps kill off the fungus.

Dilute both the tea tree essential oil and apple cider vinegar before applying it. You can massage coconut oil, sesame or olive oil into your scalp. Simply warm a little oil and apply to scalp, leave on for up to an hour.

From my experience with treating dandruff, there is a secondary at-home treatment I recommend to clients when experiencing extreme oily scalp dandruff or Seborrheic Dermatitis to regulate oil overproduction. Since the Malassezia yeast appears to feed on scalp oils and exacerbate the condition, oils, conditioners, and rich moisturizing shampoos do not help. Saltwater rinses can assist in absorbing excess oil.

When trying to decipher what causes dry scalp and dandruff conditions, consider the multiple factors and possibilities that combine and lead to the state of imbalance and distress to the scalp. Many people have food allergies and gluten intolerance that contribute to chronic scalp conditions. Even when a person can eat gluten without any immediate acute symptoms, the subtle intolerance can weaken the bodies immunity and the body might express an outbreak. Our bodies have a natural immunity to protect every system and stay healthy. This innate defense works as resistance to possible pathogens. Daily, multiple confrontations adverse weather conditions, harsh products, poor diet, poor lifestyle choices, all compile.


Dry Scalp – Nourish Shampoo and Enrich Intensive Hair Mask

Dry Scalp Dandruff – Nourish Shampoo and Enrich Intensive Hair Mask

Oily Scalp Dandruff – Balance Shampoo no conditioner on the scalp

Seborrheic Dermatitis – Balance Shampoo no conditioner on the scalp

Journal Clinical Aesthetic Dermatology 2009 Nov; 2(11): 14–17

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