Have that irritated, itchy, annoying dry scalp skin everyone complains about in the winter? Maybe you’ve been suffering with those symptoms for way longer than just the current cooler season alone. Or, maybe you just happen to notice small flaky patches along your hairline every so often (for example, when you overwash).
Those symptoms aren’t necessarily just an uncomfortable annoyance that makes you feel intensely self-conscious while scratching in public. What’s really going on is that your scalp is trying to send you a message. It’s yelling as loud as it possibly can, in the only way it possibly can – through sensation alone.
So, what exactly is your itchy dry scalp trying to tell you? The answer might be that you have one of these incredibly common scalp or skin concerns.
Yes – you read that right. The amount of water you drink directly correlates with how well your skin (including your scalp) retains moisture.
If you’re stripped of fluids, your internal organs will eventually begin to pull water away from the surface of your skin further in. Thus, your skin begins to feel dry, which eventually makes it more sensitive and prone to itching.
This probably seems like a logical conclusion, right? Well, here’s something else you might not know – you don’t have to be severely dehydrated for your skin to suffer. In fact, just neglecting fluids for the better part of your workday might be enough.
It might seem strange to read this on a hair stylist’s website, but here’s an easy way to know if you’re drinking enough: look at your urine. If it’s very light yellow, you’re in good shape with a good fluid balance. If it’s dark or tea-colored, you’re already dehydrated and need to replenish right away.
You’re Using the Wrong Products
Contrary to what your frugal BFF may have told you, no two hair care products are exactly the same. Tiny differences in ingredients can make a BIG deal to someone who has sensitive skin.
Even differences in the amount of water content, whether they contain parabens, and if they contain silicone can impact your scalp. Many of these ingredients interfere with natural oil production and actively irritate skin.
For example, if you have dry hair and a dry scalp, but use a clarifying shampoo, you’re probably going to run into issues. Most clarifying shampoos actively try to strip away oils and degrease the hair; this is necessary to lift off old product. But, they don’t discriminate – most can and will strip away natural oils, too.
The fix? If you’re feeling dry, try switching to something that’s paraben, alcohol, and silicone-free. “Moisturizing” formulas can also help replace anything you might lose or sacrifice during daily washing if that’s your thing.
You Might Have a Chronic Condition
Your scalp is made up of the same skin as the rest of your body, but it isn’t really exactly the same. If it was, you could use your everyday face creams on it, slap an overnight mask on now and again, and call it a day!
What is the same, however, is the fact that chronic skin conditions that affect the scalp are nearly as common as those that affect the rest of the body. Itching and flaking just happens to be one of the standard symptoms.
Seborrheic dermatitis, sometimes referred to as cradle cap or dandruff, is by far the most frequent scalp skin diagnosis. It affects nearly three to five percent of the population at any given time. It may occur as a result of immune dysfunction (e.g., an autoimmune disorder), as a result of allergies, or even due to environmental sensitivities.
In some cases, it occurs for no apparent reason at all. Special shampoos may be enough to eliminate SD for some; others might need topical medications, like steroids.
Eczema, or atopic dermatitis, is caused by allergic reactions (systemic or localized) and/or immune dysfunction in most people. Skin becomes red and itchy and may even crack, especially in or around folds at the base of the neck.
It most often affects the hairline, but may spread to the entire scalp. Treatment involves treating any secondary infections and working to eliminate allergens, as well as topicals.
Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition that causes the body to attack skin on or around one or more areas of the body. When this occurs on the scalp, it is referred to as scalp psoriasis specifically.
Research shows that this condition is genetic; if someone in your immediate family has it, you’re more likely to have it too. Treatment usually involves UV light exposure and/or topical medications.
Cold Weather Has You Frazzled
Cooler temperatures wreak havoc on skin. High winds don’t help, either! Both strip natural oils away and irritate the surface of the derma, leaving it dry, tight, itchy, and maybe even red.
If you happen to notice symptoms after you’ve been playing in the great outdoors without wearing a hat, this might be what’s up. Treatment is fairly simple – protect your scalp better and add more moisture each day.
You Have Allergies
Allergies don’t just cause seborrheic dermatitis; they can also cause a straight-up allergic response on the scalp, too. This often manifests as dry, tight itchy skin that appears red, swollen, or even weepy in places.
Some people also experience numbness, tingling, or even burning. If you have other allergies (e.g., shellfish or walnuts), this is even more likely to be the cause.
Of course, treating allergies is rarely straightforward – you should start with a visit to your doctor. Testing can help you identify the trigger (a haircare product, laundry soap, perfumes, etc.); from there, it’s as easy as avoiding it.
You’re Washing Too Often
Washing your hair everyday? Even if you’re stepping into the shower and using gentle products, you may be washing too much.
Unless you have a specific problem with grease, sweat, or natural oils, you should be able to get away with washing every two to three days at the most. In between, you can use dry shampoo or just rinse with warm water in the shower (not hot) before you go about your day.
Last Thought on Dry Scalp
In addition, if you’ve noticed your skin changing only in the last little while, and you are between the ages of 30 and 60, your problem might be a little something all of us go through eventually: aging.
Changes in hormone levels and skin elasticity can make it harder for the scalp to stay healthy. Your hair stylist can help you find the perfect products to reduce these signs and rejuvenate your scalp at the same time.