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Dry Scalp Treatments & Advice

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  • What is Dry Scalp?

    Dry scalp is a condition that can cause dandruff, itching, redness, irritation, and scaly patches to occur on the scalp. In more severe cases, blistering and weeping lesions can also present. Dry scalp conditions can also leave your hair appearing dry and dull. The severity of these symptoms will vary from person to person, with some sufferers experiencing mild intermittent bouts, while others experience more sustained, chronic episodes.
  • What causes Dry Scalp?

    Dry scalp can be caused by a number of things, including:
    • Eczema of the scalp – the most common form being seborrheic dermatitis
    • Psoriasis of the scalp
    • Cold/dry weather
    • Overuse of shampoo
    • Haircare products (especially those that contain alcohol)
    • Dietary deficiencies
  • What are the symptoms of a Dry Scalp?

    The symptoms relating to your dry scalp can vary depending on the cause. The universal symptoms that apply to most dry scalp conditions include:
    • Itching
    • Flaking (dandruff)
    • Dry skin on the scalp
    Other symptoms that are more specific to the condition that’s causing the dry scalp, include:
    Eczema of the scalp
    • Red/scaly scalp
    • Greasy or waxy scalp
    • Blistering
    • Weeping lesions
    Scalp psoriasis
    • Bumpy, red scaly patches
    • Silvery white scales
    • Burning/soreness
    • Hair loss
  • Can dry Dry Scalp lead to hair loss?

    Dry scalp conditions themselves rarely cause hair loss. However, the associated scratching and picking at the scalp, due to itching and irritation, can cause hair to break and fall out. In most cases, this form of hair loss tends to only be temporary.
  • Will colouring my hair lead to a Dry Scalp?

    It doesn’t matter whether your hair is coloured at home, or by a professional in a salon. The chemicals used to dye hair can potentially irritate the scalp, causing it to become dry and itchy. This is because the chemicals found in hair dyes are designed to penetrate the root of the hair, which is found under the skin. This, coupled with additional styling products, can block the pores on the scalp, which will prevent the scalp’s natural moisturiser (sebum) from being excreted.
  • Is Dry Scalp anything to worry about?

    In most cases, dry scalp conditions are harmless and only causes mild to moderate irritation.
    If you suspect your dry scalp is being caused by eczema or psoriasis, it would be recommended to visit your GP for an informed diagnosis. Your doctor will then be able to prescribe or suggest the necessary treatments that can help manage the condition. If however, you suspect the cause is environmental or stress related, then the associated symptoms can be safely managed at home using simple self-help techniques (*see; Is there anything I can do to help prevent dry scalp?)
  • What treatments are avaliable for Dry Scalp?

    There are many different treatments available for dry scalp conditions. The most appropriate for you will depend on both the cause and the severity of your symptoms.
    • Conditioning treatments – if the scalp isn’t producing enough natural oil (sebum), then using a deep conditioning treatment will help replenish the scalp’s moisture level. Deep conditioning treatments and hot oil conditioning treatments are readily available in most supermarkets and pharmacies.
    •  Dandruff shampoos – if your dry scalp is only presenting with a spot of dandruff, then this can be effectively managed using an over-the-counter medicated shampoo. Anti-dandruff shampoos containing Ketoconazole, Coal Tar, Selenium Oxide, or Zinc Pyrithione can help alleviate dry, flaky skin on the scalp. Examples of anti-dandruff shampoos include; NizoralSelsun, T-Gel.
    • Corticosteroid treatments - Corticosteroids are a group of medicines used to reduce inflammation. Scalp treatments containing corticosteroids will be effective at treating dry scalp conditions caused by eczema or psoriasis. Examples of scalp treatments containing topical corticosteroids include; Betnovate Scalp Application and Betacap Scalp Application (both contain the corticosteroid Betamethasone).
  • What is the difference between Eczema and Psoriasis of the scalp?

    Scalp psoriasis and eczema of the scalp are two conditions that affect the same area and share similar symptoms.
    Eczema of the scalp causes inflammation of the skin. Typically, the condition will cause the scalp to feel itchy and sore, which will lead to dry skin developing on the scalp. In more severe cases, eczema of the scalp can cause blistering and weeping lesions to form. For a lot of sufferers, the condition will usually go through periods of being mild to non-existent, which will be followed by periods where the symptoms will flare-up.
    Eczema of the scalp can have a variety of triggers, the most common being:
    Irritants, such as shampoos and haircare products
    The environment-specifically cold or dry weather
    Dry skin
    Heavy sweating
    Greasy skin/hair
    Psoriasis of the scalp usually develops in patches. It presents as red, flaky areas of skin that are covered with grey/silvery scales. The severity of these symptoms will vary from person to person.
    For some, the condition will only cause mild and infrequent irritation. For others, scalp psoriasis can be far more frequent and severe. Scalp psoriasis is caused by the body producing too many skin cells. The normal rate of skin cell renewal is between 3-4 weeks. For a psoriasis sufferer, this process happens a lot quicker (3-7 days). This causes the build-up of skin cells that psoriasis sufferer’s experience.
  • Is there anything I can do to help prevent Dry Scalp?

    If your dry scalp is the result of psoriasis or eczema, then sadly these conditions tend to be lifelong and cannot be prevented outright. However, there are a number of self -help techniques that can help manage flare-ups and reduce the severity of your symptoms.
    If your dry scalp is being caused by environmental or product based factors, these same techniques can help prevent dry scalp from developing in the first place.
    • Avoid cold, dry weather
    • Avoid stress
    • Switch to a mild shampoo
    • Reduce the frequency of shampooing (every other day)
    • Use a deep conditioning treatment once or twice a week
    • Do not wash your hair using hot water, instead use warm water
    • Use a humidifier during dry weather to help the skin retain moisture
    • Stimulate the scalp with gentle massage
    If these techniques fail to relieve symptoms or prevent recurrent flare-ups, then it would be advised to schedule an appointment with your doctor or dermatologist.

Authored By:

A photo of  Leanne Sinclair

Leanne Sinclair


Published on: 29-05-2019

Last modified on: 29-05-2019

Leanne is a clinical pharmacist with years of experience working in pharmacy.

Reviewed By:

A photo of  Chris Newbury

Chris Newbury

BPharm IP

Reviewed on: 29-05-2019

Next review date: 29-05-2021

Chris is a vastly experienced clinical pharmacist and has been registered as an Independent Prescriber since 2014.

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