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Dry Scalp: Symptoms, Causes, and Haircare Tips

BY Felicia Ler

Disclaimer: The information provided is not intended as medical advice. For any medical concerns, always contact your doctor.

Every so often, your scalp itches, and you resist the urge to scratch it. You know that doing so will only cause a smattering of white flakes on your favorite top — definitely not the chic look you are going for. Yet the never-ending discomfort makes it hard to concentrate on everything else. So, what can you do to stop a dry scalp from taking over your life?

That’s precisely what we are going to cover in this post. You’ll discover the warning signs to look out for and the common culprits behind scalp dryness. Last but not least, we’ll share four easy tips to nourish and nurture your dry scalp.

How to Read the Signs of a Dry Scalp

Because several scalp conditions feature dryness as one of their key symptoms (for example, scalp psoriasis), it can be hard to tell if you are struggling with normal scalp dryness or something more chronic. Use this handy checklist to help you zero in on what signifies a dry scalp:

  • Dryness (accompanied by a tight feeling at times)
  • Unrelenting itchiness
  • Small, white flakes with a dry texture
  • Redness
  • Dry hair

In more severe cases of dry scalp, you may also experience soreness and bleeding, possibly due to excessive scratching. Under these circumstances, it’s always best to consult a licensed dermatologist as soon as you can.

Common Causes Behind a Dry Scalp

First up, a dry scalp isn’t a medical condition, unlike dandruff (aka, seborrheic dermatitis that’s caused by the fat-loving yeast, malassezia). If you aren’t sure which scalp issue you’re dealing with, our detailed guide on dandruff vs. dry scalp will come in handy.

At its roots, a flaky scalp is due to moisture imbalance. Let’s review the four most common causes behind a dehydrated scalp:

  • You have dry skin: Those who are genetically predisposed to dry skin conditions, like eczema and psoriasis, are more prone to a dry, itchy scalp. Even if you don’t have any skin issues, a dry complexion is often associated with an irritated scalp.
  • You’ve overwashed your hair: Shampooing too often can fast-track you to the land of scalp dryness. While surfactants (read: cleansing agents) in shampoos remove the dead skin cells on your scalp, they also remove the natural oils lubricating it.
  • You’ve used the wrong product: Allergic contact dermatitis happens when you’ve used a product that doesn’t agree with your scalp. This causes the skin in the area to become red and itchy. In more severe cases of allergic reactions, the scalp may even turn scaly and blistered.
  • You’re battling dry air conditions: Low humidity and dry weather hike up your odds of a dry scalp. This is why so many of us fall prey to “winter scalp” when the temperatures hit an all-time low.

More often than not, your dry scalp is caused by a mix of the above factors rather than a single culprit. For example, someone with naturally dry skin may have recently used a styling product that induced contact dermatitis and worsened their existing scalp dryness.

3 Tips to Nourish and Nurture Your Dry Scalp

Once you’ve identified the causes of your dry scalp, you can formulate a scalp care routine that targets these exact issues. Let’s take a look at some methods that may soothe scalp dryness.

1. Tone Down the Shampoo Frequency

If you’re an overzealous hair washer, it’s not too late to remedy the situation. Overwashing is a common cause of dry scalp that you can easily fix. All you need to do is dial down your current shampooing frequency and see how your mane reacts.

Fine-haired types who shampoo daily may want to stretch it out to every other day. Meanwhile, those with curly hair or coarse strands (who are particularly prone to dry hair) may want to scale down their wash frequency even further.

If you need more advice in this area, our in-depth guide on “How often should you wash your hair?” can help.

Pro tip: A dose of dry shampoo can help keep your tresses from looking too greasy in between wash days.

2. Leave Out the Sulfates

Among haircare ingredients, sulfates can have a dehydrating effect. These cleansing agents populate shampoos (and some conditioners) to clear out product buildup. At the same time, though, sulfates wash away the natural sebum on your roots, possibly inciting or worsening an already dry scalp.

The reality is, over-the-counter products may contain scalp-drying sulfates. If you’re looking for moisturizing hair products free of these synthetics, check out Function of Beauty’s haircare range.

3. Nourish, Moisturize, and Soothe With the Right Ingredients

OK, we’ve covered the ingredients to avoid, so it only makes sense to talk about the type of ingredients you want:

  • Gentle exfoliants: To nip flaking in the bud, a gentle exfoliant like salicylic acid effectively clears out scalp debris to keep your roots clean and flake-free.
  • Rich moisturizers: Those with dry scalp and hair will delight in rich moisturizers like coconut oil and shea butter. Their heavier textures tackle all-over dryness to hydrate your scalp and locks, from roots to tips.
  • Lightweight hydrators: What if you have a dry scalp but oily hair? Try lightweight hydrators like aloe vera and glycerin. This way, you can replenish your scalp’s hydration levels without weighing your mane down with excess grease.

In essence, the ideal dry scalp treatment should be founded upon hydrating, moisturizing ingredients that subdue flakiness, itchiness, and dryness. At Function of Beauty, we’ve got your dry scalp covered with hair goals such as:

  • Deep condition: Formulated with shea butter and avocado oil to help lock in moisture and condition the scalp.
  • Hydrate: Formulated with coconut oil and aloe vera to help nourish and moisturize the scalp.
  • Nourish roots: Formulated with blue-green algae and coconut fruit extract to help enhance scalp circulation and nourish roots.
  • Soothe scalp: Formulated with aloe vera and salicylic acid to help prevent scalp irritation while gently exfoliating.

Add any of these hair goals to your shampoo and conditioner when you take our hair quiz. If you need some help building a moisturizing formula for your dry scalp, drop us an email at, and one of our Happy Hair Specialists will assist you with the process.

Keep Your Dry Scalp Calm and Carry On

Just as a dehydrated complexion needs hydrating skincare ingredients, your dry scalp will find comfort in moisturizing haircare products. First, determine whether you actually have a dry scalp or another scalp condition. Next, identify the exact triggers behind your discomfort. Do you need to toss out harsh products for non-drying formulations or cut down on the hair washing?

Once you’ve discovered the tweaks you need to make to your routine, it’s time to track down the right products. Whether you need a moisturizing, gentle shampoo, or a deep conditioner, our hair quiz offers custom-made formulations for dry scalp care.